Milan - Italy, struggling to balance its books and keep in favour with the credit markets, said on Monday that its public finances were better than expected last year.
The finance ministry said the country had a public deficit - the shortfall between tax income and spending - of €61.5bn, down from €67bn in 2010.
The government had expected a deficit of €64.8bn for last year and the better-than-expected showing reflected improved tax revenues and lower spending, the ministry said.
The ministry did not give a figure for the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product, since a GDP figure for the year will not be available until March.
According to figures given at end-September, the public deficit was equal to 3.2% of GDP in the second quarter, up from 2.5% a year earlier and above the European Union ceiling of 3.0%.
Italy set a deficit target of 3.9% for 2011, aiming to balance the budget by 2013 as it brings total debt equal to 120% of GDP under control through a series of tough austerity packages.