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Our View: Postponing vote on controversial bill was a no-brainer

AS RATIONAL arguments, by people with a good understanding of economics and banking, had failed to persuade deputies of the legal affairs committee not to submit the bill protecting primary residence to Thursday’s plenum, devious methods had to be used.

The leaders of DISY and DIKO arrived at yesterday morning’s meeting as did all the members of the committee from those two parties and they voted in favour of a postponement of the submission of the bill to the plenum for voting. The deputies of AKEL and EDEK which had drafted the bill abstained from yesterday’s vote in protest against the tactics resorted to by the other parties; they would have lost the vote anyway.

But ignoring the DISY-DIKO manoeuvring, there was a perfectly legitimate reason for postponing the submission of the bill. Although on Friday the committee had unanimously voted in favour of sending the bill to the plenum, a meeting was scheduled for yesterday because some deputies wanted to make amendments to the bill, ostensibly to allay the fears of the new Central Bank Governor who had urged the committee to shelve the bill. In other words, the amended bill would be different from the one unanimously backed by the committee on Friday.

Unfortunately, not much rational thought goes into the decisions of the legislature. The bill unanimously approved on Friday did not set a ceiling on the value of the primary residence that would be protected, nor a time limit for the suspension of loan repayments by the court. And it did not clearly specify how small-to-medium businesses would be protected. These concerns would have supposedly been addressed by the amendments that EDEK was supposed to have made to the bill yesterday.

Such a slapdash approach to law-making defies belief. Deputies had put so much thought into the bill that they were prepared to protect a primary residence worth a million or two. And this was a bill, they claimed, aimed at protecting the poor and vulnerable. So why after one year of deliberations had none thought of protecting homes valued below €200,000, if it was the poor and vulnerable that had to be protected? Should there not also have been a condition that only people that had a good loan repayment record would have been eligible to apply for suspension of repayments?

How could any rational person take seriously deputies, who were incapable of thinking about the most basic things when drafting the bill? And could anyone who cares for the good of the country believe these shameless populists’ assurances that the proposed law would have no harmful consequences for the economy, when the finance minister, the new Central Bank governor, the IMF and the European Commission have repeatedly warned against adopting it? It’s a no-brainer.

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