By Constantinos Psillides
PARLIAMENT kicked off a two day marathon session yesterday afternoon, as legislators started the haggling process aimed at approving the €6.62 billion 2014 budget by tonight.
The session started at 4pm, with party leaders taking the floor in turn to give a speech regarding the proposed budget.
This is the first budget after the bailout agreement with the troika of lenders, the European Central Bank, the International monetary Fund and the European Commission.
The 2014 budget has been cut by 5.5 per cent, compared with the €7.5 billion budget of 2013.
The plenum session commenced with a summary of the 157-page report by the House finance committee, followed by a speech by MP Nicos Koutsou of the Citizen’s Alliance Party. Following Koutsou, a speech will be given by Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis, then MP Giorgos Varnava on behalf of EDEK, Demetris Syllouris of EVROKO, newly elected leader of DIKO Nicolas Papadopoulos, main opposition AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou and finally DISY chief Averof Neophytou.
Kyprianou, opted to rail against the bailout memorandum, accusing the government of not standing up to the troika. Kyprianou noted that trying to pin responsibility for the financial meltdown on former president Demetris Christofias was “pure propaganda, fueled by political parties and various media outlets”.
DISY leader and MP Averof Neophytou defended the proposed budget, reiterating his party stance that exiting the euro and declaring bankruptcy wasn’t an option. Neophytou noted that the goal should be exiting the memorandum as soon as possible, by strictly adhering to the guidelines set by the troika of lenders.
“Ours is a heavy burden. If we want to protect democracy in Cyprus, if we want to reinstate our economy, regain our financial status and credibility we have to leave petty politics behind and shoulder our responsibilities,” Neophytou said. He added that DISY would not shed tears over ruins but move into the future. “Radical reform is a one-way street for us and it’s the only way for Cyprus,” he said.
The budget session will pick up again this morning with speeches by all 56 MPs. Voting will be due to start 7.30pm but normally the process goes on until midnight.
The ruling parties bloc, DISY, DIKO and EVROKO are expected to approve the budget. AKEL and the Citizen’s Alliance are expected to vote against it while EDEK and the Greens are expected to abstain. All parties are expected to propose amendments.
Besides proposing amendments for debate, the legislators will also decide on earmarking certain funds, a process known as “crossing”.
Funds that are ‘crossed’ will undergo further scrutiny before parliament decides whether to release them or not, usually by the end of February.
Upon presenting the 2014 budget before the House Finance committee in October, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades warned that 2014 would probably be the most difficult year for the Cypriot economy, but would also be the year to correct the ills that led to its collapse.