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Our View: Why should ministers listen when MPs don’t seem to care?

Κυβερνητικός Εκπρόσωπος – Τελετή
File photo: Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis

In the end, the government admitted it was a mistake for the members of the council of ministers not to attend the opening day of the debate on the state budget at the House of Representatives on Monday. The transport minister was the only cabinet member present for the speeches of the party leaders, who traditionally kick off the debate.

This was seen as a snub of the legislature by the government, with spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis at pains to explain it was not. “The absence of members of the executive created a picture that on no account is owed to disrespect for the legislative authority,” he said. “In every case it was an omission, it was a mistake that we recognise.” How bizarre that every member of the executive, bar one, was guilty of the same omission.

It was not a collective show of disrespect, as Letymbiotis said, but an illustration of ministerial ignorance and a failure of someone at the presidential palace to inform ministers that it is a tradition for all cabinet members to attend the opening day of the budget debate. There may also have been a sense of complacency, considering all indications were that the budget had the support of the majority and its approval considered a formality.

But would the finance minister not have benefited from hearing, in person, the concerns of the parties about the staggering growth of the public payroll, which will increase by 15 per cent in 2024? Speaking on Tuesday, Disy deputy Averof Neophytou pointed out that a law should be passed limiting the growth of the public payroll, ensuring it does not exceed the rate of growth of the economy.

The growth of the public payroll should have been the main focus of the debate, but the political parties supporting the government were full of praise for the performance of the economy, the growth rate, the support measures for dealing with inflation and the falling unemployment rate. Even opposition Akel, which said it would vote against the budget, supported the inflated payroll and the opening of more public sector jobs.

In short, the excessive increase of the public payroll that is a threat to public finances and the economy was welcomed by most parties, even though it is probably the one item that justified voting down the 2024 budget. It was left to Neophytou to sound the alarm, although he was a lone voice. The indifference displayed by the rest of the parties to a growth of the public payroll reminiscent of the Christofias years was very worrying indeed.

When deputies are not interested in the big economic issues, why should ministers bother turning up to listen to them?

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