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Government gains Edek’s precious three votes for budget approval (Updated)

EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos
EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos

Edek on Wednesday said it would approve the state budget for this year announcing that its goal for more generous social benefits has been achieved.

The decision will provide the government with three crucial votes it needs to get the budget through parliament which is due to vote on Thursday. Solidarity’s equally important two votes remained uncertain on Wednesday night.

The party said in a statement that its political bureau, after being briefed by leader Marinos Sizopoulos, had decided to authorise its MPs to approve the revised budget.

The decision to back the budget, the party said, was because its proposals had been included in the revised budget. The cabinet also conceded a key Edek demand after it authorised the justice minister on Wednesday to make any changes necessary to a bill on the operation of courts so that it includes cases relating to loans and foreclosures, with special emphasis on vulnerable groups of the population.

“The goal it had set for creating a network of protection for the vulnerable groups of the population, has been satisfied to a great extent,” the party said.

Edek said other proposals that have been included in the state budget or adopted by the government were the introduction of the minimum pension and allowing workers in strenuous and unhealthy occupations to retire at 63 without being subject to the 12 per cent penalty cut. The proposal for subsidising working mothers who have children in daycare centres was also adopted.

Edek proposals to improve subsidies for purchasing residences in remote and mountainous communities had also been accepted.

Edek also had suggested the introduction of a programme for the installation of photovoltaic systems in permanent residences of mountainous and semi-mountainous communities to reduce electricity prices.

The party had also submitted proposals for stamping out tax evasion and accelerating the process of refund to VAT and income tax beneficiaries and the addition to the budget of the amount necessary for the promotion of contract soldiers and female National Guard officers.

The cabinet decision to make any changes necessary to a bill on the operation of courts so that it includes cases relating to loans and foreclosures was part of horse trading between the government and ruling Disy with smaller parties in a bid to get the revised budget approved and avoid potential negative effects.

According to deputy government spokesman Panayiotis Sentonas, the aim is to process such cases quickly, before banks launched foreclosures procedures.

If the objective is not achieved through the current bill, the government will prepare a new one as soon as possible, Sentonas said.

The cabinet also authorised the justice minister to appeal to urge the supreme court president to do what was necessary to speed up cases relating to foreclosures of property until the matter is settled through legislation.

The government was trying to satisfy the conditions set by Edek and Solidarity whose five votes it needs to push through the revised 2021 budget after the rejection of the first bill in December.

The problem, which could worsen if the revised text is rejected, emerged after opposition Diko voted against because the government refused to allow the auditor-general to probe the island’s controversial citizenships for investment programme.

Diko had voted for state budgets throughout the current administration’s term despite disagreement on other issues.

The government accused the party of blackmail because it was using a matter that was not related to the budget as leverage.

Parliament is scheduled to vote on the revised text on Thursday with Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides warning that its rejection would have negative repercussions for on the economy.

The minister said the state would be forced to default on its payments and would probably be downgraded by ratings agencies thus shutting the door to international markets.

The revised budget provides for a rise in expenditure to €7.2bn, up 2.5 per cent, or around €339m compared with the one rejected in December.

It also includes over €350m earmarked for businesses and workers stricken by the fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

It also includes a series of amendments proposed by parties in return for approving the bill, including a €21m reduction in operating expenses.

Revenues are expected to reach €6.5bn.





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