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MNI (London)
By Silvia Marchetti
     ROME (MNI) - Italy's public debt stood at E2.256 trillion through the end
of 2017, rising E36.6 billion on the previous year, the Bank of Italy said
Thursday.
     In its monthly statistical report, revising end-year data, the central bank
acknowledged that the overall debt rise in 2017 was at a slowing pace as
economic growth consolidates in the country and public finances' adjustment path
continues. At end of 2016, Italy's debt stood at E2.2195 trillion.
     In 2017 central state bodies' debt rose by E39.6 billion, while that of
local bodies fell by E3 billion, according to the BOI data. During 2017, there
were several significant ups and downs in the country's debt curve.
     Rome's government is trying to further tightening public finances, as
Europe's third-largest economy continues to be stifled by the EU's
second-largest debt by volume.
     Following a rosier growth outlook, with GDP growth forecasts lifted to 1.5%
this year, the government recently revised its fiscal targets for years through
2020. Compared to previous April data, debt forecasts have been cut to 130% for
this year from the previous 132.5%, to 130% in 2018 from 131%, to 127% in 2019
from 128.2%, and to 123.9% in 2020 from a previous 125.7%.
     However, the medium-term objective (MTO) of a structural balance has been
more than once delayed and it is now forecast be reached only in 2020, according
to the Italian Treasury.
     Italy remains under the scrutiny of the European Commission for its
outstanding public debt due to potential stability risks linked to an "excessive
economic imbalance", which could lead to a deviation from fiscal targets and
then possible fines.
     Brussels has requested Rome to implement additional fiscal measures to
avoid being sanctioned.
     Italy's Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan has repeatedly reassured the
European Commission that Rome's government will further tighten public finances
by adjusting the structural balance by 0.3 percent of GDP in 2018.
     The Commission has acknowledged Rome's efforts in balancing growth targets
and fiscal sustainability. In November the EC gave an initial green light to
Italy's 2018 budget, but postponed its final assessment to May, saying it will
take into account both reform and budgetary efforts.
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email: les.commons@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MAIDS$,M$E$$$,M$I$$$,M$X$$$,M$$EC$,M$XDS$]
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com