The Cyprus government submitted the privatisation bill to parliament on Thursday which it wants approved in time for the disbursement of the fourth aid package of €236 mln from the Troika of international lenders.
The bill has slim chances of passing through the House of Representatives as the ruling Democratic Rally party (DISY) does not have enough votes to get it through as the fragile coalition may dissolve because of the junior partner DIKO’s opposition to privatisations.
The Cabinet finalised the bill as several hundred workers from the state-owned Cyta protested at the Presidential Palace, as the telco is widely believed to be the first to be privatised as part of efforts to raise €1.4 bln over the next four years. All Cyta services and shops closed down fro the three-hour strike and they have threatened to stage a second 24-hour strike on Friday.
The privatisation bill contains three conditions that aim to safeguard workers’ rights: a dialogue with labour representatives, the replacement of any other law that would impede privatisations and a framework that would regulate monopolies that might be created due to the size of the Cyprus economy.
The other semi-government organisation (SGO) headed for privatisation is the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, whose militant unions staged a three-hour strike on Wednesday and have called for a 12-hour stoppage on Friday from 7am to 7pm, with the possibility of power cuts throughout the day.
Next to go will be the Cyprus Ports Authority, but in this case, Transport Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and the chairman of the president’s advisory National Economy Council, Dr Christoforos Pissarides, have suggested a partial privatisation, but consider a management outsourcing or leasing as a better bet.
The privatisation bill foresees the establishment of a supervisory Ministerial Committee headed by Finance Minister Haris Georgiades and “at least” three more cabinet members, who will guide the Privatisation Commissioner and the soon-to-be-established Privatisations Office.
Meanwhile, the four DIKO minister abstained from the Cabinet vote to approve the privatisation bill. They are Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Defence Minister Photis Photiou, Education Minister Kyriakos Kenevezos and Health Minister Petros Petrides.
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