Friday, July 8, 2011

Analysis: Tremonti exit would spell big trouble for Italy


(Reuters) - Speculation is growing that Italy's Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti -- credited with shielding the country from the euro zone debt crisis -- will soon be forced out of government, which would further raise the heat on Italian bonds.

The yield differential on Italian 10-year bonds versus safer German bunds hit its widest since the launch of the euro on Friday, as the markets worried about contagion from the Greek debt crisis.

Tremonti overcame cabinet resistance to push through a tough austerity program last week, but now looks increasingly isolated and appears to no longer have the full support of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"He thinks he's a genius and everyone else is stupid," Berlusconi said in an interview with Repubblica daily on Friday.

"He is the only minister who is not a team player," Berlusconi said, adding that he would make sure the austerity package was changed during its passage through parliament to make it more attractive to voters rather than markets.

It seems questionable whether the package is even that attractive to markets, however. It was not formally presented until a week after it was approved by the cabinet, and it has been marred by confusion over the measures it contains and how much they are worth.

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