The economic slowdown as a result of the pandemic is smaller than initially anticipated raising hopes of brighter days ahead, Sek trade union confederation general secretary said on Thursday.

Addressing the union’s general council meeting, held online because of measures to contain Covid-19, Andreas Matsas also highlighted the need for reforms that will propel Cyprus to recovery and growth.

“We are optimistic about the next day,” he said. The fact that the economic slowdown was considerably smaller and at more manageable levels than initially projected allowed for more targeted suggestions and implementable objectives for the day after.

Unemployment was at manageable levels and in fact better than in 2017. “Making the required reforms is a basic precondition to transition to the next stage of recovery and growth,” he added.

He singled out local government reform, bolstering e-government and Sek’s proposal for green tax reform to better manage climate change.

In its decisions, the general council noted that Cyprus does not have the luxury to miss out on a single euro from EU recovery funds. The council urged the government and parliament to speed up local government and justice reform and called for digital reform that will avert a digital chasm.

It said that reforms in pensions should be subject to social dialogue and cover both the public and private sector so as to safeguard the right to dignified living standards for all pensioners, without adversely affecting the next generation.

Sek called on parliament to press ahead with the approval before it dissolves for the elections of omnibus legislation protecting consumers against unfair trading and abusive banking practices. The union castigated what is called banks’ aggressive pricing saying they have been operating in the past few years in a strict monopolistic regime and have abandoned their human approach.

It also called on the electorate to vote in the May 30 parliamentary elections and appealed for unity on the domestic front ahead of the five plus one informal summit on Cyprus.