Rome: Silvio Berlusconi launched his election campaign Thursday by promising a series of welfare benefits including a minimum monthly “dignity income” of €1,000 (Dh4,406).
The basic income would be paid universally to ensure a minimum salary is received by all Italians — whether they are in work or not.
The conservative former prime minister, himself a billionaire, also promised fiscal immunity for companies that hire apprentices, tax cuts and free veterinary treatment for domestic pets.
“Unfortunately there are in Italy 4.75 million people who live in absolute poverty,” the media mogul told 101 -Radio. “They have increased by 65 per cent in 10 years. This is unacceptable for a European country. Nobody can live well, even if they are well off, knowing that around us there are millions of Italians who have to live on public assistance or private charity.”
Berlusconi, 81, said that his Forza Italia party would provide “fiscal easing for people who take care of a domestic animal, so as to make it easier to adopt dogs and cats”.
“We are thinking of free fortnightly or monthly visits and to remove — for old people or those who do not live well — VAT on pet food,” he said.
Berlusconi made his pledges as Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president, was preparing to dissolve parliament and call a general election expected on March 4. Paolo Gentiloni, the prime minister, said his centre-Left government had steered Italy through its worst post-war crisis, curtailing migration from North Africa and increasing growth. He poured scorn on “more or less fantastic” promises of a state-funded minimum income from Berlusconi and the opposition Five Star Movement (M5S). Similar schemes are currently being tested in Finland and Holland.
Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister who leads Gentiloni’s party, estimated that the M5S plan for a citizenship income of €780 a month for nine million underprivileged people would cost €84 billion, while Berlusconi’s universal income proposal would cost as much as €157 billion. “How are they going to cover these costs?” Renzi asked, “with Monopoly money?”