The Plenary Session of the Parliament unanimously approved the first supplementary budget submitted by the Ministry of Finance for 2022, with MPs, however, expressing concerns about the management of funds related to the pandemic but also for insufficient support of specific social groups.
The additional appropriations of € 102,075,815 mainly concern expenditure on pandemic management, as well as emergencies arising from the war in Ukraine.
The additional appropriations required include the purchase and availability of coronavirus testing and staffing of public health clinics, the purchase of services from mobile units for testing, rehabilitation and hosting of positive cases, and a new generation of sequencing of samples of already confirmed cases and pandemic vaccines, overtime pay for doctors and nurses and referral of patients to the private sector, as well as € 53,000,000 worth of research.
Also staffing of COVID-19 checkpoints at airports for checking health documents, segregation of passengers upon disembarkation, as well as their guidance in COVID-19 testing laboratories amounting to € 700,000.
Additional payment of sponsorship to the school ephorates for expenses related to the disinfection of school premises due to COVID-19 cases, use of public school halls for a rapid antigen detection test, operating expenses and electricity consumption of € 520,000.
text-paragraph “> Also purchase services for the public telecommunication center to provide information on the pandemic, support of the vaccination platform and information on the Cyprus Flight Pass of € 571,200.
At the same time, the supplementary budget provides for the payment of compensation to cheesemakers, due to the imposition of restrictive measures during the pandemic in the food sector, which adversely affected the consumption of cheese products amounting to € 890,000.
Additional purchase and management of cereals for a period of one year for stockholding purposes, due to the effects of the war in Ukraine amounting to € 18,000,000.
Support for sheep and goat breeders, cow breeders and pig farmers, as well as costs for the storage of pork amounting to € 7,600,000.
Support to the airlines for the continuation of the implementation of the Air Transport Connectivity and Development Incentive Plan for the period July-December 2021 amounting to € 5,784,615.
The estimated impact on the budget balance from the approval of the mentioned supplementary budget is expected to amount to 0.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
By amendment of the DIKO MP Chrysi Pantelidis, who was unanimously voted by the Parliament, commits a fund of € 10,000,000 to inform the Finance Committee about extraordinary expenses that are expected to arise in the second quarter of 2022 due to the evolution of the pandemic, including the hospitality of 19 COV-positive patients. as well as the implementation of the subsidized vacation program.
In his plenary speech, Mr. Pantelidis said that on the issue of coronavirus, it is a common finding that we are perhaps the only country in the European Union that has continued for so long the practice of mass medical detection tests, as well as other measures, either at airports, ports or elsewhere.
He added that from now on, and if the epidemiological situation in the country is what it is, that is, it is considered satisfactory, the state should emphasize the costs related to drugs and vaccines and become particularly sparing in spending countless controls that do not consistent with the epidemiological situation, nor with the general impact of the pandemic on the population.
He also expressed disappointment that the supplementary budget did not include any funds to support businesses affected, as it was said that business grant schemes to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had been terminated.
He added that there is a special problem with the entertainment centers, since it seems that the Ministry of Finance stubbornly refuses to meet the obligations of about 1.5 million euros to these companies. He reiterated his call on the Government and the Ministry of Finance to meet this obligation.
At the same time, speaking of difficult days to come, he said that collectivity is needed, unity is required, efficiency is required and that not every government proposal on an issue is characterized by the government as “the only serious, the only documented or the only responsible” and at the same time any opposition proposal should be characterized, again by the government, as “populist, inapplicable or trivial”.
ELAM MP Sotiris Ioannou reminded that his party did not give a blank check to govern the place with decrees “which we are now called to pay without considering their necessity”. He also said that ELAM requested a legislative regulation of the issue and received a negative response, while he entered the issue for discussion in Chapter D, something that has not been done yet. “Unfortunately we have been confirmed at a cost of tens of millions for taxpayers,” he said.
DIPA MP Alekos Tryfonidis welcomed the support of stockbreeders, expressing reservations about whether the funds are enough, stating that they expect the submission of the 2nd supplementary budget within the month, as reported by the Government. He said that amount is enough for breeders for a week. He also expressed concern about the large waste with rapid tests and called on all relevant bodies and the Auditor General to carry out all necessary checks to see if there is money laundering and mismanagement. He also called on the government to provide the owners of entertainment and event centers with the remaining amount to support them from being hit by the pandemic.
ELAM MP Linos Papagiannis stated that the fund for livestock breeders is by no means enough and that the Government has promised other things and is implementing others. He added that the producers of Cyprus should be encouraged in every way to lead the country to greater self-sufficiency. He also said that companies that are still waiting for their unpaid pandemic benefits should be supported.
EDEK MP Elias Myrianthous referred to insufficient funds to support many groups of the population that have been affected and expressed the view that targeted management should be done because if the situation with war and inflation continues, public stocks may not be able to deal with other social unrest.
DIKO MP Christos Orfanidis spoke about the increased costs of stockbreeders due to large increases in feed and said that this fund could be much larger to support these workers.
EDEK MP Kostis Efstathiou said that the minimum per livestock unit that could be given without the need for EU approval was € 50,000, when the amount given now does not reach 10 thousand euros per unit.
< p class = "text-paragraph">AKEL MP Andreas Kafkalias said that there are very limited funds for the real economy and the needs of social groups that have been hit hard by the crisis. 5m is welcome for stockbreeders, he added, but not enough to meet the growing needs of industries. He also spoke of the government's failure to commit to supporting businesses in the entertainment and events sectors, as well as people of culture. He also said that the 18 million for the purchase of cereals were needed because the government dissolved the Cereals Commission and the private importers considered that it was not in their interest to import. He also said that it is a challenge that out of these 18 out of 1 million will be allocated to these companies to manage the grain that will come.
DISY MP Onoufrios Koullas said the party agrees with the amendment tabled as there should be parliamentary scrutiny of funds.
At the same time, he said that the government has built budget capacity and allows us to claim more. He noted that other funds are coming for agriculture. For the pandemic he said that most of the funds concern the management that has already been done and will be much less from now on. He added that Cyprus had a strict but one of the best pandemic management in the world at a time when its economy had less recession in 2020 and more growth in 2021.
At the same time he said that he needed maximum responsibility and cooperation for the days to come.
As for the Cereals Committee, he said that if there were still cereal prices would be increased due to its high operating costs. He also stressed the importance of having a security reserve in the state coffers for whatever the country needs next. He added that there are companies that should then be supported more by the state.