NICOSIA – Finance Minister Harris Georgiades has welcomed the approval of the privatisation bill by the House, stressing that the decision opens the way for modernisation and reform.
“The denationalisation programme, apart from an obligation, is also a chance to attract investment, reinforce efficiency and competitiveness and rid the country of the burden of statism in important sectors of the economy,” Georgiades said.
The minister also pointed out that the financing of the Republic of Cyprus is guaranteed and that the road to stabilisation, restoration of confidence and recovery of the economy remains open.
The draft bill to privatise Cyta, EAC and the Ports Authority was approved by the House plenary with 30 votes in favour, 26 against and no abstentions.
Trade unionists demonstrated outside Parliament on Tuesday as the plenary prepared to debate a revised privatisation bill, days after deputies rejected the initial government proposal.
International lenders have warned Nicosia that another ‘no vote’ will see the cash line cut.
The eurogroup is expected to decide on the next tranche of bailout money for Cyprus on Wednesday.
The House Finance Committee earlier on Tuesday examined the revised bill which included amendments that are considered enough for rebel Diko MPs to toe the line and approve it.
Last week, the bill failed to pass after a 25-25 cliffhanger vote that saw five Diko MPs abstain only hours after the party decided to split from the government.
Police were out in force on Tuesday to prevent the ugly scenes witnessed last week when angry demonstrators pelted the building with fire crackers and empty bottles.
Akel objected to the bill being submitted as urgent – so that it can be put to the vote --saying this violated parliamentary rules and ignored the democratically reached decision on last Thursday. It proposed the House postpone consideration of the bill.
UPDATE - Diko countered that the House had the right to reconsider a bill that had already been rejected because the situation has changed.
Evroko’s Demetris Syllouris proposed a postponement to determine whether in fact those who said the country would have no money if the bill was not approved were alarmist or not.
Syllouris had voted in favour of the privatisation bill last week.
Edek said it would abstain on the procedural aspect of whether the bill could be resubmitted and would submit amendments on the substance of the law.
Greens MP George Perdikis said that though the law had not changed substantially, he would not support Akel’s proposal for a postponement.
UPDATE - Disy said that the stabilisation of Cyprus should not be jeopardised adding that the Supreme Court has ruled that the House has the right to settle its own affairs.
It asked House president to put the procedural issue to a vote.
Akel’s proposal for a postponement is put to the vote. It is rejected by 29 votes to 19. There were eight abstentions.
The House will proceed with examination of the revised bill.
UPDATE - Debate of the revised bill is underway in the plenary.
Edek’s Nicos Nicolaides said his party was tabling amendments with the Greens and the Citizens Alliance that would better safeguard the rights of employees and the role of the House in the privatisation process and protect issues of national security.
Diko president Nicolas Papadopoulos said the amendments that had been made to the original bill were substantial and allowed his party (which had split in the previous vote) to vote in favour. He said the bill safeguarded the rights of employees and a role for the House. “Not a single chair can be sold without the House,” he said.
UPDATE - Akel’s Andros Kyprianou said that his party will vote against the bill as the semi-government organisations must remain public utilities and called on the government to renegotiate with the Troika. He also gave examples of other countries such as Bulgaria where prices increased following denationalisations.
The debate continues.
UPDATE – Disy president Averof Neofytou said that the country’s financial stability depends on the outcome of the vote. He also stressed that the wealth of the semi-government organisations was created by consumers and not only the employees.
Responding to claims by Akel’s Andros Kyprianou that in 1999 Neofytou had proposed the sale of Cyta for €125 million, the leader of Disy said that if evidence could be presented to prove the claims he would resign from his position, otherwise he expects an apology.
UPDATE - All amendments have been rejected.
UPDATE - Draft bill approved with 30 votes in favour, 26 against and no abstentions.