Labour Day offered an opportunity to Akel to repeat the narrative about the government widening economic inequality and creating a bleak future for the workers. This narrative has been served since last year when energy prices rose, and supply chain problems pushed up the prices of food and raw materials. The party has been banging on about what is calls ‘expensiveness’ and demanding action by the government, which primarily involves cutting taxes on necessities, supposedly, to keep prices affordable.
Speaking to a May 1st gathering, Akel leader, Stefanos Stefanou said the policies of the government were the reason thousands of households and small businesses could not make ends meet and accused it of being out of touch with the “difficulties experienced by tens of thousands of our distressed fellow citizens.” This is political propaganda rather than an accurate reflection of economic reality, implying that there is some magic formula to tackle imported inflation that the government is not using.
Even the claim that the future was bleak for workers because of government policies was disingenuous as was the accusation that the government “promotes deregulations of labour relations.” Labour minister, Zeta Emilianidou has, as a matter of policy, backed unions in disputes with employers (the banks are the latest example), and her ministry is currently preparing the introduction of legislation on a minimum wage, something the Akel government had failed to do, during the Christofias years.
The fact that the rate of unemployment is currently at its lowest level – 5.2 per cent – since 2008, and after two years of lockdowns does not support the claim the Anastasiades government was bad for the workers. The bleak future, Stefanou, ominously, referred to cannot be blamed on the government either. Nobody can dispute standards of living are falling and that low-income earners are suffering, but the reason for what is happening is the high rate of inflation that is eating away at the disposable income of families. And, the rising rate of inflation has not been caused by government policies but, as everyone knows, by exogenous factors, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
Τhe rate of inflation has been steadily rising since the start of the year, provisional estimates by Eurostat for April putting it at a staggering 8.6 per cent. This, inevitably, reduces the purchasing power of people, particularly those on low incomes, but there is no formula to stop prices from rising. All the government can do is provide support, to the level state finances permit, to low-income households. If Akel has some cleverer ideas for stopping the widening of economic inequality, which is one of the consequences of inflation, it should let us know instead of blaming the government for a situation not of its making.