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Behind the scenes politics on Hydrocarbons Fund

February 12, 2019 at 10:18am
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Despite the government’s negative response on proposed amendments by opposition MPs on the draft bill regarding rules and regulations on the establishment of the island’s National Hydrocarbons Fund, the parties are still insistent.

In fact, all opposition parties except centre Diko are joining forces in their bid to draft a single text of amendments to be tabled next Friday, when the bills are set to go before the plenum for approval.

Consultations among parties are set to take place over the coming days with opposition MPs saying that the amendments will focus on what they had proposed last summer, as well as a few days ago, but which were rejected by the Executive.

All this despite the call by the Finance Ministry for no amendments what so ever to take place. And in addition to the fact that  a Finance Ministry representative explained yesterday (Monday) to Committee members why the government disagrees with the parties’ proposals.

A Phileleftheros source said the amendments to be jointly proposed by opposition parties include the following:

-That the Hydrocarbons Fund, as well as all contracts concluded for the Fund, will be audited by the Auditor General of the Republic.

-That before the Fund starts flowing revenue towards the public debt, the existing gap in the Social Insurance Fund is covered, once and for all.

-That the Minister of Finance’s jurisdiction to issue instructions and specify the government’s requirements on the long-term performance of the Fund is removed.

-That the remuneration of the executive director and the organisation’s staff to be determined on the basis of the salary scales of civil servants.

-That part of the Fund’s revenue should go towards the development of Renewable Energy Sources, energy saving and environmental protection.

-That the revenue of the Hydrocarbons Fund should not be linked with the state’s public debt and repayment.

In the meantime, the House Finance Committee has decided to also include the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy in the committee to propose the members of the Fund’s Board of Directors.

Diko MP Angelos Votsis, who is also the Committee’s chairman, said the bill maintains its original form, based on the Norwegian model’s formula. Asked whether it contains provisions for the Turkish Cypriot community, he said that such governmental proposal has not been presented, and that the bill is in its original form. Also, he noted that the Fund will be set up for the benefit of all legal residents of Cyprus.

Main opposition Akel party MP Stefanos Stefanou said there are deviations that need to be taken into account. Green party leader  George Perdikis criticized the government for not showing goodwill and accepting at least some of the amendments tabled by the parties. And the head of the Citizens’ Alliance, George Lillikas, said that the philosophy governing the bill does not actually resemble that of the Norwegian model, but rather “the traditional philosophy of semi-governmental organizations enjoying power within a Fund, which in a few years, will be managing billions of euros”.

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