Italy revises down first quarter GDP figures

Rome (AFP) –


Italy's GDP grew just 0.1 percent in the first quarter of this year, official figures showed Friday, revising downwards an earlier forecast in bad news for the government as it locks horns with Brussels.

The country's gross domestic product had initially been said to have expanded by 0.2 percent in the three months to March.

Year-on-year GDP growth -- initially given as 0.1 percent -- was meanwhile revised downwards to -0.1 percent, national statistics institute Istat said.

Italy exited a technical recession as its economy returned to growth in the first quarter after two quarters of contraction, giving the populist government a boost ahead of European elections earlier this month.

But the coalition of the far-right League and anti-establishment Five Stars Movement must now reply to a letter from the European Commission asking for an explanation for the deterioration of Italy's public finances.

Ahead of the revised GDP figures, the head of the League Matteo Salvini, who is also interior minister and deputy prime minister, said that Rome would supply Brussels with "positive data and figures".

The government is "spending less than expected and the economy is giving clear signals of recovery," he said.

Last year's technical recession had put pressure on the populist government in the eurozone's third largest economy, which took power in June on the back of big-spending electoral promises.

The coalition government was forced to water down its ambitious and costly budget in December to avoid being punished by the European Commission and the financial markets.