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Our View: ‘Human-centred’ measures merely a distraction from bad news

electricity

For this government, an unpopular measure must be accompanied by something positive, at least communications-wise, because it wants to minimise the criticism by media and opposition parties, which would have an effect on public opinion. And if there is one thing the Christodoulides government has worked systematically and methodically at, it is at winning over public opinion by any means possible.

Aware of the general discontent about the ending of the VAT cut on car fuel on March 31, that could not be extended, the president arranged an extraordinary meeting of the council of ministers on Thursday so that the government would take decisions that would be well-received and counter the negative sentiment. In fact, it had been talking about ‘offsetting measures’ being introduced to counter the increase in the price of fuel by some eight cents per litre, for several days now. There are always offsetting measures to counter unpopular measures.

So, to offset the increase in the price of fuel, the electricity bill subsidy that was set to expire at the end of April, would be extended by another two months, Finance Minister Makis Keravnos, announcing that this would benefit 400,000 households and 100,000 businesses at a total cost of €8 million. This is a gimmick, considering the subsidy would save a household, on average, €16 in the two-month billing period, or €8 per month, but it is a positive, offsetting measure.

Keravnos also announced the extension of zero VAT on basic household items such as bread, vegetables, meat, milk, nappies and baby food, for an extra month putting back the expiry date to the end of June, and costing €6m. This offsetting measure supposedly saves the consumer some 8 per cent on a shopping basket worth about €100, although this seems a rather arbitrary claim. But again, the extension of the small price reductions could be used as proof, as Keravnos said on Thursday, “that the economic and social policies the government follows are completely human-centred.”

There will also be pay-outs to families on state benefits and people, recipients of mobility allowance and low-income pensioners, bringing the total cost of the offsetting measures to €35.3m, an amount, Keravnos said, state finances could afford. Needless to say, the offsetting measures did not satisfy the opposition parties which complained that the middle class (presumably this refers to non-vulnerable members of the population) had been left out of the equation. Both Disy and Akel argued that the fuel price cut should have been extended.

There is no pleasing some people, no matter how hard the government tries to achieve what the president described as its only priority – the improvement of ordinary people’s everyday lives.” Perhaps more offsetting measures must be announced soon.

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Source: Cyprus News Agency