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Our View: Shameless populism back on display during privatisations’ vote

PERHAPS the political situation has improved a bit. A year after the heroic ‘no’ of our deputies that led to the hair-cut of deposits some sense of responsibility was evident at legislature on Thursday night. At least 25 deputies voted in favour of the privatisation bill, approval of which is a condition for the release of the next instalment of the €10 billion loan.

It may have not been enough votes to take the bill through, but it was a positive sign, an indication that at least one political party, DISY, was prepared to put the national interest above petty populist considerations. It was also a positive development that there were 25 deputies, who refused to give in to the blackmail, bullying and intimidation of the SGO unions – about time the arrogant union bosses were shown that they cannot always impose their diktats on all the politicians.

The troika had helped by sending the letter informing the government that it would not accept the union-imposed amendment, added to the bill by DIKO. The amendment, essentially would give SGO workers a right they did not have – it would make it illegal for their employer to make any of them redundant, even if a department or service was closed down. This is a right enjoyed by the labour aristocrats of the civil service but it was never extended to SGO workers.

The other privilege included in the amendment, was a state guarantee of workers’ pension payments. In other words, if the pension fund could not afford to pay the full pension, the taxpayer would have to contribute so as to ensure the high standard of living of the SGO pensioner. Thanks to the troika these preposterous privileges will not be in the next bill being submitted for approval.

There should be a slightly amended privatisation bill, with a different title, submitted next week and the likelihood is that it will be approved. If it’s not, there will be no money from our lenders and the government warned it would be unable to pay public sector salaries and pensions in full this month.
It is doubtful that this prospect would persuade the shameless populists of AKEL and EDEK to show a sense of responsibility and support the bill. As champions of state-owned SGOs they would still oppose the bill and probably hope that two or three of the five DIKO deputies that voted against it on Thursday night, to punish their leader for withdrawing from the Anastasiades government, would behave as mature politicians – something beyond the deputies of EDEK and AKEL.

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