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President’s 80 measures ‘unconvincing’

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President Nikos Christodoulides’ announcement of the government’s year-ahead strategic plan to support society and the Cyprus economy, has garnered more criticism than support.

One after the other, opposition parties took multiple shots at Christodoulides’ announcement of more than 80 measures, as they align with actions already presented in budget frameworks.

They stress the need for tangible actions.

Right-wing DISY dubbed the president a “copycat”, saying that most of what the president said on Monday was a repeat of what ministers said during their budget presentations before the House.

The budget encompasses all the previously planned development projects and the execution of reforms that “we supported a few years ago.”

Hence, the party emphasised, there are no conditions being established for a new vision. They stated that the real challenge lies in taking decisive actions on decisions announced several times.

“For citizens, the issue is not to repeatedly announce the same things over and over, but to start implementing them with determination, steady steps, and political courage—qualities we haven’t observed until now,” stated the former ruling party.

Christodoulides was a member of the past two DISY-led administrations, first as government spokesman and later Foreign Minister, until he decided to challenge the presidency and left Nicos Anastasiades’ government in 2022.

DISY has yet to decide if it is fully in opposition, as half its membership already supports Christodoulides.

DISY, which commands 17 seats in the 56-member Parliament, passed the incumbent government’s budget during the December debates, as did coalition members DIKO, DIPA and socialist Edek, with a combined 16 MPs.

Falling short

“The President and his government will be judged by their actions and deeds. So far, they’ve set the bar high in many cases, only to fall short in the end,” said opposition left party AKEL, with 15 MPs.

The party added that until today, the government has set itself a high bar only to “pass underneath it”.

According to the party, the president didn’t say anything new that hadn’t been stated previously during his election campaign.

“The government insists in operating at a communications tempo, prioritising the creation of impressions over achieving tangible results,” stated the Green Party.

On the other, coalition parties have welcomed and support the government’s commitments and the institution, which, as they note, enhances transparency.

“The Democratic Party supports the president’s announcements and will contribute constructively in parliament and through any other means to ensure these announcements progress and are implemented as soon as possible for the benefit of citizens and our country,” stated main administration partner DIKO.

In its own announcement, centrist DIPA said, “our party will be supportive in the effort to fully implement this strategic plan. As the quintessential faction of broader consensuses and compositions, we will continue to support any action that can be beneficial for the country.”

“The government is ready to be judged in due time for its actions,” declared government spokesperson, Konstantinos Letymbiotis.

“For the first time, a president disclosed the work that the government intends to carry out, so that, both by society itself and the legislative authority, can assess intentions,” stated the spokesperson.

“The Ministry of Finance is prepared and scheduled to meet all goals, especially those set in the 2024 planning,” said Minister Makis Keravnos.

The 80+ measures

On Monday, President Christodoulides outlined his government’s strategic focus for 2024 and beyond, emphasising targeted priorities and modernising reforms, in six areas that affect citizens’ daily lives.

“The government’s strategic orientation for 2024 and beyond is based on a set of targeted priorities and modernising reforms: first, to improve the daily life of citizens by tackling bureaucracy, promoting digital transformation, and addressing chronic problems such as migration and traffic.

“Second, to ensure a strong and resilient economy, third, the need to lay the foundations for a better tomorrow with education and health at the centre of our efforts, fourth, on green transition, fifth, the modernisation and restructuring of the state through the strengthening of institutions and sixth, to make Cyprus a strong partner both in the EU and in the wider region,” Christodoulides said.

The president highlighted the resolution of the Cyprus problem and reunification as the cornerstone of all policies. Additionally, advancing Cyprus’ membership in the US Visa Waiver Programme, efforts to join the Schengen Area abolishing border controls, and establishing diplomatic missions in Armenia and Kazakhstan are priorities for 2024.

Regarding migration, the president noted successful policies in making Cyprus less attractive as a destination.

Plans for 2024 include faster application processing, strengthening human resources to achieve smooth returns, immediate allowance cutoffs for rejected applicants, and establishing the Deputy Ministry of Immigration and Asylum. Penalties for migrant smuggling will also be tightened.

Economically, a strong primary surplus for 2024-2026, exceeding the EU’s medium-term target, is highlighted. Efforts to reduce public debt to 72.5% of GDP by 2024 and 60% by 2026 are outlined.

A Financial Ombudsman with expanded responsibilities, protection for vulnerable borrowers, and tax reform, starting with green taxation, are part of ambitious reforms. A National Enterprise Development Agency and strategies for attracting investment and talent are also on the agenda.

The president emphasised increasing the primary sector’s contribution, updating the national strategy, and implementing a comprehensive employment policy with bilateral agreements for necessary workforce.

Citizens’ daily lives will be improved through initiatives like the Digital Citizen app, increased maternity leave, a subsidy scheme for seniors’ care homes, hate speech legislation, affordable housing policies, and education syllabus reductions.

In the health sector, priorities for 2024 include managing public hospital autonomy, advancing bills for university hospitals, recovery and rehabilitation centres, and palliative care.

The government is also supporting green transition through schemes for energy upgrades, grid expansion, and energy storage from renewable sources.