News that President Nikos Christodoulides had decided to withdraw the request for the release of €3 million for the purchase of limos for state officials, which was awaiting the approval of the House finance committee, came as a bit of a surprise.
Nobody would criticise the new government for this move, as the expenditure of €3 million on state limos for senior officials and electric cars for government departments was a decision of the Anastasiades government for which there was provision in the 2023 state budget.
Press reports suggested the budget item was withdrawn because the president did not want the replacement of state limos to be seen as one of the first acts of his government. He showed good instincts, as reports about the state limos for officials always generate a lot of critical comments in the press and on social media.
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides had also taken up the issue, claiming that public officials such as permanent secretaries and commissioners, who are provided with a state car, should only use it for official business. An attempt last year to allow unlimited use of state cars by all officials was blocked by the legislature after Michaelides also expressed strong objections.
This is indicative of the strong public sentiment about the matter, even though the expenditure for the purchase of the cars will not break the bank – the state limos will cost €1.78 million and 32 electric cars for the government services €1 million. The public outcry that follows any mention of state limos is over the top considering how much money government wastes on double and triple state pensions of former state officials.
As the president decided to put the purchase of the limos on hold, on the grounds that the matter needed reconsideration, it is to be hoped there is some reconsideration. Given that the government is promoting green transition, it should set a good example with the cars it buys for state officials. Hybrid or electric cars should be bought because the government cannot on the one hand urge people to invest in vehicles with no carbon emissions and on the other buy petrol-guzzling limos for its officials.
Perhaps this is what the president had in mind when he put the release of the funds for the limos on hold. He may want to reconsider the type of cars that would be bought. It would be a smart move, consistent with government policy for reducing carbon emissions, if eco-friendly cars were bought for ministers and other officials. It would also silence the state limo critics.