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MNI (London)
By Silvia Marchetti
     ROME (MNI) - Italy's public debt climbed E15.9 billion to E2.3023 trillion
in March, while state revenues stood at E91.7 billion in the first quarter of
the year, the Bank of Italy said Tuesday. 
     In a monthly statistical report, the central bank acknowledged the erratic
pace at which public debt was rising, despite growth consolidating in the
country and public finances' continuing on their adjustment path. 
     Last year ended with a total E36.6 billion overall increase in public debt
levels. Despite a few monthly ups and downs, for the first time in years the
rate of Italy's debt increase was finally slowing down and the debt curve
stabilizing. 
     Rome's current government is trying to further tighten public finances, as
Europe's third-largest economy continues to be stifled by the European Union's
second-largest debt by volume. 
     -BANK RESCUE
     But in its recently revised fiscal plan, Rome raised debt forecasts for
this year to 130.8% due to THE "exceptional, one-off" public rescues of ailing
banks. 
     The medium-term objective (MTO) of a structural balance has been more than
once delayed and it is now forecast to be reached only in 2020, according to
Italy's Treasury. 
     Italy remains under scrutiny of the European Commission for its outstanding
public debt due to potential stability risks linked to an "excessive  economic
imbalance", which would lead to a deviation from fiscal targets and onto
possible fines. 
     Brussels has requested Rome to implement additional fiscal measures to
avoid being sanctioned.
     --BRUSSELS CONCERNS 
     Italy's current 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% of GDP in 2018, though Rome
and Brussels "weigh" the fiscal target in different ways. These positions could
all change with an incoming alliance of Five Star Movement and Lega.
     The European Commission has acknowledged Rome's efforts in balancing growth
targets and fiscal sustainability. In November the EC gave a first green light
to Italy's 2018 budget but postponed its final assessment to end of May, saying
it will take into account both reform and budgetary efforts. However, there will
undoubtedly be concerns in Brussels as to how those plans may change moving
forward. 
     According to the BOI report the March increase, due to a E20 billion
borrowing requirement of public bodies, was partly compensated by E3.5 billion
drop in the Treasury's liquid assets down to a current E44.8 billion level. 
     The revaluation of inflation-protected securities and variations in
exchange rate have also contributed in containing debt by E0.8 billion. 
     In March monthly state revenues stood at E28.5 billion, while in the first
quarter of this year a total E91.7 billion flowed into the public coffers,
slightly higher compared to the same period in 2017, said the central bank. 
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email: les.commons@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MAIDS$,M$E$$$,M$I$$$,M$X$$$]
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com