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[March 01, 2014]
Concern over new privatisations bill [Cyprus Mail]
(Cyprus Mail Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) UNIONS have expressed concern over the wording of new privatisation legislation expected to be discussed in parliament on Tuesday, as President Nicos Anastasiades said he would not be intimidated by threats but conceded that politicians were to blame for the sorry state of affairs in state organisations.
Main opposition AKEL meanwhile, rejected the bill anew and called on people to attend a protest outside parliament on Tuesday. Speaking in Larnaca on Friday evening, Anastasiades urged unions to think that Cypriots are paying a high price for the redundant personnel and poor structure of semi-state organisations slated for privatisation. "I want to issue a warning that I will not be intimidated by threats," the president said. "I urge them to understand that apart from those who are secured professionally, there are thousands of people who have nothing to take home." Anastasiades stressed that semi-state workers should drop the melodrama before the television cameras that they are concerned about their salaries "when they know they are secured." "A semi-state organisation cannot have one director for every 12 or 13 employees. Some people better come to their senses, although some of us should apologise – the entire political leadership if you want – because we've brought the semi-state organisations to this sorry state," the president said. AKEL, which agreed to privatisations when it was government in 2012, reiterated its opposition to the bill, whose first version was rejected on Thursday, as it called on people to demonstrate outside parliament. Party spokesman Giorgos Loukaides said the government's action to re-submit the bill with "decorative changes" not only showed disrespect to parliament but it also constituted "humiliation of the institutions, and a blow against democracy." AKEL accused the government of cultivating a climate of fear in a bid to impose its ideology and serve local and foreign interests. Approval of the bill is a condition for the release of the next tranche of international aide agreed between Cyprus and international lenders in March 2013. European Commissioner Olli Rehn's spokesman Simon O' Connor said: "We understand that the government plans to re-submit the bill in the House of Representatives. We are closely monitoring the situation and I repeat that it is a prerequisite for the disbursement of the next installment." The first bill submitted by the government was rejected on Thursday in what observers described as a farce of a vote. The vote was split evenly, with 25 lawmakers in favour and 25 against, and five abstentions from DIKO, which has eight MPs. The bill needed a simple majority to pass. AKEL, EDEK and the Greens voted against. DIKO chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos appeared satisfied with the amended bill because it incorporated most of his party's proposals. The new bill does not include an amendment proposed by DIKO, which stated that even if a position is scrapped, the holder continued to hold it with all the privileges and benefits until they retired or were promoted. Workers at state telecoms company CyTA were still not satisfied however, suggesting that the new bill included provisions that could be "interpreted in a way that violated the constitution." The new bill will be discussed by the House Finance Committee on Tuesday morning, ahead of the vote later in the day.
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