President Nikos Christodoulides announced a seat of 80 measures, which will be his administration’s policy priorities for 2024, and possibly beyond, if he doesn’t complete them by the end of the year.
Opposition parties in Cyprus were quick to judge him, saying the declarations had no essence and that the president was simply repeating what he had already declared through his budget, presented and debated in parliament in December.
This was a bit ironic, coming from the same party, whose president during the past decade, made a habit of recycling development news and announcements, some even several times a year.
What upset a lot of people, including members of civil society groups, such as the single parents’ association, was that Christodoulides back-tracked on several election pledges, primarily benefits to vulnerable groups.
Possibly in an effort to divert public attention away from the delay in the launch of the ‘Photovoltaics for all’ scheme, that interests thousands of households who cannot continue to carry the burden of sky-high electricity costs, the president chose to declare that new pensioners would see their benefits fast-tracked.
This raised a lot of eyebrows, but no one dared to challenge this declaration, as this measure was aimed to satisfy the civil servants, semi-government employees, teachers and retired bank staff, all supported by strong trade unions.
These unions tend to strong-arm their way to securing their demands, as ludicrous as many of them are, simply because of their large membership numbers, which are used as leverage in the run-up to elections, of which Cyprus does not have any shortage.
But in an effort to satisfy the retirees, not to say that many of them do not deserve their monthly pensions, it goes beyond any logic that unemployment benefits take as long as they always did, with about two and a half months to be ‘processed’ even though all the paperwork is now done online and the relevant data is immediately available.
And adding insult to injury for those who have lost their jobs or were made redundant for whatever reason, their unemployment benefit is based on the average wage of over a year prior to application, and in some case at half the rate of their last salary.
This is not the same when calculating pensions, for which a lot has been debated in recent months, as if a great injustice had been corrected.
Perhaps, if President Christodoulides wants to gain the respect of simple folk, many of whom are struggling and, being from the private sector do not enjoy the backing of trade unions and political parties, he should ask his government why there is such as difference between the two benefits.
Is it because MPs and politicians do not care about ordinary workers?