For the government, there seems to be only one way for formulating policy – inviting stakeholders to the presidential palace for discussions. This is the way President Nikos Christodoulides likes to operate as it is in line with his ideas about listening to people and engaging with stakeholders before a decision is taken. The method may work well for him, although experience suggests that decision-making by committee is cumbersome and ineffective as it often looks for a consensual rather than best solution.

On Tuesday, addressing the AGM of the Federation of Employers and Industrialists (Oev), the president announced the government’s decision “to institutionalise direct dialogue with the business community.” This would allow everyone to work together and share plans, leveraging everyone’s expertise including the cabinet’s who will listen to feedback before moving forward. There was a similar meeting with foreign investors last year which had positive outcomes, he said, underlining that “businesses are the driving force of economic development” and that no government can “fully develop the potential of the economy without the active cooperation of business.”

Nobody could disagree with these views, although the government’s actions, in its first year in office, do not seem to support them. In this first year, the government has satisfied all the demands of the unions, even if this meant applying the brakes on the driving force of economic development. In fact, Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou has been at the beck and call of union bosses, openly siding with them in every dispute with employers’ organisations.

The latest example of this bias was the setting up of an advisory tripartite committee that will offer advice on the labour needs of the market, with regard to applications for work permits for third country nationals. This committee, which was set up to satisfy the unions that demanded a say in the issuing of work permits to businesses for some time now, will set employment criteria. If the unions and employers do not reach agreement on the criteria the labour minister, who has proved his complete lack of objectivity time and again, will submit his proposal.

This lack of objectivity, which must have the president’s blessing, was evident in the mediation proposal Panayiotou submitted in the dispute between Hellenic Bank and the union Etyk, which has lasted for years. If the bank chairman’s statement is anything to go by (“we adopted positions that were red lines in past years”), everything demanded by Etyk was given to it by the minister and bank was obliged to accept it.

This consistent bias shown by the labour minister in all labour disputes makes a mockery of the president’s assertion about the importance of business. From day one, his government has done whatever unions demanded ignoring the negative effects these decisions had on businesses and their development, but a year later it has decided it should also listen to representatives of businesses. Perhaps this is progress.