Cyprus Mail

‘If only we won €1.4bn in the lottery,’ says minister

Privatisation of utilities and state assets is unavoidable according to Harris Georgiades

By George Psyllides

IT WOULD be a completely different story for privatisations if Cyprus won €1.4bn in the lottery, the finance minister said yesterday, but since that was unlikely, the island will still have to go ahead with a denationalisation programme.

The minister is currently engaged in a dialogue, sometime stormy, with trade unions and political parties regarding privatisations of semi-government organisations, which are part of the terms of the bailout programme by the Troika of international lenders.

Cyprus is committed to raising at least €1.4bn from privatisations between 2016 and 2018, but union leaders say that it is not necessary to sell off enterprises such as telecoms operator Cyta, power generator EAC and the Ports Authority. However, no other alternative has been put forward.

Georgiades had been asked what the deal would be if the money was found from elsewhere.

“Of course the state of affairs would change. Of course we would be able to talk with international lenders under different conditions,” he told state radio CyBC.

He was quick to add however, that raising such an amount was unlikely.

Georgiades said the government was looking at ways to raise part of the cash but privatisation was necessary.

Speaking later in the day after a meeting with coalition partner DIKO chairman Marios Garoyian, the minister said the effort was to define a policy “that will meet bailout obligations on the one hand and serve the best interests and prospects of our economy.”

Garoyian said he reiterated the party’s unwavering position that it did not agree with privatisations.

“Within this framework we would take a careful look … to the participation of workers in the ownership,” Garoyian said.

He added that he conveyed a series of alternatives to raise the 1.4bn and achieve their modernisation and restructuring to enable them to become more competitive and productive.

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