By Elias Hazou
Opposition politicians on Thursday harangued the government for operating in a bubble and focusing on lifeless economic data while the real situation was grim, with thousands of people barely getting by from pay cheque to pay cheque.
During the ongoing budget debate in the House, Akel MP Eleni Mavrou said the administration was content citing statistics showing GDP growth and declining unemployment.
“The ruling elites need to come down from their ivory tower and see how people are actually living,” she said.
What the government is oblivious to, she added, are the salaries that are being squeezed and the still-high joblessness rate.
Mavrou censured the government for its lack of a coherent housing policy for low-income groups.
At the same time, the government is dishing out construction easements to big land developers, while certain connected firms are making a killing off the ‘golden passports’ scheme.
“It is a feast of billions,” she noted, alluding to the earnings from the citizenship-for-investment programme.
In his own speech, Diko MP Pavlos Mylonas said thousands of people are living near or under the poverty line.
Meanwhile, rents are going up, especially in Limassol where young people are finding it increasingly hard to get affordable lodgings.
Turning to healthcare, Mylonas urged all party leaders to visit Limassol general hospital to witness for themselves the long queues there.
“Senior citizens have to wait for hours to see a doctor,” he said.
Taking his turn at the podium, Nicos Nouris of the ruling Disy party highlighted the government’s prudent fiscal policy.
The government’s economic policies, he noted, have led to a steady growth in GDP, which for this year is projected at 4 per cent.
Defending the administration’s track record, Nouris cited the Guaranteed Minimum Income scheme saying it has benefited many people.
And for the first time in decades, he stressed, the government has demonstrated a boldness to radically reform the healthcare system through the imminent introduction of the National Health Scheme.
The 2019 state budget provides for €7.9bn in spending and €8.5bn in projected revenues.
Voting on the budget is expected to take place around 6pm on Friday.
Last year, the budget bill for 2018 passed with 30 votes in favour in the 55-seat parliament.