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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - ROME — Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte set out what he called an "ambitious" three year plan for government reforms Saturday, despite cracks appearing in the ruling coalition after only four months in power.
The coalition between the center-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) take different lines on key policy issues such as immigration, reforming the euro zone and the justice system.
But Conte on Saturday laid out plans to tackle a raft of issues in the coming years, such as cutting red tape, simplifying the justice system, tax reform and a crackdown on tax evasion.
"We have 23 ambitious points," he told journalists at an annual press conference.
The way to get Italy's finances in line with the limits set by the European Union, "is to fight tax evasion, which is theft and which hurts honest citizens", he said.
"Everyone has to pay so that everyone pays less."
Italy has the worst record for tax evasion in Europe at 190.9 billion euros — twice its annual budget on health — according to a recent report from Tax Research LLP.
But Italy's new coalition government is already under strain.
The alliance was dealt a blow earlier this week when education minister Lorenzo Fioramonti, of the M5S, resigned in a row over the education budget.
MS5 leader Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio is under pressure from inside his own party, and some M5S deputies have already switched allegiance to the far-right League party, former coalition partners now in opposition.
Fiaromenti however, while he has stepped down as minister, intends to form a new parliamentary group backing Conte, having attracted around 10 M5S deputies to his cause, according to press reports.
Further complicating the situation is former premier Matteo Renzi, who in September broke with the Democratic Party to form a new centrist party, Italia Viva.
Leader of the League and former interior minister Matteo Salvini is pushing for new national elections, having been pushed out of government when the coalition between his party and MS5 collapsed in August.
Despite a recent dip in the polls, the League still registers more than any other political party, at around 31 percent support.
And polling suggests they will push the Democratic Party hard in January 26 regional elections in one of their strongholds in the northeast, Emilia Romagna.— AFP
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