The International Monetary Fund urged Italy on Thursday to stick to crucial reforms launched by Prime Minister Mario Monti as the country heads toward general elections expected in February.
"Prime Minister Monti has taken bold steps to improve Italy's fiscal health," said IMF spokesman Gerry Rice.
"We believe that Italy is now on the right path of fiscal consolidation and structural reform, and continuing on that path of implementation is the way forward."
The steps Monti has taken in his year as a prime minister "are steps in the right path... and should be implemented going forward," Rice reiterated in a press briefing.
"And the key is implementation," he added.
Italy's reform path has been thrown into turmoil with Monti's decision last week to step down after one year leading a government of mostly technocrats focused on shoring up the weak economy.
Credited with restoring Italy's international credibility and pulling the economy back from the brink of default, Monti has said he will step down in the coming days but has declined to comment on his future political plans.
Italy's politics and its economic revival have been plunged into turmoil with Monti's decision, which came after the party of disgraced three-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi withdrew its support for Monti.
Monti is holding up his formal resignation until parliament approves next year's budget, and has declined to say whether or not he will run in the election next year.
His austerity measures and reforms to boost Italy's long-term growth have won wide praise abroad, but unemployment has risen to record highs and the economy is still mired in recession.
Berlusconi has suggested he would ease Monti's austerity moves, raising doubts in global markets about the country's commitment to reforms.
But Italian center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani pledged on Thursday to continue with Monti's economic discipline if he is elected.