Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti plans liberalisation steps to promote competition in several industry sectors and revive the ailing economy, he said on Sunday, ahead of meetings with European partners to discuss ways to stem the debt crisis.
The liberalisations, which will seek to reduce privileges for dominant companies, will be included in a new set of growth-enhancing reforms due to follow the 33 billion euro austerity plan passed last month.
We want to create more space for competition and merit in varying sectors, Monti said in an interview on the Che Tempo Che Fa talk show on state-owned Rai television.
That involves reducing protection and the different ways industry sectors try to create advantages for those who are inside the fortress to the detriment of those who are outside.
Industry Minister Corrado Passera said liberalising measures would be introduced gradually each month and over a wide range of sectors.
We will proceed in every sector: gas, energy, commerce, transport, the professions. Each step will go towards creating more sustainable growth, Passera told the Corriere della Sera newspaper in an interview on Sunday.
The Italian anti-trust authority has unveiled a list of reform proposals including spinning off the post bank from the main postal operator, privatising some local services and favouring the development of independent operators in the energy sector.
Italy, the euro zone's third largest economy, has been at the centre of the debt crisis since last summer when its borrowing costs began to approach the levels which forced Ireland, Greece and Portugal to seek an international bailout.
As it faces a recession this year which will make it even more difficult to rein in public debt, the government is drawing up a set of Grow Italy measures aimed at making the sluggish economy more competitive.
Monti, a respected technocrat, is seeking a united response from euro zone countries to the bloc's debt crisis and aims to coordinate growth strategies. He has been warmly embraced by the French and German leaders since he took over from Silvio Berlusconi in November.
On Wednesday Monti heads to Berlin for talks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, and is set to meet Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy again in Rome on January 20.
Italy will be pushing for greater powers for the European Central Bank in guaranteeing liquidity and stability, Passera told the paper on Sunday.
Germany has opposed calls for a greater role for the ECB to help solve the debt crisis, saying political action is needed to resolve the situation.
Monti wants to strengthen the single market to boost growth at the European level and fund Europe-wide infrastructure development through project bonds to improve transport links and communication, Il Sole 24 Ore daily reported.
Italy's growth-boosting measures are also set to include labour market changes to help young people find work more easily though Monti face a struggle with unions who have united in opposition to his reform agenda.
The prime minister said on Sunday that nothing was taboo for the government regarding labour reform, but he hoped to reach a deal that unions could agree to through close talks.
He is sticking to the goal imposed by Europe of a balanced budget by 2013, but said additional austerity measures would not be required above those approved by parliament in December and the focus was now squarely on boosting growth.
He also reaffirmed he would step up the fight against tax evasion, which robs the Italian exchequer of an estimated 120 billion euros a year, nearly four times the value of his austerity budget.
(Reporting By Catherine Hornby, editing by Rosalind Russell and Matthew Jones)