By Elias Hazou
The troika of international lenders have given Cyprus just two more months to enact legislation on reform of local government, interior minister Socrates Hasikos said on Monday.
The bill must be completed and voted on by April, Hasikos said, adding that no more extensions would be granted.
Hasikos called on all stakeholders – the union of municipalities as well as political parties – to give their feedback and any proposals on the government draft bill as soon as possible in order to meet that deadline.
“It is only through consensus that we shall achieve reform,” the minister told reporters.
On Wednesday Hasikos will be discussing the draft bill with main opposition AKEL.
Although overhaul of local administration is a condition stemming from the bailout agreement with international creditors, even without this obligation there would still be a pressing need for reform, the minister noted.
This is the second draft bill prepared by the government. The first was scrapped after it was roundly rejected by all stakeholders back in October, forcing the interior ministry back to the drawing board.
AKEL in particular had at the time criticised the government for going it alone without consulting anyone.
The first bill’s philosophy revolved around achieving economies of scale via the clustering of services provided by the dozens of municipalities. But the municipalities as well as the parties – including ruling DISY – had said the methods proposed would end up raising the cost of local government instead of lowering it – the overriding objective.
Produced with the advice of foreign experts, the first blueprint provided for the creation of second-tier bodies of local government, taking powers away from municipalities and giving them to the new bodies – one for every district.
It also provided for less staff – between 15 per cent and 20 per cent – with excess personnel taking early retirement or opting for transfer to other state departments. Salaries account for an estimated 50 per cent of municipalities’ operating expenses.