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Our View: Anastasiades ends first term with show that economic prudence is over

BEFORE heading to the House of Representatives for his swearing in ceremony today, President Anastasiades will attend another ceremony that will take place at the presidential palace.
According to an announcement from the Public Information Office, he will be present at the signing of the “agreement between the ministry of health and Pasydy, for the upgrading of the rest of the health professions.” The agreement would be signed by the outgoing Health Minister Giorgos Pamborides and the general secretary of Pasydy Glafcos Hadjipetrou.

What is meant by “upgrading of the health professions” is that the rest of workers in the public health sector – physiotherapists, X-ray machine operators, speech therapists etc – will receive higher pay, including higher entry-level wages as had happened with the nurses. This state generosity will increase the cost of the planned health system (Gesy), the financial viability of which has already been questioned by Finance Minister Harris Georgiades.

It is only fitting that the last act of Anastasiades’ first term would involve satisfying the public servants’ union by signing an agreement on higher pay regardless of whether the autonomous hospitals that would be created under the Gesy could afford them. No study has been completed about the costs of the scheme, but our president thought it would be helpful to increase the labour costs regardless. The economic prudence displayed by the government during the assistance programme is over.

The unions are back, with the blessing of the president. One of the first things Anastasiades did after the bail-in of deposits in 2013, was attend the annual meeting of Pasydy and praised the ‘sacrifices’ of civil servants, the workers least affected by the economic collapse. One of the first people invited to the presidential palace for talks after he won the latest election was the head of Sek, the second largest federation of unions that represents most SGO workers. At the meeting, he made a host of promises including the setting of a minimum wage in every sector.

With the troika long gone and the economy recording impressive growth rates, Anastasiades has made his intentions clear for his new term. He will revert to the old practice of pandering to union bosses and allowing them a free rein regardless of the consequences for public finances. We would have thought that this would not have been necessary, given his assurance that he would not be seeking a third term. He could change his mind, especially if the union bosses are happy with his performance over the next five years.

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