Feeling the pain
Italian welfare minister Elsa Fornero broke down in tears as she discussed the new austerity package in Rome.

Italian welfare minister Elsa Fornero broke down in tears at the weekend as she announced pension reforms as part of the country's new austerity measures.

The cabinet meeting dubbed the €30 billion package of tax rises, budget cuts and pension reforms "Save Italy", as if to underline the urgency of the austerity measures that are being imposed.

The emergency decree is designed to raise more than €10 billion from a property tax, a move scrapped by the previous government of Silvio Berlusconi. The plan will also impose a new tax on luxury items like yachts, raise value added tax, clamp down on tax evasion and put forward measures to increase the pension age.

Prime Minister Mario Monti said that Italy will place its deficit and debt under strong regulation in order to regain trust in Europe. He also announced that he was foregoing his own salary as prime minister and economy minister in a gesture of solidarity with the sacrifices that Italians are having to make.

The controversial pension reform will increase the minimum pensionable age for women from 60 to 62, starting next year. By 2018, both men and women will retire at the age of 66. The number of years that men have to make contributions to receive their full pensions will also rise from the current level of 40 to 42 years.

Mrs Fornero broke down while she was pronouncing the word "sacrifices" and Mr Monti took up the baton to continue to explain the measures.

Italian unions strongly oppose the plan. Susanna Camusso, head of CGIL, Italy's largest union, said the measures were aimed at "making money on the backs of indigent people in our country", adding that "there is no equity" in the proposed package.

Emma Marcegaglia, head of Confindustria, the Italian counterpart of the Confederation of British Industry, said: "We did not choose this package, but we have to make it pass. The measures are fundamental for Italy and the euro's survival."

Editorials in the Italian media praised Mr Monti for carrying out painful reforms. "There are times when you have to dissatisfy everyone and certainly, this, for Italy is one of those moments," La Stampa said.

Corriere della Sera praised the new prime minister for "taking part in the sacrifices" of Italians by renouncing his salary.

In contrast, the left-wing daily La Repubblica criticised him for focusing too much on tax growth, rather than boosting growth. "The welfare minister's tears are a good metaphor for this decree. From Monti we would have expected something more," it said.