After a month of political wheeler-dealing, there is a strong possibility the 2021 budget will finally secure the number of votes needed for its approval today. We say strong possibility, because with the unpredictability of political parties and deputies nothing can be certain, even though the government has bent over backwards in order to secure three vital votes of Edek.
On Wednesday, the council of ministers authorised the justice minister to set up a court with the power to rule on cases related to the repossession of properties. This court would issue decisions on disputes between a bank and borrower before a repossession is to take place, and it is supposedly for borrowers that belong to vulnerable groups of the population, whatever that means. The minister was also authorised to ask the president of the Supreme Court to give instructions to speed up all cases linked to the intended repossession of properties until the new court is set up.
In order to get the budget approved, the government has had to pander to Edek’s populism, setting up a special court for foreclosures, the prevention of which has been the main cause of all opposition parties for the last seven years. In what other country would the protection of people not repaying their bank loans for years become the main condition for backing the state budget? The same country that Diko’s support was conditional on the government allowing the auditor-general to impose his agenda on it.
If rationality dictated party actions, the budget would be passed by a comfortable majority because another rejection would be disastrous for the country. First, €220 million are allocated for dealing with the consequences of the lockdown, supporting businesses and protecting jobs. None of this urgently needed money would be available without a budget. Second, rejection of the budget could lead to a downgrade of the country’s credit rating and it would not be able to go to the markets. The finance minister warned last week that this could lead to a debt default, as without access to the markets Cyprus would not be able to refinance its debt.
Unfortunately, for parties like Akel and Diko none of this seems to matter even though they would be leading the attacks on the government if employees and businesses were not given the financial support they were promised, an inevitability without a 2021 budget. They do not really want this to happen nor for the country to lose access to the markets, so they will rely on other opposition parties acting in the responsible way that they have ruled out.