MILAN (AP) ? The Italian government has approved a decree to pay 40 billion euros ($52 billion) owed by government entities to private businesses over the next 12 months to help relaunch Italy's stagnant economy.
Premier Mario Monti acknowledged Saturday after his caretaker government adopted the decree that overdue payments had become "a bad habit" that put a heavy burden on business owners.
State entities on an average pay their bills six months after services are rendered and some 90 days after the official due date, which Monti said put Italy behind Spain, Portugal and Greece.
Delayed government payments are a major factor behind liquidity shortages faced by many small and medium-sized Italian companies. Reduced turnover in the recession means many businesses, in turn, are having trouble keeping up with even small debts.