Italy's 2019 budget deficit to be lower than expected - Economy Minister

Informal meeting of ministers of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) and Eurogroup

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's 2019 budget deficit will probably come in below the government's official target of 2.2% of gross domestic product, Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said on Friday, pointing to the smallest fiscal gap for more than ten years.

National statistics agency ISTAT will publish 2019 public finance data on March 2.

"We will achieve the deficit targets and in 2019 we will do something better," Gualtieri said in a television interview with state broadcaster RAI.

The last time Italy posted a deficit below 2.2% was in 2007.

In September, the government of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party targeted the budget deficit at 2.2% in 2019 and 2020. It was also 2.2% in 2018.

Gualtieri said the Italian economy probably grew by 0.2% in 2019, slightly better than the 0.1 officially estimated by the government.

The Bank of Italy last week also said the 2019 budget deficit would come in below target, and estimated a GDP growth rate of 0.2%.

Despite the slight fall in the deficit last year, Italy's public debt - proportionally the highest in the euro zone after that of Greece - is targeted by the government to rise in 2019 from its 2018 level of 134.8%.


(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, editing by Gavin Jones)