Cyprus’s parliament approved plans for privatizations on Tuesday, averting a showdown with international lenders who insist on state selloffs as part of a 10 billion-euro ($13.77 billion) bailout.
In a show of hands, 30 lawmakers in the 56-member parliament endorsed a guideline for asset sales just before a deadline for approval expired on March 5.
Parliament’s rejection of an earlier privatization motion on February 27 risked derailing the bailout accord with the European Union and International Monetary Fund in March 2013.
Approval of privatization plans were essential for Cyprus to get a new tranche of aid from the EU and IMF by the middle of March. Cyprus has received about half its bailout money and expects another 236 million from both lenders, a fourth tranche, this month.
Left-wing parties rejected the plans, which call for converting the island’s electricity, telecoms and ports utilities into joint-stock companies and seeking out strategic investors. It was supported by the ruling right-wing Democratic Rally party and a centrist party.
The initial blueprint was modified to accommodate concerns about the legacy rights of workers moving into new privatized entities.
“This is not the end of the road. This motion sets out the process of privatizations, and does not address the essence of the matter,” said Nicolas Papadopoulos, the head of the centrist Democratic Party, who voted for the legislation. He said parliament would be actively engaged in vetting the process.
About 1,000 employees of corporations affected staged a low-key protest outside parliament in central Nicosia.
“It’s the principle – we are strongly against disposal of state property,” said Andros Kyprianou, the leader of the main opposition communist party AKEL. “We cannot give in to blackmail.”
Under terms of Cyprus’s three-year bailout accord with lenders, it is expected to raise up to 1.4 billion euros from the asset sales to pay down debt by 2018. [Reuters]