The supplementary state budget for 2017 was passed recently by the House, even as opposition parties accused the government of timing the vote for maximum impact ahead of next month’s presidential elections.
The budget, designed to introduce an additional €271 million for spending, was approved with 25 votes in favour, three against and 19 abstentions.
Items to be paid for through the supplementary budget include payment of tax due by football clubs and local community councils, state grants to semi-state organisations, tax returns and payroll adjustments in healthcare.
According to the budget submitted by the government, total spending needs for 217 were €335.8 million, but savings of €74,6 million from other spending brought the total down to €261.2 million.
An added €10 million was requested by the Finance Ministry for recipients of the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) scheme.
Of the total, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades told parliament, €160 million relates to intra-governmental adjustments, resulting to a net spending increase of €100 million.
In a controversial move, opposition parties approved but ‘crossed’ – meaning that final approval will require a new House plenary vote – €25 million intended for the government-sponsored Solidarity Fund, designed to partially compensate the victims of the 2013 haircut of bank deposits.
During discussion prior to the vote, Disy leader Averof Neophytou noted that crossing the Solidarity Fund item on the last session of the year constitutes “nothing more than its rejection”.
“The reaction around the Solidarity Fund suggests that we are not thinking of the ones we wanted to support, so that the credit doesn’t go to someone else,” he said, calling on parties to overcome petty politicking.
Main opposition Akel MP Stefanos Stefanou said that the fact that the government chose to delay submitting of the supplementary budget so that it would be voted on the last plenary session suggested it was serving political expediency and electioneering.
“The supplementary budget relates to covering needs created by the government itself through its recent pre-election pledges, which we are called to pay for through public money,” he said.
Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos said the government’s proposal for the Solidarity Fund a “mockery of haircut depositors”.
“The government’s proposal for the fund is a strange initiative, when they kept saying for four and a half years that they could do nothing for the haircut depositors,” he charged.
Far-right Elam MP Linos Papagiannis said it was “a shame” that the government chose to bring the supplementary budget to the last plenary session, but “we have a duty to approve it”.
Source: Cyprus Mail