In an attempt to shake up the sluggish economy and increase government popularity prior to the forthcoming European parlimentary elections, the Italian government, led by Silvio Berlusconi, is proposing to reduce income tax in 2005. Currently there are five rates of tax which go from 23 per cent for the lower range incomes up to 45 per cent for those earning 70,000 per year or more. The new promised tax rates will be two only, 23 per cent for incomes up to 100,000 and 33 per cent for higher incomes.

At the same time the prime minister is suggesting that seven public and religious holidays should be moved so that they are always taken on a Friday or a Monday and incorporated into the weekend, thus avoiding loss of production when holidays fall mid week and workers make five day breaks known as "ponti" or bridges. The long "ponti" weekends have become part of the Italian holiday tradition and will be a difficult, and possibly unpopular, habit to change.