By Constantinos Psillides
The state expects to receive over 70,000 applications for the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) when legislation comes in to force, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou said yesterday.
Emilianidou, who wrapped up discussion yesterday with trade unions and employers’ organisations, said the plan would be handed over to the Cabinet today and from there to parliament. The scheme was slated to come into effect on July 1 but is likely to be pushed back a few weeks.
The minster sought to clarify negative reports yesterday that the GMI would be only €480 a month. Emilianidou said this was the minimum allowance designed to cover certain basic needs.
Beyond that there would be rent, municipal taxes and other financial help available, she said. As an example she said a couple with no children would receive €874 and a family with one underage child and one child over 18 would be entitled to a total of €1,328.
“Social reform does not merely have to do with amounts, but rather it is an effort to help those who are in need, by assisting them not only financially, but also through services and the provision of care,” Emilianidou said.
The GMI aims at replacing social welfare benefits by ensuring a minimum income for every citizen, whether a person is unemployed or a low-income earner, following calculations by the government of what constitutes “decent living” in Cyprus.
Emilianidou appealed to the House to conclude discussions on the bill as soon as possible. In the meantime, she is asking deputies to approve the elements that would allow the application process to begin so the ministry can help applicants fill in their forms.
Currently some 20,000 people receive public assistance, 8,500 of whom are disabled. Emilianidou said however the government expected over 70,000 applications, all of which would be examined.
For a person to be eligible they must be a permanent resident and have lived in Cyprus for at least five years before applying.
Referring to the way the ‘consumer’s basket’ was calculated, Emilianidou said it included the cost of basic foodstuffs, clothing, footwear, transport, electricity, heating etc. The mean cost of these items has produced the average cost of decent living in Cyprus.
The second element of the GMI is the cost of rent for non-homeowners, which is also subject to differentiation according to family make-up. Emilianidou had explained that scientific research has determined the cost of rent in each district, and that the cost of loan repayments on primary residences would be calculated similarly.
The final element comprising the GMI reflects municipal taxes and related costs, including water connection charges and immovable property fees.
Emilianidou said the fact that the social dialogue had been completed without any suggestion on the part of employers and unions was a good omen.
“I consider that the provisions [of the GMI] are essentially considered to be satisfactory,” she said.
She also warned that the GMI’s basic €480 should not in any way be confused with the minimum wage. “It has nothing to do with the mimimum wage,” she said.
By Constantinos Psillides