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article imageItaly government agrees on 2.4-percent deficit of GDP in 2019

By AFP     Sep 27, 2018 in World

Italy's populist government agreed Thursday on a deficit of 2.4-percent of gross domestic product in 2019, the leaders of the coalition parties announced.

"We're satisfied, this is the budget of change," joint deputy prime ministers Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Miao said in the statement quoted by Italian media.

The figure, vastly higher than the 0.8 percent forecast by the previous, centre-left government, could spark panic on the markets over the country's already mammoth debt burden -- currently 131 percent of GDP, the biggest in the eurozone after Greece.

All eyes had been on whether Western Europe's first anti-establishment leadership would defy Brussels or toe the line with its first budget.

"Today is a historic day! Today Italy changes! For the first time the state is on the people's side. For the first time it is not taking away, but giving," Di Maio said in a message on Facebook.

He had previously said his anti-establishment Five Star Movement would not support the budget if the finance ministry did not find the money for projects, including a basic income grant promised in March elections.

The deputy prime minister said there were 10 billion euros ($11.5 billion) earmarked for the income in the budget, which "for the first time in the history of this country will eradicate poverty".

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