Cyprus Mail
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Our View: Sell the state monopolies off now

HAVING run out of issues to fuel their self-righteous rage, deputies have decided to resume their campaigns against the privatisation of semi-government organisations. Although it is a remarkably meaningless exercise, because privatisation is stipulated in the MoU Cyprus has signed, the politicians are still banking on winning votes from employees of these organisations for their brave resistance to the troika.

It is the same thinking that was behind the decision of AKEL and EDEK to vote against the co-op bills a couple of weeks ago. They had cleverly calculated that the other, more responsible, parties would vote the bills through while they could pose as the brave defenders of the co-op movement. But when the bills were defeated and the immediate collapse of the co-ops was looming they put aside their objections and approved the bills.

This irresponsible approach is now being pursued for the SGOs. The raising of money through their privatisation – a minimum of €1.4 billion is stipulated – is a condition of the MoU agreed by the Christofias government and signed by the Anastasiades government. So how would it be avoided? None of the campaigners have made any suggestion. Only yesterday, in a review by the troika fears were expressed that privatisations, which are considered a given, would not raise the €1.4bn

The communists of AKEL have been leading the chorus of disapproval by resort to the usual mix of lies and half-truths. Its official, Christos Christofides said: “We disagreed (to the rushed sale of SGOs), we will continue to disagree and would give a fight to protect the profitable national wealth, which belongs, at the end of the day, to all the Cypriot people.”

If AKEL disagreed why did Christofias agree to the inclusion of privatisations in the first draft of the MoU? And is the national wealth profitable? The EAC is a loss-making monopoly that charges the highest electricity rates in the EU. CyTA remains profitable but its surpluses have been declining every year because of competition, while the Ports Authority is a monopoly that is profitable because it charges extortionate fees to its customers. In fact the EAC and Ports Authority monopolies make a big contribution to the ever-increasing cost of living in Cyprus because their rip-off charges are passed on to the consumer.

Perhaps Christofides could tell us one way in which the Cypriot people have benefited from owning these inefficient, wasteful, mismanaged and abusive monopolies. The SGOs have benefited their employees whom they pay unjustifiably high wages, allowances and pensions and the political parties which use them for a range of corrupt practices. The rest of us, the overwhelming majority of the population, have not only gained nothing, but we have been paying rip-off prices to ensure the dubious profitability of our so-called national wealth.

Enough of this costly profitability – sell these state monopolies off now for the good of the population.

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