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Our View: President should not have pandered so openly to public employees

PRESIDENT Anastasiades gave an assured and confident performance on television last Friday evening giving an account of the tough decisions he had to make on assuming power and the actions he took during his first four months in office to face the worsening economic situation.

He mentioned a long list of modest measures to boost employment, help businesses, stimulate agricultural development, encourage investment in tourism and to save money for the state as well as an ambitious incentive scheme for the use of renewable energy sources. The government was also offering a series of tax incentives for investment in innovation and new technology and had managed to increase funding from EU programmes in order to help the recovery of the economy, the president said in his introductory speech.

It was an impressive list of measures that was undertaken in such a short period of time, but they could return to haunt the president in the future as the economy continues to struggle, unemployment continues to rise and more businesses close down. People would rightly question the effectiveness of the measures, a few months later, when they see that they had made no difference. Modest measures such as these may offer a little hope but the truth is they cannot stop the further contraction of the economy.

However his boast about safeguarding public sector teaching jobs, re-hiring contractual labourers and appointing more National Guard officers indicated how he remains stuck in the old school thinking that wants the state to be a big and generous employer, even if this thinking is the main reason the state was bankrupt and needed financial assistance to stay afloat. His repeated assurances that there would be no additional pay cuts for public employees, other than those agreed with the troika were also an indication that he still embraces the old school thinking.

It is as if the Cypriot president is president of only the public sector workers. There was no acknowledgment of the sacrifices private sector employees have made, many seeing their pay reduced by as much as 50 per cent, in order to keep their jobs. It was all about the public sector employees who were the least affected by the crisis and do not have to live with the fear of losing their jobs. While there was not much the president could tell private sector employees other than refer to the government’s employment schemes, he should still not have pandered to the public workers so blatantly.

But it appears that even Anastasiades cannot abandon the old school thinking. He is happy to stop waste by the state, but not if it goes on the high wages of public employees.

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