Cyprus Mail

DIKO pledges to back privatisations bill

Staff from semi-government telecommunications authority CyTA demonstrating against the bill on Monday

By George Psyllides

COALITION partner DIKO has signalled that it would vote in favour of privatisations legislation provided that certain conditions were met.

DIKO’s vote is needed for the bill to go through and secure continuation of vital financial assistance for Cyprus.

Observers had suggested that DIKO’s apparent opposition to the bill was in reaction to President Nicos Anastasiades’ agreeing on a joint declaration with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu that the party considers unacceptable.

DIKO spokeswoman Christiana Erotokritou rejected such insinuations.

“We think it is very unfair to say that DIKO is playing hide and seek over the privatisation bill,” she said. “Despite our disagreement with President Anastasiades on the national issue we will not use the economy to take revenge.”

Erokritou said the party wanted to save whatever could be saved from the state organisations slated for privatisation.

“We need to be realistic,” she said.

Erotokritou added that an effort must be made to buy time so that state assets were sold when the economy was in better shape.

But DIKO would nevertheless vote in favour of the bill provided it was amended.

Erotokritou said labour and pension rights should be secured and parliament should have a say in the final decision.

Approval of the bill by parliament is necessary for the release of the next bailout tranche of some €236 million early next month.

Privatisations are part of the terms in the island’s bailout agreement.

Cyprus must raise €1.4 billion through privatisations of semi-government organisations between 2016 and 2018.

According to the revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which was revealed yesterday, the new chairmen of Semi Governmental Organisations (SGO) who will undertake the privatisation process will need to be appointed by the end of March. The privatisation plan will need to be prepared by the end of their first six months in charge with the final plan and the bill completed by the end of September.

The MoU also provides for the revaluation of property by mid 2014. The new estimates need to be implemented no later than 2015.

Unexpected praise came yesterday from influential German newspaper Handelsblatt. The paper was reacting to the positive comments Cyprus received following the Eurogroup meeting on Monday which welcomed the conclusion of the Troika’s third review.

“Cyprus has met the goals that were set at the beginning of the programme, and clearly exceeded them,” an EU official in Nicosia told the German newspaper. “This is unusual and does not reflect the experiences that we have previously made (in other crisis countries),” the EU expert added.

Earlier in the day government spokesman Christos Stylianides said that Cyprus has to continue with the implementation of the MoU because it is the fastest way out of the agreement.

In statements to the press, the spokesman said all these positive evaluations, whether by the Eurogroup or by other European officials, are based on the implementation of the policy on behalf of the government, but they mainly reflect the maturity of the Cypriot people who have proven that they can be disciplined during difficult times as well, and they know that this attitude will bring good results.

He added “we firmly believe that we must continue along this line for the implementation of the programme because we all know that it is the quickest way out of the loan agreement.”

He said these positive evaluations send out the right messages to the markets and investors that in Cyprus the situation is being normalised and that they can think of Cyprus as an investment destination.

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