Italy 'stability dividend' lowers borrowing costs

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta admitted Monday his country was suffering from "social fatigue" but said his government had brought "a stability dividend" worth billions of euros due to lower borrowing costs.

"We have to respond to social fatigue," he said at an end-of-year press conference, as the country tries to recover from its longest recession since World War II.

"The shock of these years has been very tough. It is hard to recover even after figures improve," he said.

But Letta said that political stability meant Italy was now paying less in interest on its debt than before.

The forecast for borrowing costs for 2013 had been 89 billion euros but the estimate now is 83 billion euros.

"The stability dividend has been 5.5 billion euros," he said, adding that this would be used to lower taxes.

The figure is still higher than the 70 billion paid in 2010, 71 billion in 2011 and 78 billion in 2012.

Italy "has turned the page" and 2014 will be "a year of recovery and growth", he said, also promising a series of reforms like a new election law to replace one that has been widely criticised for fostering instability.

He also urged former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is now in opposition to the government, not to adopt an approach of "nihilistic, populist rhetoric".

Letta, 47, also hailed a "generational changeover" in Italian politics this year which he said was unprecedented since the post-war period.

"The country before was run by generations of 60 and 70-year-olds," he said, after the rise of a crop of younger centre-left and centre-right leaders.

He said January would be a key month with a raft of proposals being prepared including an overhaul of the tax system and labour market, as well as a series of changes to Italy's stringent immigration laws.