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Tremonti tries the highwire act

Italy’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, is engineering major changes in the management of the country’s assets and liabilities. His goal: tax and spending cuts. Can he pull off this double feat? Probably not, but positive things may still emerge from his efforts.

Maria Cannata, head of funding at the Italian treasury, rushes into her beautiful office in the public debt mansion in Rome, straight from another meeting. The offices of Italy's public debt team are colossal - long, vast halls on floor after floor, lined with offices almost as beautiful as Cannata's. The size and grandeur of the building reflects the size and grandeur of Italy's public debt - 110% of GDP at the last count.

Cannata says it has been a busy few weeks but that it is always busy at the Italian treasury. Ever since Mario Draghi was made director-general of the treasury just over a decade ago and tried to slash Italy's double-digit deficit to get the country into the single currency, the treasury has not seen a dull moment. As one analyst says: "The Italian treasury is one of the most efficient in Europe. It is obliged to be so, because it has had such a big job on its hands."

But even by the treasury's hectic standards, July was event-filled. In one week, Eurostat, the EU's accounting and statistics agency, laid down a ruling on the accountancy treatment of sovereign securitizations, bringing two Italian ABS deals back onto the balance sheet and immediately pushing Italy's budget deficit from 1.5%

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