By Kyriakos Iacovides*
The political landscape in Cyprus is abuzz once again, as opposition parties seize yet another opportunity to level criticism at President Christodoulides. This time, their focus is on the pension he lawfully receives as a former public servant. It's important to note that laws and regulations governing public servants' pensions are established and voted on by the Parliament. For several years, members of the Parliament had the authority to amend this legislation, but they chose not to exercise it.
"...although lawmakers are paid by the Republic, no deductions are made for Social Security contributions because...the money they receive...is not considered a salary but rather compensation!"
While it may be within the bounds of legality, critics argue that it falls short in terms of ethical standards. They contend that President Christodoulides should have voluntarily relinquished this right. So, let's discuss ethics, pensions, and benefits.
Opposition lawmakers scrutinize parliamentary proceedings while enjoying comfortable benefits themselves. They reside in glass towers and cast stones at cement houses. Allow me to elaborate. For just a few hours of parliamentary work each week, lawmakers receive a monthly salary of €3,640, an attendance allowance of €1,945, a secretary support allowance of €1,025 (while having parliamentary assistants paid by the state), and an additional €580 in travel expenses each month, even when the Parliament is not in session.
What's even more audacious and infuriating is that, although lawmakers are paid by the Republic, no deductions are made for Social Security contributions because, believe it or not, the money they receive from the Republic, including allowances, is not considered a salary but rather compensation! Imagine an ordinary worker claiming not to have a salary but receiving compensation for the services they provide to a company. They would likely end up in jail.
Furthermore, those who serve a single term in Parliament receive a monthly pension of €1,352 when they reach the age of 60, with no Social Security contributions deducted. How many thousands of our fellow citizens, who have paid Social Security contributions for 40 years, do not receive such a pension? And if they serve two terms, their pension increases to €3,306 per month. Additionally, after one term, a lawmaker receives a lump sum of €75,000, while after two terms, this lump sum skyrockets to €185,000. Based on what logic? Based on what ethics?
Is it ethically correct for lawmakers to receive an additional pension, especially one without Social Security contributions, at the age of 60? Is it ethically correct for them to receive such substantial lump-sum payments? Is it ethically and morally sound for them to receive monthly travel allowances of €580 even when Parliament is not in session? Is it ethically and ethically correct for them to vote on their own salaries and benefits? Isn't there a conflict of interest?
Lastly, no one bothered to comment on the leak of personal data, apparently from a government accountant. But if tomorrow there is a leak of their personal data, they will surely protest. They should be aware that "what goes around, comes around," as the wise saying goes.
*Kyriakos Iacovides is a journalist and political scientist
[This opinion piece was translated from its Greek original and edited for clarity]