South Cyprus: Guaranteed Minimum Income: Another insult to our intelligence

by M. Karpasia, translation Theo Ieronimides

Amid scandals involving millions, bribes, corruption and abuse of power (Mayor of Paphos, Vergas, Sewerage Board of Paphos, Cyprus Airways and the involvement of the President’s Law Office, the fiasco regarding the appointment of central Bank Governor,  Mrs Giorkatzi etc.), luxurious brothels, plump payments to those «responsible» for our ‘wellbeing” (ministers, members of parliament, foreign consultants who carry out reports for us, bank officials etc.), we are still waiting for the social net of solidarity and protection for our distressed fellow citizens which they named Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI).

One month of survival for us is one night of pleasure for them!

The GMI by definition refers to the minimum level of subsistence for a month and is set at 480 Euros!

For those however who made this law the amount corresponds to one single «magic» night which costs 400 Euros at the luxurious brothel where «tired» politicians and state officials went to rest.

This whole farce and promises of supporting disadvantaged citizens, is said to be based on studies and cost appraisal of their needs. Of course the experts (even dieticians) which were called to study those needs were rewarded with a few thousand Euros, whereas they should have been rewarded with €480 each to support their suggestions!

The bottom line is that there are citizens of different classes, rich who get richer and poor, which every day become poorer! Certainly for this State there are not only responsibilities for causing this but also for not doing anything to resolve it!

The ‘radical’ legislation that provides for the minimum needs for disadvantaged people has caused immense suffering to citizens: filling out forms, gathering certificates, authorisations, etc.. Many parents of persons with disabilities were forced to obtain court orders decreeing their adult children as «unfit» to handle their own money, since this is what the Ministry announced last July and it was not accepting the applications without «appointee orders». If the parents did not do this then their adult children with disabilities would not be entitled to the allowance – thus violating international conventions regarding basic human rights of people with disabilities.

Who benefits from the GMI after all?

Until October 65,000 people had applied among them 20,000 who were already receiving public assistance, 15,000 new applicants and more than 26,000 low income pensioners. For the latter an extension till the end of November was given, in case some had not been able to fill in their application, did not know how to or did not want to. In effect around 17,000 low income pensioners and roughly 2,500 people already receiving public assistance did not apply. But by the end of October the allowance had only been given to 400 applicants and by the end of November was given to a total of 2000 out of 4000 applicants. What is happening with the rest? It should also be noted that there are thousands of unemployed who have not received a single cent for months now and most are fed by community food banks.

The paradox in all this farce is that a new decree is expected where tens of thousands of families with three children, large families, single parents and students, but also all recipients of child allowances (1 or 2 children) will make their applications for benefits through the GMI. So far, all of them were receiving their benefits through the Ministry of Finance based on financial criteria of €19,500 up to €59,000 income and assets up to €1m. Now the procedures are changing and the applications must be made to the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Security. This is because in the new legislation for the GMI there are plans to create a common registry, a change which the Troika has imposed ‘to tidy up’ our benefits policy.

It is not clear however if this means that the criteria for all the categories of citizens will be the ones applicable for the GMI, meaning a house with a value up to €100,000 and up to €5,000 savings! Why didn’t our wise MP’s request clarifications? If such a thing were to happen, thousands of families will be without benefits; families that for many years based all their financial budgeting on their salary plus the specific benefits. Many families will lose more than €500 – 600 per month and this amount will increase depending on the number of children they have (e.g single parent families will lose €160-180 per child and three child families from €87 to €57 per child.

The Epitomy of Sloppiness

Meanwhile, contrary to proclamations that, with the new law, the Social Welfare Services would ultimately take on their social function and the financial matters would go to the new unit of the Ministry, at the moment the 65,000 applications, which pass through 4 – 5 test stages, are examined exclusively by Social Welfare and mainly through a unit of 35 temporary recruits who were hired to electronically process all those thousands of applications. The recruitment was made through the Human Resources Agency scheme, with a pay of €500 per month and without relevant work experience and training.

All this sloppiness in the creation, adoption and implementation of this law reveals the lack of seriousness in setting social policy during the crisis! Our politicians and the government should know that the implementation of GMI whereas it will not adequately satisfy the needs of the recipients, it will increase the State’s public debt while leading sections of society to greater poverty.

The austerity measures that are applied only to particular groups of the population lead to a lowering of decent living and an increase in human rights violations: right to work, right to housing, medical care, education etc…

What are our politicians doing about all this? The opposition? The unions?

The farce will continue until we the ordinary people demand for the mockery to stop, for the confiscation of the properties of all those who continue the feast, who evade taxation and who loaded us with €20 billion of debt.

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