The 3-year itch...
E DII TO RII A L
As of next week, if the upcoming Eurogroup meeting does not implode over the ongoing refugee standoff, Cyprus should get its release papers and officially exit the Memorandum of Understanding for the Troika bailout.
This is probably the current administration’s second biggest achievement to be announced in as many weeks, which together with the radical reform and streamlining of the National Guard were the two key issues that President Anastasiades had promised to get us out of when he got elected.
As was expected, the political groups ( now all in opposition) could not digest the government’s success and resorted to the usual critique, arguing this was all pre-election fireworks, with some even suggesting that the reduction of the armed forces should have been implemented in stages, stretching as far back as 2020.
The irony is that during the past decade both main opposition parties missed their chance to reform the National Guard and cut down the conscripts’ service from the 26 months, and more recently 24 months, relieving the young men of the cumbersome duty that had become a burden and excuse to evade.
The Defence Minister’s plans to introduce a standing professional army with 3,000 contracted recruits is also a wise choice, as these young men (and women) will be the ones to operate high-tech equipment, enforce strategies and participate in regional international forces.
Our criticism of the administration’s “probusiness” policies and strategies had been on the nauseatingly long delays in implementing reforms, such as liberalising port services, de-nationalising the state-telco Cyta and the power producer EAC, as well as the autonomy of hospitals on the way to introducing the two-decades’ delayed National Health Service.
These delays, such as dragging on with the Cyprus Airways unions, have been paid for out of the taxpayers’ pockets, with many in the private sector unable to enjoy such luxuries, resulting in one SME shutting after the other, or barely surviving at best.
At least we are on a good track, which doesn’t mean that the economy has fully recovered. As much as the fiscal data indicate healthy numbers and a virtual return to growth, the real economy continues to suffer, due mainly to the lack of funding, This in turn was caused by the delay to implement the foreclosures and insolvency bills, the sole responsibility of this fracas lying at the doorstep of the present House of Representatives ( members of whom we are called to re-elect comes next May).
Kudos to Finance Minister Haris Georghiades, for his patience and soft-spoken responses to the hysterical opposition parties and trade unions. He concluded in comments to the state broadcaster, “The government’s duty is to prioritise its needs, and there are many needs.”
Now that the momentum has picked up, we are looking forward to more reforms, now that the iron is hot, Mr Minister.