Dec. 23 - It's been a tumultuous year in Italian politics, and the government is still struggling with an economy which has shrunk by more than 9% since 2007, and where youth unemployment is running at over 40%. Prime Minister Enrico Letta is holding an end of year news conference and looking ahead to 2014. Joanna Partridge reports.
Fresh from winning a new confidence vote, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta's facing some tough economic challenges for the year ahead. During his end-of-year news conference, he vowed to cut bureaucracy and taxes as part of a new coalition agreement. Letta believes 2014 will be the year to begin reforms to pull Italy out of years of stagnation - thanks to a new generation of younger leaders. SOUNDBITE: ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER ENRICO LETTA SAYING (Italian): "2013 will be remembered as the year of generational change of a country that has always been known in the world as unable to produce a leadership, a leadership, like the rest of the world, of 40 year olds. This year, our country has achieved a generational change." Letta's 2014 budget has been criticised for failing to include steeper tax cuts and more measures to kickstart growth. Peter Dixon from Commerzbank says Italian politicians have traditionally shied away from tough reforms. SOUNDBITE: Peter Dixon, Global Financial Economist, Commerzbank, saying (English): "Italian governments over the course of the last two decades have failed to do that. That's not to say Mr Letta won't actually start to make some progress, but I think the fact he's willing to talk about measures to reduce youth unemployment suggest he's taking the problem seriously, but given the state of Italy's problems, I think we need to see some significant radical policy measures, the like of which aren't on the table at the moment." Letta's coalition is more confident it'll be able to pass reforms now it's broken with former PM Silvio Berlusconi's party. Reforms certainly are needed. Italy's economy has shrunk by more than 9% since 2007, and unemployment among young people is currently over 40%. Even if Letta starts tackling these and other problems in 2014, he may find it will take some time to start reversing Italy's fortunes.