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Neophytou accuses opposition of making a mess of business support scheme

Disy leader Averof Neophytou

Ruling Disy party leader Averof Neophytou accused the opposition on Tuesday of making a mess out of a government scheme for state-backed borrowing to support businesses, which have been issuing a cry for help over the shortage of cash.

“I have never seen such a mess before unwittingly created by the opposition,” Neophytou told the state broadcaster in the morning.

Among other demands, opposition parties, spearheaded by Diko, want the auditor-general to have a say in the lending process.

Neophytou said that was just one of the issues.

The government initially announced a €2bn package, which opposition parties said should be scaled down but at the same time they want handouts to be increased.

Neophytou said parties were engaging in a bidding war of sorts but businesses needed the bill to be approved to get any cash.

“We have a liquidity problem today; the businesses are dry.”

“They want to increase the grants handed directly by the state, which will never be repaid,” he said.

On top of that, parties want to expand the criteria to include people with non-performing loans and not just viable borrowers.

President Nicos Anastasiades told parties on Monday the government will not be changing the bill and appealed to parties not to make amendments and render it unenforceable.

Diko said it would be making amendments on Friday when the bill is expected to be discussed in parliament.

Diko MP Christiana Erotokritou said Diko would insist on the participation of the auditor-general as an observer in the process to ensure transparency and effectiveness.

“The government’s insistence to exclude the auditor from the process raises reasonable suspicion about its intentions,” she said.

The current version of the scheme approved by cabinet provides for grants for stricken small businesses, with up to 10 staff, and the self-employed. These are expected to benefit some 40,000 businesses.

Petrides said the scheme provided for cash handouts to small businesses that either fully or partially suspended their operations.

It also approved €1.5bn in state-backed loans: €300m for small businesses with up to 10 staff, €1bn for small and medium enterprises, and €200m for larger entities.

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