Italian, Spanish Senates Pass Unpopular Austerity Measures

Posted September 7th, 2011 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Lawmakers in Italy and Spain voted Wednesday in favor of their government's austerity plans, despite massive protests in both countries.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi survived a confidence vote in the Senate over his government's $76 billion austerity plan to stave off the country's financial crisis.

Parliament's upper chamber voted Wednesday night after days of debate over the government's plan to cut spending and raise taxes. The government is trying to trim its debts, cut its high borrowing costs and avoid the need for an international bailout like those already secured by Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

In Spain, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a constitutional reform that will cap further budget deficits, which undermine the stability of the euro currency.

The lower chambers in both Spain and Italy are expected to pass the unpopular measures by the end of the month.

European financial officials urged Rome and Madrid to implement their respective plans as soon as possible to secure the currency used by 17 European Union members.

The austerity plans in both countries provoked massive protests.

In Rome, police used tear gas and batons Wednesday to disperse protesters who tried to break through police barriers outside the Senate, during the vote on the new and tougher packet of austerity measures. They include a higher value added tax, and an extra 3 percent tax on those with incomes above $422,000. The plan also increases the retirement age for women from 60 to 65.

On Tuesday, millions of workers nationwide walked off their jobs in an eight-hour general strike.

Massive protests also took place Tuesday in Madrid and other Spanish cities against budget cuts. Spanish daily El Pais says thousands of students, teachers and parents gathered outside the Ministry of Education in Madrid Wednesday afternoon to protest the cuts affecting schools.