The Italian Almanac

Romano Prodi

Italian News - June 7

Under intense pressure to straighten Italy's public accounts, new Premier Romano Prodi told his ministers on Monday to slash their spending by at least 10% by the end of the year. The austerity drive was announced at the end of a two-day coalition summit held at a country retreat near Perugia. Government Programme Minister Giulio Santagata told reporters after the huddle that ministers were expected to save money by cutting spending on assistants, consultants and the use of chauffeur-driven cars, among other things.

The aim of the unprecedented country government summit was to work on a short-term policy plan but it also gave Prodi the chance to brief his ministers on improving their public communication skills and coordinating their activities. The premier conceded last week that his unwieldy nine-party government, which stretches from Communists and anti-clericalists to free market liberals and Catholics, contained "lots of contradictions" and was suffering from teething problems.

In particular, his neo-ministers have been knocked for being too vocal. Within a week of being sworn into office on May 17, Prodi was forced to publicly rap his ministers for talking too much.