September 14, 2019 / 10:35 AM / a month ago

Italy's economy minister urges caution over privatizations

Italian Finance and Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri arrives for the informal meeting of ministers for economic and financial affairs (ECOFIN) and Eurogroup in Helsinki, Finland, 13 September 2019. Lehtikuva/Martti Kainulainen via REUTERS

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Italy’s economy minister Roberto Gualtieri said on Saturday that privatization targets set by the previous Italian government were “unrealistic”, and warned the sale of government shares in public companies should be handled with caution.

The government of the anti-establishment 5-Star and the far-right League, which quit the coalition in August, had set a target of raising 18 billion euros ($19.93 billion) this year from the sale of public assets.

Gualtieri, who last week took office as finance minister in a new executive supported by 5-Star and the center-left Partito Democratico, said privatizations were not a tool he wanted to use to meet immediate financial needs.

He said the sale of public assets could be a way of reducing Italy’s large debt, but should be used with caution because it could harm public companies which are “strategic” to the Italian economy and industrial policy.

Gualtieri, speaking after his first meeting with EU finance ministers since the new Italian government took office last week, also said it would be “counterproductive” if Italy adopted an austerity budget this year. He instead urged the euro zone to adopt an expansionary fiscal stance to revive growth.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Mark Potter and Catherine Evans

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