Finance Minister Harris Georgiades is leaving his post by the year’s end but has raised the curtain on the policy and priorities his successor will follow in 2020.
Presenting the annual budget for 2020 before the House Finance Committee yesterday, Georgiades has signalled that reforms – many of which began shortly after the economy’s breakdown in 2013 but have gone nowhere – are top on his successor’s priority list.
In fact, he took out of the drawer bills that have been pending in the House for two years – such as privatisations. No progress has been recorded because of strong reaction mainly from employees but also from opposition parties.
The Minister once again referred to government plans to change the legal status of CyTA, that is denationalise it but ensure at the same time the majority shareholding in the new entity remains under state control. And for the State Lottery to go in the hands of a private investor.
Georgiades reminded MPs that the government’s initial position on these bills had been amended to allow for the required parliamentary majority.
And that bill adjustments have brought the government’s position very close to that of opposition parties, especially of centre Diko’s.
A third urgent reform on the list concerns the denationalisation of the Cyprus Stock Exchange – something the Parliament was asking for. The Government is expected to submit a bill early in 2020. Reforming the public service, courts and local administration are also among top priorities.
And so is the establishment of a Deputy Ministry of Innovation and Digital Policy, the simplification of investment law procedures, the new insurance and welfare supervisory authority and a bill on the so-called mini managers.
The Minister also extended a cooperation hand to Parliament so as to have the relevant bills approved as soon as possible. But, at the same time, Georgiades sent the message that prudent fiscal policy should continue.
On the island’s banking sector, he noted that its capital adequacy has more than tripled since 2012, while non-performing loans still on balance sheets of banks are reduced to €10 billion.
On the controversial citizenship by investment plan, the Minister said the economy is not dependent on it. Between 2016–2018, GDP increased by 15.2%, of which only 1.2% was related to construction activity directly linked with the investment plan, he said.