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Our View: Encouraging signs from new House finance committee

Shaking hands: Finance Minister Harris Georgiades with House finance committee chairman and DISY leader Averof Neophytou on Wednesday (Christos Theodorides)

THE HOUSE finance committee displayed a very businesslike approach, during its first meeting after the elections, which was attended by Finance Minister Harris Georgiades. The meeting was called by the new committee chairman Averof Neophytou in order to establish a constructive co-operation between the legislature and executive and was used by Georgiades to give deputies an account of the economy’s performance and the government’s plans.

The co-operation of the committee is of importance to the government as there are currently 45 bills and regulations awaiting approval. Four bills relating to the reform of the immovable property tax had to be approved immediately because the implementation of the new taxation was a matter of urgency. Another seven bills, relating to the reform of the civil service that had been awaiting approval before the elections were also considered a priority by the government.

There is a problem however because the legislature is set to be in recess for the summer from July 15. That is a little under five weeks, but to avoid the danger of passing all the bills in the final session before the recess Neophytou proposed that the committee would also meet in the afternoons to get through the bills. Georgiades said both he and the senior officials of the ministry would be happy to attend afternoon meetings.

These signs of cooperation and increased workload was a positive development, suggesting the predictions that the composition of the new legislature would make it very difficult for the government to get its bills through may have been wrong. The thinking was that with DIKO and DISY not having a majority, the government would be unable to have bills approved. In the last parliament many unpopular bills were passed with DIKO’s backing, while the rest of the parties opposed them.

Of course DIKO did not exactly commit to supporting all government bills. Its deputy Angelos Votsis, in typical populist style, said the party would back ‘people-centric’ proposals but would be negative with regard to bills ‘with a neo-liberal veil’. This was a warning that it would not back down in its opposition to privatisations.

At least it was a positive start with all the members of the committee indicating they were prepared to work to deal with big volume of bills before them. And they all agreed that speed in approving bills would not be at the expense of quality, or as Giorgos Perdikis noted, “there will be no discount in the quality of the work.”

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