Rent a car or rent a cart?
E DII TO RII A L
The parliamentary vote last week about the fate of red-plate hire cars turned out to be a farcicomical session, a bizarre event that dragged on for almost as long as the heated debates on the national problem or the annual budget.
This was supposed to be a simple, procedural piece of legislation that should have passed quietly, seeing as the House Transport Committee already used up eight sessions to debate the merits of the bill. Earlier, parliamentary group heads had agreed to limit their arguments to a bare minimum, but matters soon good out of hand and each side returned to their corner, putting up their gloves and ready to fight.
The issue at hand was the removal of red number plates for hire cars, if these were to be leased for more than six month. The ruling party, probably driven by the interests of hire-car companies, defended the bill, saying it would follow the international norm, as is the case of lease cars and fleets in other countries.
However, soon after the Greens submitted a reasonable amendment to the bill, whereby all number plates could be transferred or sold, and that motorists could buy customised number plates for a fee eight times higher than the current rate, matters of social status and class difference soon became the point of heated discussion.
Ironically, MPs also admitted that from the auction of ‘special’ number plates (ie. sequence, doubles and triples) in a handful of years the state had reaped in “only” 1.5 mln euros, an odd revelation, considering that the government did not earn anything from these plates in the past.
The most stupid arguments came from those MPs in ruling DISY defending the hire car companies’ right to remove the red plates, saying that a “poor” Cypriot who was obliged to lease a car (because he could not afford to buy a new one) would be stigmatised, while the defender of the people from the opposition communist AKEL bench argued that slapping a higher price tag on selling or transferring number plates would feed the egos of show-offs – once again a class issue. Those in favour of keeping the red plates also had a silly excuse, saying that motorists would be more cautious of the car in front if it had distinctive rental plates, as if this was the reason we have a rising rate of road fatalities.
As expected in this House, the plenary soon disintegrated into shambles, the entire session being broadcast live on state radio.
Of course, the vote went sour and the entire bill did not pass, even though illogically, the amendments did.
Too bad that this is the standard of political ethos of our deputies, the same people that made a mess of the bailout deal when it was first i mposed on parliament for a vote in 2013.