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Ex-Italy PM Monti berates parties for irresponsible election promises

FILE PHOTO - Mario Monti his wife Elsa Antonio and Alexander Pereira pose before the opening of the 2017-2018 opera season at La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

(reuters_tickers)

ROME (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has accused political parties of making "irresponsible" promises ahead of the March 4 election which he said would be a disaster if carried out.

"This is clearly a country going backwards not forwards," Monti, whose government was widely credited with saving Italy from financial collapse during the euro zone debt crisis in 2011, said in a TV interview late on Tuesday.

"The spectacle being offered to us and the rest of Europe is one of total irresponsibility," he told La7 television channel.

"It is not just a horrible spectacle that will rebound on Italy in Europe, but it is a huge disinformation campaign that the parties are offering," he added.

All the main parties are promising big tax cuts and higher spending and they say they will renegotiate Italy's fiscal commitments to the European Union.

The election is seen as the next source of potential instability in the currency bloc, especially if parties carry out the maverick policies they are proposing.

The centre-right bloc that leads opinion polls promises a "flat tax" for individuals and companies, set below all current staggered tax rates and costing tens of billions of euros.

It also promises to scrap a pension reform adopted by Monti in 2012 which raised the retirement age and was applauded by financial markets. Scrapping the reform has been estimated to cost around 100 billion euros (£88.6 billion) over the next five years.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement wants to raise the budget deficit above EU limits and introduce a minimum income of 780 euros ($950) per month.

Monti, who unsuccessfully formed his own party to try to retain power at the last election in 2013, said of the centre-right's flat tax proposal: "You can do it, as you can do many negative things with the economy."

He warned that such proposals risked "pushing the country to a precipice" which would probably require tax hikes later on.

He also had harsh words for his predecessor as prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party is rising in opinion polls.

"What I find extraordinary is that people are erasing their memory and not considering at all how he governed," Monti said.

Forza Italia's lower house speaker, Renato Brunetta, hit back, saying Monti's government "sold Italy out" to the EU and called his comments "ridiculous and pathetic."

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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