Italy's Senate passes govt's 2021 budget
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's cabinet won a confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Italy's bicameral parliament, with 156 votes in favor and 124 against. Conte had called the vote to avoid any further amendments to the draft and speed up proceedings.
In case of a negative result in a confidence vote, Italian cabinets are forced to resign.
Senators then approved the 2021 draft budget in a single vote with 153 in favor, 118 against and one abstention.
The lower House -- where the cabinet had also called and won a confidence vote -- had approved the same draft.
Overall, Italy's 2021 budget is worth 40 billion euros (49.1 billion U.S. dollars), and it is one of the largest budgets in several years. It includes heavy stimulus measures to help the country's economy -- the third largest in the eurozone -- cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the related restrictions.
Supportive measures include a scheme allowing public funding for employees in temporary redundancy due to COVID-19 in the first half of 2021.
The budget confirmed another measure implemented during 2020, namely a 30 percent cut in social contribution payments to firms in the less developed southern regions that plan new hirings next year. It will come on top of a 100 percent tax break for three years applying to firms across the country that hire new workers aged under 35 between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2022.
All businesses benefiting from these COVID-19-related support schemes would be prevented from laying off employees until March 31, 2021.
Financial support will also be provided to freelance workers who have lost their job or had their income reduced due to the pandemic this year.
Some 3.5 billion euros will be allocated to the public health system in the 2021-2022 period. This sum will partially be used to confirm 30,000 doctors and nurses hired under fixed-term contracts in 2020.
They will also be used to offer nine-month contracts to another 3,000 doctors and 12,000 nurses needed to implement the national COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Italy's public school and university system will receive 3.7 billion euros next year, of which 1.5 billion euros in new investments.
Finally, among other measures, the budget provides 420 million euros in incentives to buy electric, hybrid and low-emission cars; some 500 million euros to support airport operators; plus various other incentives to boost the purchase of electronic and digital items.
The budget was passed as the world is still struggling to put the pandemic under control, and a couple of vaccines developed by pharmaceutical companies from the United States, Germany, Russia and China have so far been authorized by several countries and regions for emergency use.