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Cyprus

Opposition refuses request to pay privatisation unit salary

The finance ministry

Opposition MPs on Monday rebuffed a government request for funds to cover the salary of the one remaining employee at the Privatisations Unit.

The finance ministry is asking for €14,900 from the state budget to pay the employee his remuneration for the last quarter of the year.

The Privatisations Unit has all but been dismantled.

Back in February, opposition MPs held back on giving the nod to €395,000 covering the salaries of Privatisations Commissioner Constantinos Herodotou and his staff, as well as €300,000 for a ‘strategic study’ to be carried out by the agency into the Cyprus Stock Exchange – code for whether the CSE should be privatised or not, and how.

Later that same month, Herodotou’s contract was terminated and he was appointed as executive director of the Central Bank of Cyprus.

The position of Commissioner at the Privatisations Unit has remained vacant.

Subsequently, opposition parties pushed through a law scrapping the Privatisations Unit altogether. However, president Nicos Anastasiades refused to sign off on the law and referred it to the Supreme Court.

The court’s decision is pending.

The one remaining consultant at the agency must be paid €14,900 until the end of the year, at which time his contract will be renewed or not.

Main opposition Akel made it clear it was having none of it.

“The government’s fixation with the Privatisations Unit is turning into a joke,” said Akel MP Aristos Damianou.

Until such time as the Supreme Court rules on the referred law, there was no way his party will consent to releasing the funds, he added.

“This money is coming out of taxpayers’ pockets so that certain individuals can keep their cushy jobs.”

Ruling Disy’s Averof Neophytou tried to outmanoeuvre Akel, proposing that from now on the House finance committee ceases to examine requests for releasing funds that are under €20,000 – ostensibly in order to save time.

He withdrew his proposal after reaction from opposition MPs.

The amounts being discussed may be small, but the issue is ripe for political grandstanding.

Akel has been at odds with the government over the Privatisations Unit ever since it was established. The party is against the privatisations drive announced by the administration, after a March 2013 bailout deal with international creditors requiring Cyprus to denationalise certain state assets.

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