By George Psyllides
PARLIAMENT yesterday approved a controversial bill on privatisations that was rejected last week, putting the island’s international financial assistance in jeopardy.
Thirty MPs voted in favour and 26 against.
Ruling DISY, DIKO, and two MPs, EVROKO’s Demetris Syllouris, and Zacharias Koulias, an independent, approved the bill.
AKEL, EDEK, the Greens, and Citizen’s Alliance deputy Nicos Koutsou, voted against the legislation.
Finance Minister Harris Georgiades welcomed the approval of the bill “which paved the way for modernisation and reform.”
“Other than being an obligation, the privatisation programme is an opportunity to attract investment, boost efficiency and competitiveness, and shed the millstone of statism in important sectors of the economy,” the minister said.
The path to stability, restoring credibility, and recovery of the island’s economy remained open, Georgiades said.
Lawmakers had rejected the bill last Thursday putting an international bailout programme at risk.
Approval of the bill was necessary for the release of the next bailout tranche worth some €236 million.
The government re-submitted the bill on Friday, amended to accommodate concerns over workers legacy rights.
However, workers belonging to state telecoms CyTA, the power company, EAC, and the ports authority, continued to have concerns.
On Tuesday they held three-hour strikes and protested – mostly CyTA workers — outside parliament.
The supply of electricity was not affected.
They want jobs to be secured and parliament to have a say at every stage of the privatisation process.
The protesters shouted “hands off CyTA”, “CyTA is not for sale” and other slogans.
CyTA union rep Alecos Tryfonides suggested that the bill contained provisions, which were unconstitutional, mainly as regards the organisations and the rights of the workers.
“This wealth can remain in state hands by restructuring and modernising them, so they can help the state at any moment and at the same time avoid victimising the workers,” he said.
DIKO chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos said provisions were improved, with parliament having a say from start to finish.
Cabinet decrees have been removed he said and it was parliament that had to agree and approve the assets in the event of a sale.
“Not even a chair can be sold or transferred to a third party if parliament does not approve,” he said.
Papadopoulos said amendments to the bill secured the workers’ labour and pension rights.
DISY leader Averof Neophytou suggested that everyone should be able to take part in the privatisation and buy stake in the organisations.
If there is wealth, he said, it was not just created by the 5,000 workers but all consumers, the entire society, Cypriot households, and small and medium businesses.
Neophytou said he had no objection with the organisations being owned by their workers whose combined provident funds were worth some €1.2 billion.
“Why then should they be given to capitalists, foreigners, or third parties? I will be the first to support legal regulation if necessary,” he said.
AKEL, the party that agreed to privatisations first when in was in power in 2012, accused the government of not trying to renegotiate with international lenders following the defeat of the bill last week.
Since last Thursday, party leader Andros Kyprianou, said the government had embarked on a campaign to terrorise public opinion by claiming that civil servants would not get their March salaries.