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Our View: Reckless vote by MPs ensures public payroll will rise

OPPOSITION parties advertised their irresponsibility on Friday when they voted against four of the government’s public service reform bills, including one that would set a ceiling on the growth of the public payroll. What was outrageous was that the civil servants’ union Pasydy had given its approval to all the government bills, including the one that tied the annual increase of the payroll to the rate of economic growth.

The arguments used by disingenuous parties to defend their scandalous irresponsibility were very similar to those used against a Cyprus settlement. They claimed they voted against the bills because the reforms did not go far enough, or, to use the Cyprob rhetoric, did not have the right content. It was the logic that would rather have 40,000 Turkish troops on the island rather than agree to a settlement that would leave 1,000.

As the bill restricting the annual increase of the public payroll did not go far enough they decided it would be better for these wages to grow uncontrollably every year, presumably until another bailout was needed. Nothing like this has ever happened before, even in Cyprus with its rampant populism – a big union agreed to a cap on annual pay rises and the opposition parties insisted that regime of big, unjustified wage increases should continue.

If the other reform bills – about evaluation of staff, promotions, transfers – had weaknesses and the parties wanted to improve them, it would have been understandable because the time factor was not so important. But there was no justification for rejecting the bill about the pay rises, because this means that the public payroll would increase by much more than the government had budgeted in 2017.

Finance minister Harris Georgiades tried to play down the consequences of the rejection of the bill, claiming the effects would be felt cumulatively, in the medium term, rather than in the immediate future, but his main priority, we suspect, is to maintain confidence in the economy. He should be furious by the latest display of reckless irresponsibility by the parties, but is unlikely to say so publicly.

The fact is that Diko, Edek, Akel, Alliance, Solidarity, Greens and Elam voted against the payroll bill, for no other reason than to make a petty political point and to show the government that the opposition has power. Scoring a few points against the government is above the national interest and the good of the economy. Opposition parties never cease to amaze with their level of political childishness and immaturity.

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