By Poly Pantelides
THE MEMBERS of the House Finance Committee yesterday lodged their disapproval with a government-submitted bill giving responsibility to the Central Bank (CB) board for its staff payroll.
Central Bank board member Stelios Kiliaris told lawmakers they were down to 273 staff members, from 316 and needed to hire new staff to respond to the regulator’s needs. Austerity measures are in place freezing wages, promotions and new hires in the public sector, but the government said that its lenders wanted the CB to be exempt in order to respond to its role given the ongoing bailout programme, due to end in 2016.
A condition in the revised memorandum specified the CB must be able to maintain and hire specialised staff to continue its operations, the government said.
Kiliaris said the regulator was planning to act within the overall austerity measures in place in the civil sector and would follow current wage reductions. He added they were considering giving people title promotions without accompanying wage promotions and would be conservative in the number of people they hired, possibly on yearly contracts.
The Central Bank’s handling of a number of issues has been publicly criticised by deputies. The government has also questioned the regulator’s competence.
Head of the finance committee Nicolas Papadopoulos wanted to know what “invisible hand is leading troika to this obligation in the memorandum.” He said they would seriously consider the proposal because they had to, but added it was not clear the memorandum obligation went as far as allowing the Central Bank to set whatever wages it wanted.
“So at this stage we must not examine exempting the CB staff wages but only freeing up new hires,” he said.
EDEK deputy Nicos Nicolaides said the bill was “unacceptable and insulting” to the rest of the civil servant sector and said nothing in the memorandum called for distinguishing between the CB staff and the rest of the public sector.
He said other services of the state were equally or more important dealing with security, public order and flight safety.
And he said they could not accept different treatment for the CB in terms of its staff payroll.
The Green Party’s Giorgos Perdikis said the Central Bank “was once again using the Big Brother troika threat to have full immunity in their payroll”.
“What is happening is unacceptable,” he added, echoing his peers.