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Our View: Pandemic has given governments licence to be economically reckless

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Photo: CNA

Catering businesses are perfectly entitled to protest about the latest measures imposed by the government. They will be prevented from working in what is the most lucrative month of the year for them, the month when revenue is the highest of the year and staff are paid their eagerly-awaited bonuses.

This December, when they had hoped to cover a small part of the year’s losses they will receive nothing, apart from a little revenue from takeaways and deliveries, assuming it would be worth their while to offer such services.

Restaurants, cafes and bars have been treated very shabbily by the government in the last few months. In Paphos and Limassol they were closed down for three weeks after which there was a decree forcing all these establishments to close at 7pm, effectively banning dining out. From today they will not even be able to offer brunch or lunch as they will remain closed until the end of the year, because the government and its scientific team have decided, without any supporting evidence, this would, allegedly, restrict the spread of Covid-19.

If people can sit in open plan offices and work, there is no reason they could not sit at a restaurant table and eat when safe distances are in place.

Is there,more danger of contracting the virus in an outdoor restaurant or café space than in a supermarket or big store which attracts hundreds if not thousands of people every day? If there was any rationality to the government measures, we would have expected a rational answer.

Meanwhile, the public debt will keep rising as the government will be obliged to expand its support schemes to help the latest businesses it has decided to close down. The finance minister, Constantinos Petrides, said new schemes will be formulated “to cover, apart from the labour cost, the operational costs” of the businesses affected by the latest measures. So far, it has spent €700 million on support schemes, which with other Covid-related expenditure has taken the public debt to 120% of GDP from the 95.5% it was in 2019.

The operation of cafes, restaurants and bars would have spared the government of this additional spending, while also increasing its tax revenue, but such factors are no longer a consideration.

Protecting public health, it appears, justifies state profligacy, a soaring national debt and pushing businesses to the brink of collapse. The pandemic has given governments licence to be as economically reckless as they please in the name of protecting public health. Whether the restrictions imposed on businesses actually protects it, is another matter.

 

 

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