The 3-year itch...


Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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