The House finance committee on Monday began discussion of a batch of government bills aiming to reform the civil service, with Public Service Reform Commissioner Constantinos Petrides appealing to MPs to pass the legislation as swiftly as possible.
The initial bills package had been submitted in August 2015, but the government agreed to withdraw it after serious objections mainly from opposition parties. The bills, featuring a series of modifications, were re-submitted to parliament last week.
Speaking to lawmakers, Petrides said the new system of promotions would be pushed back by a year, to 2019, due to the delays already with the passage of the reform package.
Meanwhile the new method of assessing civil servants’ performance is to enter into force before that, in January 2018. This would allow one year for the new system to be understood in the civil service before it is applied to the promotions process.
“Every change brings about turmoil,” Petrides told MPs.
But unless the state and parliament were willing to face this turmoil, he added, efforts to reform the public sector will ultimately fail or come out half-baked.
The Reform Commissioner stressed the need to push through changes to the remuneration of civil servants, noting that this affected the economy’s viability.
It was a key component of the reform drive, because reining in the state payroll will be noticed by ratings agencies, thus boosting Cyprus’ investment grade and help drive down the cost of borrowing.
The government, meantime, has agreed to withdraw a bill which provided for stricter civil liabilities for persons employed in the broader public sector.
Ruling DISY leader Averof Neophytou, who chairs the House finance committee, expressed the hope the bills can reach the House plenum within the following two months.
For their part, main opposition AKEL said they would review the government bills and come up with their own amendments and suggestions.
“The reality is that on certain issues there is a chasm between the government’s political intentions on the one hand, and the totality of the trade unions on the other,” AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said.
His party is especially sceptical of the bill seeking to tie the state payroll to GDP fluctuations.
“Cyprus is the only government in the EU looking to do this,” asserted Damianou.
DIKO’s Angelos Votsis said his party has suggested that, rather than legislating for the state payroll, it might be better if the government and trade unions hammered out a collective agreement of a longer duration than is currently the case.