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Finance committee urged to work harder and keep quiet over Brexit implications

First session of the new House finance committee (Christos Theodorides)

The House finance committee, in session for the first time on Wednesday following May’s legislative elections, has been urged to hold intensive, daily sessions until July 15 – when parliament goes on summer recess – to discuss all the government bills left pending by the previous parliament.
At Wednesday’s session, chairman Averof Neophytou proposed committee members hold “intensive meetings”, even in the afternoon, so that all pending legislative proposals are discussed and forwarded to the plenum.
“There are already 139 government bills and legislative proposals pending before the committee, as well as eight sets of regulations,” Neophytou said in a letter to the committee’s members.
“Considering that from October, the committee will be in session on a daily basis to discuss the government budgets, I believe it is necessary for the finance committee to start convening on a daily basis today, so that all pending bills and proposals are discussed.”
The suggestion was seconded by House Speaker Demetris Syllouris – elected to his post by Neophytou’s DISY – who chaired the committee’s session briefly.
However, following reactions from some committee members, who cautioned that a dramatic increase in sessions would compromise the quality of discussion, Neophytou said he will take the proposal to Thursday’s meeting of heads of parliamentary parties.
Also in the room on Wednesday was Finance Minister Harris Georgiades, responding to a customary invitation to meet the new committee.
But Georgiades did not see the session as merely customary, and brought his shopping list.
The finance minister said the ministry stands ready to attend any intensive committee sessions, even in the afternoons.
In a letter to Syllouris last week, the finance minister asked that out of 45 pending pieces of legislation proposed by the government to the previous parliament, two are prioritised for urgent discussion.
These relate to a mechanism linking promotions and pay hikes in the public sector with annual GDP growth, and immovable property taxation reform.
According to the proposals, public-sector payroll reform will include triggers that keep the public payroll within viable levels by linking increments, the cost-of-living allowance, and general pay hikes, with GDP growth, and allow for the mobility of civil servants across the public and semi-public sectors, and vice versa.
Additionally, the bills aim to introduce a new appraisal system for civil servants, featuring a bell-curve format grading system.
Meanwhile, Georgiades urged committee members to withhold comment on the possible impact of Britain’s exit from the European Union, should Britons decide so in next week’s referendum.
Asked whether the government has a plan in place to address such impact, Georgiades said he would prefer not to “advertise” any such repercussions, should they be identified.
“Even if we thought there will be repercussions, this is not something I would advertise,” he said.
“I am not sure it is right for us to keep arguing the possible risks – both deputies and government ministers. The messages we send abroad should be reassuring.”
He added that we must never again appear to be “shooting ourselves on the foot”, as we have in the past.
“The ministry is closely monitoring the issue of Brexit,” was all Georgiades was prepared to say.
“At this point, there is not much more that can be done.”
What is most important in the event of a Brexit, he noted, is the negotiation of the terms of the country’s exit, which will last approximately two years.
“Actions will take place at that stage,” he said.



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