Finance Minister Harris Georgiades was quoted on Sunday as saying he would be doing his best to win over the new House finance committee so that crucial reforms could be pushed forward.
In an interview with Phileleftheros, Georgiades said he would try to build a working relationship with the new composition, and not only in matter of the economy. The reforms process suffered a setback with the results of last Sunday’s elections which ushered in an unprecedented eight-party parliament, most of whom are anti-reform and anti-privatisation. On top of that, ruling DISY lost two of its 20 seats won in 2011.
“Obviously there is diversity in the new parliament,” said Georgiades. “The aim is to see the different approaches so that, through consensus and consultation, we can continue efforts to promote reforms and make the changes that our country needs. My clear message is that the government is ready and willing to cooperate with the new parliament, not only in matters of the economy but on all major issues concerning the country and society.”
He conceded that the final say in relation to legislation lies with the House, “but always within the limits that the constitution establishes”. “The institutional role of parliament must be respected but at the same time there must be recognition of the constitutional limits and respect for the separation of powers,” he added.
“Within this context, our decisions are characterised by seriousness and responsibility and serve the greater good, even if there are different approaches. This is the most important. Political games and populism just drive individual interests at the expense of the greater good and should not have a place in the political process of a state that only recently has been on the brink of economic disaster.”
Cyprus, he said, had been given a second chance, got rid of the troika and was standing on its own feet, “not through dogmatic denial or slogans but through effort and decisions”.
“This second chance now calls for us to manage it responsibly. There is still much to be done to ensure the competitiveness of our economy, sustainable development and job creation. So we have to remain serious, avoid past mistakes and to promote reforms imposed by common sense. For example, what reasonable person can argue with the need for salary restraint in the public sector?” he said.
“Do we want to return to the old ways? If reforms are hindered, I fear that the problem is not one the government has, but our country.”
Georgiades said he planned to brief the new House committee on the state of the economy and the government’s policies and priorities, and would in turn listen to their concerns and thoughts.
A top priority for the government right now, he added, were the six or seven bills for public service reform, especially payroll, which have been pending before parliament since last August. Also, with the reopening of the House there will be a new proposal for the taxation of immovable property but he gave no details as he said it must first be discussed by the cabinet. In the Autumn, the state budget for 2017 would have to be put before the House.
“I would not be honest if I told you that I did not have my concerns,” Georgiades said.
“What I can tell you, speaking on behalf of the government, is that we will remain committed to the reform effort and promoting structural change to the state and the economy, and the prudent management of public finances.”
In this respect, he said, the government would welcome a parliament that not only does not hinder these efforts but would help push reforms and consolidation and act not as an obstacle to the changes the country needed.