MPs fiddle while Cyprus burns

2 mins read

Politicians showed true Christmas spirit in not allowing the government to have a budget or spend more money on the COVID-struck fledgeling national health service.

Communists AKEL were suddenly concerned about the poor and social welfare, although they did little to advance social justice when they were in power.

Arguably COVID-19 is killing the poor quicker, more efficiently than the wealthy who can afford to social distance, live in different houses when they self-isolate or have the choice to work from home.

Opposition DIKO also found the voice of truth by demanding the government allow the Auditor General to inspect its dirty laundry where corruption scandals are usually hidden.

Other smaller parties were also encouraged by their thirst for political grandstanding.

Shouting down the government, plugging into the public’s discontent over the cash-for-passports scandal.

Usually, the state budget is a drab affair where the government pats itself on the back for a job well done while the Opposition tries to cut costs to make life difficult.

This time rebel MPs smelt a whiff of mutiny in the air, partaking in festive mischief to spoil the government’s Christmas party.

It is the first time the budget has been shot down in a generation due to an unwritten rule that the state must function and public sector workers – a privileged class – get paid on time.

Throwing a spanner in the works causes ripples of uncertainty the fragile economy can ill afford.

Once the purse strings are tied shut, social welfare cheques and pensions stop getting paid, unemployment benefit dries up as does support to businesses during the pandemic.

Playing brinkmanship with the government is all well and good.

But is the Opposition ready to live with the consequences of their actions when teachers, police, doctors, and nurses no longer receive a salary?

What happens when hospitals are unable to function, or the COVID-19 vaccine rollout becomes a victim of the budget gamble.

It is difficult to imagine that MPs will play hardball with government finances with parliamentary elections looming next May.

Political football

As the Finance Minister conceded, the timing of this rebellion could not have been worse, neither does it instil confidence about the country’s economic future.

Using the budget to play political football is a high-risk game where usually the spectators are the ones in harm’s way.

And Parliament is not the best place for MPs to make a heroic stand against corruption.

Especially when the House Speaker and an AKEL MP were forced to resign after captured on camera trying to flog a Cyprus passport to a criminal.

It should be pointed out to the honourable members that they are part of the problem, rather than the solution.

They are the bricks and mortar the establishment is built on, the crony network of scratching each other’s back to keep it in the family.

Taking the government to task over corrupt practices when they are part of the system that tolerates abuse of power, inequality, injustice is rather poetic.

The passport for investment scheme wasn’t launched yesterday, it went into overdrive seven years ago.

Nobody was asking the tough questions then, even when international organisations and Brussels were pouring hot scorn over it.

Who was out there doing the fact-checking, looking for the skeletons in the cupboard?

If the political parties are losing sleep at night over a corrupt system, why don’t they introduce a law that protects whistleblowers, so mismanagement, neglect or oversight is rooted out?

Or is it they are playing to the gallery waiting for their time in office so they can reap the rewards of being in power.

In any mature democracy, the government should come under intense scrutiny.

The Cypriot political system lacks transparency, but few MPs are trying to turn that ship around.

The only adjustment they seek is what table they sit at – preferably the one nearer to the food chain.

Under the cold shower of realpolitik, rejecting the budget was not a courageous act triggering social revolution where fairness is at the core.

COVID-19 has scorched the economic landscape, businesses have gone bankrupt, unemployment rocketed, people’s wellbeing put under enormous duress.

Cyprus is hurting like never before (in peacetime) but instead of our politicians coming together in crisis they took cheap shots for political points.

For those going hungry, beaten, or left in the cold this Christmas, nobody will be keeping the score.