It was interesting to read a release issued by Diko about the “social mission of the state.” Written by Anastasia Papadopoulou, the coordinator of the Diko election programme for the parliamentary elections, the release started with the following assertion: “The social mission of the state is not an option of the government. It is an obligation, to which it cannot respond.”
Papadopoulou said that thousands of workers, small businesses and households had been left without real support, there was social unrest about corruption, while the inequalities were increasing because of a government that saw numbers instead of people in front of it. For Diko, she said, the multi-faceted and extended crisis we are experiencing, must pass through the tackling of inequalities and the strengthening of social justice.
These are noble sentiments, which nobody could disagree with, but Diko’s coordinator failed to suggest where the money that would offer real support to workers, small businesses and households would come from. The public debt is at 120 per cent of GDP while more than a billion euro has been spent by the government, protecting jobs, propping up businesses and supporting those out of work. It can be achieved without funds, according to Diko which states that “recovery must pass through the restoration of social justice.”
Was there social justice and equality before the pandemic? There was no such thing. Perhaps Diko has not noticed that there are two classes of workers in Cyprus – those employed in the public sector, who are guaranteed a very high standard of living until death and beyond (their full pension is paid to their spouse after they pass) and the second class workers of the private sector. This is the most glaring, structural inequality that Diko has also contributed towards establishing when it was in power.
Apart from the inequality, this institutionalised labour aristocracy is a big drain on state funds, leaving very little money to be spent on the welfare of the self-employed and vulnerable groups that Diko cares so much about. We have never heard Diko, or any other party for that matter, advocating a 10 or 15 per cent, across the board cut in public sector pay and pensions so that funds could be made available for the welfare of the vulnerable and lowly-paid. Akel does the same constantly criticising the government about people on low pensions, without ever looking at the reasons for this?
Modern economies are all about trade-offs and managing limited resources. If we want the state to perform its social mission properly and reduce inequality in our society, we must tackle the cause – the huge, constantly expanding public payroll.