NICOSIA – The economic troubles facing Cyprus and the way forward were the focus of the first televised debate between the three main Presidential candidates on Monday evening.
The debate which took part at the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CYBC) was broadcast live by the four biggest television stations in Cyprus.
DISY leader backed by DISY and DIKO Nicos Anastasiades, ruling AKEL backed Stavros Malas and socialist EDEK backed Giorgos Lillikas replied to journalists’ questions on the economy and on the responsibilities the next government will be called on to shoulder.
Anastasiades spoke of the need for credibility, being assertive and having good connections in order to help Cyprus exit the crisis, promising at the same time to work “methodically”.
“If one does not build the right alliances and does not have paths of communication with the EU, recapitalization will not be achieved”, he noted, adding that the targets set for Cyprus cannot be reached with words alone.
The centre right candidate also made it clear that he does not support privatizations of semi-state organisations. They will be avoided if possible, he said, clarifying that in the past he has supported the inclusion of a strategic investor with the government retaining the majority of shares.
At the same time he promised to lead a government the main element of which will be collective hard work.
On his part Malas called on the people to evaluate his governance programme rather than the outgoing government’s implemented policies. This he clarified does not mean that the current government’s policies have not had both positive and negative results.
He reiterated his commitment not to allow a second rescue programme during his Presidency, whilst noting that the draft agreement between the Troika (ECB, EC, IMF) for a rescue programme does not contain a provision for automatic privatizations.
Malas spoke of the need for a multi-faceted economic policy, stressing the need to invest in research and innovation in order to reduce unemployment, as well as for ensuring that employees are treated fairly by employers.
He maintained that the main difference in philosophy between him and Anastasiades is that that the latter believes as does the EPP on strict austerity before growth. Clever policies means achieving social cohesion and decent wages, he said.
Giorgos Lillikas reiterated his pledge not to keep to the terms of a rescue programme agreement even if that is already signed but to use early proceeds from the natural gas to be found within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone instead.
At the same time he referred to proposals he has already presented which have to do with achieving growth through incentives for the repatriation of capital for investments and the creation of new jobs.
Replying to a question as to how he will manage to shrink the public sector he said that will be possible by not hiring new personnel, implementing e-government, changing the process of hiring and evaluation of employees in the public service. He added that public expenditure should be curbed whilst at the same time a good public – private sector cooperation is a must.
The public will have the opportunity to evaluate the three candidates’ views in another two debates; one on the Cyprus issue on January 28 and one on home governance on February 11.
The first round of Presidential elections will take place on February 17. If no candidate receives over 50% of the votes then a second election will take place on February 24 between the first two candidates to ‘cross the line’ at the first round.