By Nathan Morley
BUILDING BRIDGES between the government and the people can be a tricky business. This is not helped by the irritating tendency of ministers to make dubious nonsensical public statements at any given opportunity.
For example, back in September the Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou confidently assured us that the Social Insurance Fund required “no further measures” to keep functioning with reserves and expected revenue being enough to last for another 47 years – until 2060.
Critics said the fund was perilously close to running out of money.
So, I know it comes as a crushing blow for those that hang on the every word of our ministers that the head of the Social Insurance Department made a brief appearance earlier this week to announce additional unpleasant financial squeezes. Fancy that.
As the rising cost of almost everything is hurting almost everyone, Theofanis Tryfonos delivered a patchwork of new rules, including that all employees are now required to pay additional contributions of 1 per cent to the Social Insurance Fund – with the same increase applying for employers.
For the self-employed the increase will be 2 per cent. Then it got worse.
For some reason, there’s a rather weird and arguably unfair formula for calculating that public servants will only pay an additional contribution of 0.5 per cent.
Most people would agree that it would be a sensible, well-intentioned measure if public servants could be stretched to pay a little more, say as much as 1 per cent?
Long gone are the days when the civil service was seen as a career dead end or a graveyard of ambition – now landing a job within the state machine is the only promise of a steady income, good medicare and peanut contributions – it is like winning the lotto.
An additional kink in these new rules and regulations has raised the conditions eligibility to a pension. Now, those employees who have worked for only a few years will not be entitled to a pension unless they have paid contributions for at least 12 years.
Another bitter pill comes to those whose pension will be reduced permanently if they choose to retire at the age of 63 years – their retirement benefit will now be slashed by 6 per cent.
The lesson here is that all that the predictions and statements from the ministers must be taken with a healthy pinch of salt and digested with a large brandy.
Meanwhile, the good news continues online. During the past week dozens of blogs, forums and social networks have been linking to news reports documenting a spate of horrendous acts of cruelty towards animals – those that feel outraged are getting much savvier about getting their voices heard.
The actions of a few mindless psychopaths committing acts of deliberate and brutal cruelty is helping to determine the way this country is viewed abroad.
Photos of a dog being violently dragged to its death behind a car, another shot in the face, reports of pets being starved or dumped and the horrific images of decomposing corpses of dogs at a shelter in Limassol have been beamed to computer screens the world over – and understandably sparked outrage among animal lovers.
For years a coalition of animal-welfare groups have pushed for the creation of a special police force but with their protests receiving just a few column inches in the local press and the occasional mention on TV little progress has been made.
Now social media gives their grievances a new platform and the ability to organise politically like never before. However, amid the chorus of anger the government shows no signs of finally getting a handle on this outrageous situation.
Disturbingly, in August the Minister of Justice dropped a plan by the previous administration for the creation of a police unit for animal welfare – with activists insisting the job could be done with just a mere 10-15 officers covering the entire island, taking rescue calls and investigating reports of cruelty.
Ionas Nicolaou insists the problem can be handled by regular the police, who to the best of my knowledge are experienced in dealing with criminals, not animals.
This continued rejection of fate will only prolong the appalling situation, as one thing is absolutely certain – a unit tasked with protecting the welfare of animals will be established, abusers will be suitably punished and cruelty exposed where ever it happens.
The government needs to acknowledge there is a serious problem that needs to be tackled before it escalates further and may simply find it easier to respond now.
Well done to a reporter at the Huffington Post for spotting this gem. The McDonald’s employee resources website, which can be accessed by simple registration, is giving out some very strange advice for their employees. The online health notice reads:
“Fast foods are quick, reasonably priced, and readily available alternatives to home cooking. While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight.”
A separate post states that “it is hard to eat a healthy diet when you eat at fast-food restaurants often,” adding that large portions make it easy to overeat.