Italian finance minister forced to cancel a speech ahead of crunch talks over troubled austerity plan

A TURBULENT day in Italy saw finance minister Giulio Tremonti pull out of a planned public speech in order to return to Rome for crunch talks on the country’s austerity package.

Politicians will today begin debating the plans, which have already been dogged by disputed figures, policy U-turns and cabinet rows.

“We’ve known for years that something like this could happen, that our public debt is vulnerable and that speculative attacks are possible,” said Luca Ricolfi, a professor of political science at Turin University.

“But these people are improvising. They’re meeting in the evening and trying to do things in 24 hours that require two years of work and preparation,” he said.

The country’s growth will fall short of the estimated 1.1 per cent this year, an unnamed senior government official said yesterday, confessing that it will probably come in at less than one per cent.

Support for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (left) plunged to a new low over the summer, according to an opinion poll released yesterday. The poll showed approval ratings of the government had fallen to 22 per cent in this month, hitting a new low and down from 27 per cent in June’s survey.