It has become rather tiring listening to Akel politicians constantly complaining about the difficult material circumstances of many people and demanding more state spending to support them, while never suggesting where this money will come from.
Party deputy and president of the House labour committee, Andros Kafkalias, gave a long list of things that were wrong in industrial relations, after the discussion of the budgets of the labour ministry and the deputy ministry of social welfare. The purchasing power of the average wage and pension had been significantly reduced, there was redistribution of income in favour of capital, the labour market had been deregulated and while employment was rising the position of workers was deteriorating.
He also cited official statistics which showed that 24,000 people were living in conditions of “serious material and social deprivation, four out of 10 citizens faced serious economic difficulties in facing unexpected but necessary expenses, one in five had difficulty in promptly meeting obligations on rent, loan repayments and bills.” Some 31,000 children in Cyprus were faced with poverty and social exclusion, he added. And sadly, the budget of the social welfare department did not include the necessary provisions for facing the critical challenges facing society, he concluded.
It is the familiar rhetoric from Akel, which seems to have all the answers without ever saying how these would be achieved. The answer is for the state to spend more money supporting so-called vulnerable groups, but we are never told where this money will come from. We did not hear a single Akel deputy complain about the 2024 state budget in which the public payroll would grow by 15 per cent – €500 million – accounting for 30 per cent of state spending. And this increase would go to public employees, the best rewarded, least productive workers of the country. These are the people who, when they retire, will be paid state pensions three times the average pension of private sector workers.
Akel deputies are blind to this redistribution of income in favour of the privileged public employees. None of the deputies who are constantly moaning about the lack of support measures for the most vulnerable are capable of seeing the main reason for this is that 30 per cent of state expenditure goes on paying the privileged workers of the overstaffed public sector, who carry on being paid even after they die – the full state pension is paid to the spouse. The state has not even thought of halving the pension when the beneficiary passes away.
The reason for the lack of support for the most needy members of society is not the deregulation of the labour market or greed of businesses, but the greed of the public employees. They are the biggest drain on public finances and the reason there are no funds left to support the vulnerable. One day, the politicians might join the dots and see the connection.