The House in the Republic of Cyprus approved a revision of the government’s 2021 state budget on Thursday, following a month of consultations between the administration and small opposition parties that offered additional amendments to the bill.
After a long parliament session on Thursday evening, which was interrupted by an earthquake on the island, six dueling parties voted for the revised state budget for 2021, with 29 in favour and 26 against.
Yay votes came from ruling party DISY (18), socialist party EDEK (3), Citizens Alliance (1), Solidarity Movement (2), nationalist party ELAM (2) and Cooperation of Democratic Forces (3), a political platform coming from Democratic party offshoot DIPA.
Opposition to the bill came from centre opposition party DIKO (7), left communist party AKEL (16), Green Party (2), and one (1) independent MP.
'The country lost its card by which it could exert pressure because if the budget was struck down, the government would have to come back Monday and surrender the files,' Papadopoulos said
A number of amendments were voted before the budget was approved, with the Cyprus News Agency saying the revised expenditure amount came to €7.15 billion with a 2.5% increase in spending. State revenue also was 9.5% higher in the final bill, bumping the amount up from €5.9 bln to €6.48 bln.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, seven amendments from opposition parties were approved before the budget vote, including banning state funding for privatization of public organizations, government agencies, and state companies, excluding the Larnaca marina, Troodos Mountains developments, Cyprus Stock Exchange, as well as any act involving the Solidarity Fund.
Other amendments included rules requiring the interior ministry to obtain written approval from the parliament before assigning background checks costing €2.2 million to three audit firms regarding foreign investors seeking a Cypriot passport.
The parliament will also need to give written consent before a number of road construction projects could begin, including bypass highways in Nicosia connecting Aglandjia with Engomi, other roads and roundabouts, as well as widening and/or improving two avenues in Limassol.
Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said the budget was balanced and thanked parties that voted in favour, adding the revised bill included major expenditures in the health and social sectors that benefit citizens.
DIKO President Nicholas Papadopoulos slammed the approval of the budget, saying the country lost a chance to put pressure onteh government to hand over files to the auditor general in connection with the golden passport scandal.
“The country lost its card by which it could exert pressure because if the budget was struck down, the government would have to come back Monday and surrender the files,” Papadopoulos said.
Finance minister calls for less toxic environment
But Petrides said the budget approval was necessary to overcome the crisis and called on “everyone to work in a less toxic environment, with consensus and responsibility.”
Last December, lawmakers unanimously approved stop-gap legislation for emergency funds, after the original budget faile to pass the House, allowing month-to-month budgets approved through February based on expenditures that had been authorized the previous year.
DIKO, which traditionally sided with the government on the state budget, declared months before the debate it would not vote in favour unless the government agreed to allow Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides to examine files following alleged corruption within Cyprus’ disgraced Citizenship by Investment Programme.
Despite an ongoing independent probe into the CIP programme, DIKO raised concern over the way the committee was put together, saying Attorney General George Savvides who formed the committee was himself a subject of the investigation as he had served as justice minister in the Cabinet.
Papadopoulos stopped short of saying whether he had confidence in the independent committee but reiterated his concern that the administration would seek ways to keep corruption under wraps.