Italy: Business leaders engage in rare govt policy protest

Some 3,000 Italian business leaders from mainly small and medium-sized firms protested Monday in the northern city of Turin to pressure the government to invest in infrastructure and come up with clear plans for promoting economic growth.

The protest organized by Italian business lobby Confindustria and 11 smaller groups also was meant to push the government to reach a deal on its deficit-busting spending plan to avoid European Union sanctions.

The business groups that participated in the rare public protest of government policy together represent 13 million workers and produce 65 percent of Italy's GDP.

"We are against this budget proposal, which has nothing to do with growth. We are telling the government that they are surpassing a sense of limits and sustainability," Confindustria President Vincenzo Boccia said.

Turin has been at the center of a battle over the future of a high-speed train linking Italy with France, a dispute symbolic of the tug of war within the populist Italian government over major infrastructure projects.

The governing 5-Star Movement is staunchly against the TAV high-speed rail, which is part of a wider EU project to build a high-speed commercial rail link between Lisbon and Kiev. The anti-establishment movement also opposes an international natural gas pipeline that will pass through the southern Italian region of Puglia and a major tunnel connecting Italy and Austria.

All the projects are supported by the 5-Stars' governing coalition partner, the League, which has its base in the northern Italian businesses that fuel the country's economy.

Boccia said Italian business organizations don't want to align with either party but are pushing for policies they think will make the Italian economy grow.

But he told the protest gathering that League leader Matteo Salvini should worry about the increasing borrowing costs on Italy's debt, which is weighing on the business vote that helped elect him.