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Our View: Worrying signs that elections influencing state spending

AS THE exit from the assistance programme and the departure of troika approaches there are worrying signs we are returning to our profligate ways. It does not help that the exit will coincide with the start of the campaign for the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for the end of May, and there will be additional pressure on the government to waste the taxpayer’s money.

Earlier this week, Cyprus News Agency reported that the House finance committee had written to the government urging it to increase the state subsidy for ‘refugee’ sports clubs. During a discussion of the 2016 budget of the Cyprus Sports Federation (KOA), which distributes the subsidies, it was revealed that the committee had written to the ministers of finance and education urging them to increase the budgeted subsidy of €784,000 by an additional €600,000; last year it had been increased by €400,000.

This might be a small amount but it is indicative of the thinking of our politicians. Sports clubs (primarily football clubs) represent many votes and as there are elections this year the parties were united in giving out more of the taxpayer’s money. And for what? So that so-called refugee clubs could pay high wages to players that their turnover, from gate receipts and other revenue, could never justify. But refugee clubs represent many votes so the parties fully support throwing the taxpayer’s money at them and it is doubtful the government will express any objections.

Electoral considerations were also behind the government’s refusal to overturn the decision taken by the Larnaca municipal council not to extend the stay for oil companies at Larnaca port. DIKO, EDEK and AKEL councillors all voted for the transfer of the oil companies and the government ‘respected’ their decision, even though their possible transfer to Limassol would cost the taxpayer a few million euros, because there are elections. Only the DISY leader had the decency to mention the cost of the move, but our parties have always been very generous with our money when there are votes to be bought.

Approaching elections may also explain, to an extent, the decision for the unfreezing of 185 nursing positions at state hospitals. How could the government agree to such a move now, when one of the main obstacles to making hospitals autonomous are the objections of the nurses who want to be treated as public employees by the new entities? Would it not have been wiser if the unfreezing of the 185 positions was delayed until hospitals became independent entities and staffing needs were assessed?

But when there are elections what little rationality might exist in government spending decisions vanishes.





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