Cyprus MPs Mull Privatization Again

NICOSIA – Only a few days after rejecting a plan to sell off its assets as demanded by international lenders – putting a 10 billion euro ($13.67 billion) bailout in jeopardy – Cyprus’ Parliament will look at it again March 4 in the face of ferocious resistance from workers.

The move is a last-ditch attempt by a wobbly government led by President Nicos Anastasiades to win over rebellious lawmakers a day before a deadline set by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) to agree or else.

If Parliament rejects the plan again it could push Cyprus into turmoil, a year after agreeing to the harsh terms of the deal that included confiscation of 47.5 percent of bank accounts over 100,000 euros ($137,000) to pay for mistakes the institutions made, incurring 4.5 billion euros ($6.2 billion) in losses, threatening to undermine the economy.

Under that plan, Cyprus must privatize its ports, telecoms and electricity companies to raise up to 1.4 billion euros ($1.93 billion) and pay down debt by 2018.

Center and left-wing parties rejected the privatization scheme, but the government resubmitted the bill with amendments that have won the approval of center party DIKO.

Government officials said the new proposals addressed concerns over legacy rights of workers at corporations which would be privatized. At last week’s vote, workers demonstrated angrily.

Demonstrators, including from the telecommunications authority that’s slated for privatization, gathered outside parliament to protest the legislation.