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Privatisation plans could be revised if the money ‘magically appears’

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades in a feisty mood yesterday

By George Psyllides

THE government will revise its privatisation plans if the cash it needed to raise magically appeared, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades told lawmakers yesterday, but it will not back down on its decision to denationalise certain organisations.

Speaking before the House Finance Committee, Georgiades said things would only change if the €1.4bn Cyprus needed to raise from privatisations were “magically secured” through a different way.

If for instance revenues from casino licenses were confirmed, it would allow the government to decide on the extent of privatisation at the state telecoms, Georgiades said.

He added that the main reason for privatisations was to bolster the organisations’ efficiency and competitiveness.

No minimum amount has been set so far. Privatisations and public sector reform are among the conditions for a €10bn international bailout Cyprus secured last year.

The main organisations slated for full or partial sale are CyTA, the electricity authority EAC, and the ports authority CPA.

Unions oppose the privatisations and last week they went on strike for several days after the cabinet approved a bill that outlines the procedure.

Parliament is currently discussing the bill, which must be approved by the end of this month or early March in order for Cyprus to receive the next tranche of financial assistance from the European Commission and the IMF, estimated at €253m.

Georgiades said the government wants parliament to have a say in the process, even in the final stage of selling the shares.

“The constitution is making it somewhat difficult but through cooperation and the help of the legal service we can ensure this,” the minister said.

Unions want the parliament’s participation and are also demanding that the workers’ pension rights be secured.

The government does not want to take away any rights with this legislation and if there is anything in the bill, it should be removed, the minister said.

Georgiades also said that he was in favour of the workers participating in the share capital of the organisations, either collectively or individually.

Committee chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos said the legal service has been asked to rule on the status of the employees, who are considered public servants.

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