Rent a car or rent a cart?

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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