Italian government wins confidence vote on public tender rules

ROME (Reuters) – The Italian government won a confidence motion in the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, opening the way for the approval of an overhaul of public tender rules aimed at boosting the struggling economy.

The measures were approved by ministers earlier this month, ending weeks of indecision and bickering within the coalition parties, the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, over how to revive Italy’s stalled building sector.

The coalition comfortably won the vote by 318 to 236.

A government calls such a motion in order to sweep away opposition to a bill and speed its progress through parliament. Had it lost the vote, it would have been forced to resign.

The lower house is due to vote on the whole package on Thursday and if, as expected, it wins, it will be the first major piece of legislature approved by the chamber following a hugely divisive EU parliamentary election in May.

The League triumphed in last month’s ballot, leap frogging above 5-Star to become the country’s largest party.

It immediately used its new-found popularity to demand more say in decision-making, including in the public tender bill.

League politicians had criticized the current, hugely complex tender code, which was designed shut out mafia businesses, as a hindrance to economic development and demanded that it be suspended for two years.

5-Star rejected the proposal as “stupid”, but finally agreed to the suspension of many parts of the regulations, despite warnings from anti-corruption officials that this could give a boost to organized crime.

Italy’s construction lobby ANCE says some 120,000 building firms have gone out of business in less than 10 years, partly as a result of the red tape which smothers planning and development.

According to EU data, Italy scores the worst of any nation in the 28-country bloc when it comes to spending on planned public investment.

“It takes up to 15 years to complete a public work in this country,” parliamentarians in the lower house justice and environment committee said in a statement.

“Thanks to (this) decree … which calls for less bureaucracy, more transparency and faster times, let’s reopen construction sites and revive employment.”

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Susan Thomas)

tagreuters.com2019binary_LYNXNPEF5B270-VIEWIMAGE