Press conference by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL A.Kyprianou on the lessons to be drawn from the pandemic
AKEL proposals for the day after
“Strengthen the public health system immediately to confront a possible second pandemic and support workers and SME’s”
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 9th July 2020, Nicosia
Today we want to talk about the day after the pandemic and how we will manage to overcome its consequences to lead our country and people to a better, more just and prosperous future.
We would like to once again express our gratitude towards all health workers and professionals for their tireless efforts in combatting the pandemic, as well as to the experts and scientists who offered their knowledge in this effort. We also express our condolences and support to those who have lost their loved ones because of the coronavirus, especially to our compatriots in the Cypriot community of Britain, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
All through this period thousands of workers in hospitals, pharmacies, supermarkets, bakeries and the workers delivering essential goods have taken on the burden of the pandemic’s consequences. AKEL’s expression of its gratitude towards them is the strengthening of the struggle to support the public health system and to enhance the struggle for working people’s rights
It goes without saying that the day after of the pandemic has caused many problems. However, it must be absolutely clear to everyone: the workers, farmers and small and medium-size businesses must not pay for this crisis too. AKEL firmly and militantly stands in the front line of the effort for their dignity, for the needs of the many.
From the very first moment the coronavirus spread to Cyprus, we demanded from the President and the government that they should listen to the scientists and take action. We demanded preventive and safety measures long before the first cases were recorded and for health workers and professionals be briefed about the protocols for handling coronavirus cases, as well as the provision of protective means and equipment. This did not happen.
The government initially underestimated the danger. Cases had to appear, followed by a general outcry after the first presidential address to the people for decisions and measures to be taken. When the government ruling forces began to listen to the experts, the correct measures were taken. Regrettably, they did not last until the end. At some point, expediencies and considerations got in the way which was reflected in various government decisions that were approved.
All through this critical period, as AKEL we stressed the major task before us: reducing the number of cases and confronting the pandemic and its consequences. We submitted numerous suggestions and proposals to achieve this goal. We deliberately chose to act in a constructive way. At the same time AKEL was pointing out exaggerations, shortcomings and sloppiness wherever we observed them.
We took solidarity initiatives, particularly our initiative to put our militants and members in all districts at the disposal of state agencies as volunteers to deliver assistance to numerous vulnerable groups at their homes.
We tried, even by phone or online, to continue and intensify our contacts with all those who needed help and support.
We organized blood donations in every district, responding to the appeal issued by the Blood Centre.
We supported the work of the research centre of the University of Cyprus by donating 20,000 euros, which we had collected from the contributions of the members of the Political Bureau, our Members of Parliament and full-time militants of the Party.
We distributed to centres with vulnerable groups of the population the 10,000 protective masks sent to us by the Communist Party of China.
Hundreds of our militants and members voluntarily made masks that we sent to hospitals.
But AKEL did not stop there. We submitted specific proposals on issues related to health, education, tourism, farmers and people of culture. We elaborated and put forward positions to finance the economy, provide economic help for households and small and medium-sized enterprises. In contrast to the government’s proposal, our proposal has the state as its main pillar, not the banks and was focused on providing support to households and small businesses, not the government’s proposal for new loans from banks.
We have submitted proposals for the reduction of rents and in the price of electricity, as well as for the suspension of foreclosures and evictions, people’s debts etc.
We called on the government to crack down on profiteering and price speculation by setting a ceiling on the price of masks, antiseptics, virus tests, basic goods and fuel.
We demanded that salaries should not be reduced and that no worker should lose his/her job. We pointed out the delays in the payment of salaries and allowances, which have left hundreds of families without any income. To this day we are insisting that the cases of hundreds of workers who are called upon to survive without any income or on meager benefits must be addressed. We submitted specific proposals on the Justice system, as the situation has affected the rule of law, the viability of small law firms and the very livelihood of young lawyers. We highlighted the increase in domestic violence during the period of the restrictive measures and proposed measures to provide support to the victims.
Today everything demonstrates that we are on the correct road to overcome the pandemic. But if we do not draw lessons from this ordeal, we will not be able to confront the crisis, but nor a possible second wave of the coronavirus.
The first thing the government ruling forces need to understand is that their ideological concepts arguing for the need to privatise everything have been completely exposed by the pandemic.
The role of the public health system has proven to be irreplaceable. We have seen this being proved in big countries like the United States, which have glorified the private health sector. This has been demonstrated in our country too.
The consequences stemming from the cuts of millions of Euros imposed by the Anastasiades-DISY Government in previous years became evident with the outbreak of the pandemic. Hospitals lacked basic equipment – in some cases there weren’t even any protective masks. The reference hospital in Famagusta did not have an intensivist. The pulmonology clinic at Limassol Hospital was closed. The understaffing of hospitals left many departments of public hospitals with reduced staff. In addition, the lack of planning by the state health services (OKYPY), but also the large number of coronavirus cases that were identified in the hospitals with the result that they were forced to close, made the effort to tackle the situation unimaginably difficult. If the health professionals did not make super-human efforts, we would not have put the pandemic under control.
As AKEL, we have for some time now submitted our proposals to the Government with regards the preparation that must be made and the support that the public health sector must be given in order to deal with a possible second wave of the pandemic. We hope that this time all the necessary measures will be taken promptly and in time.
The first conclusion to be drawn is that the role of the state in safeguarding basic rights and in ensuring health, education, housing, social welfare is irreplaceable.
A second conclusion is that State intervention in vitally strategic areas such as energy, communications and transport is also imperative.
A third conclusion that must be drawn from the pandemic is that the climate crisis and deterioration of the environment have a direct impact on the outbreak of pandemics. Some people must at long last stop pretending that the way the environment is treated does not affect the most humanity’s valuable asset: people’s health.
The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be followed by even more deadly and devastating manifestations of diseases, unless their root cause – the uncontrolled destruction of the natural environment – is stopped quickly, as leading experts around the world have been warning about the world’s biodiversity.
The recent pandemics are a direct consequence of the capitalist system that rewards economic growth at any cost. Dr. Peter Daszak’s reference that “the uncontrolled deforestation, the unbridled expansion of agriculture, the extraction and development of infrastructures, as well as the exploitation of wildlife have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spread of disease” is characteristic. It is therefore inconceivable that certain forces and circles here in Cyprus continue attempting – with the blessings of the Government – to lay their hands on the last corner of flora for their own profit.
AKEL demands the full respect and observance of the relevant legislation for Environmental Impact Assessments on projects, but also Strategic Impact Assessments, as well as the protection and conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of Renewable Energy Sources, the proper management of minerals and water resources, the protection of air quality, combined with the implementation of a strategy to reduce emissions and introduce correct practices in the management of numerous wastes. These are all crucial for the preservation of the environment, health and safety for every human being.
A fourth and equally important conclusion from the pandemic is that the Cyprus economy cannot be based on circumstantial and fragile factors. We cannot rely on a one-dimensional model for tourism, neither on an opportunistic policy of granting passports to investors in a way that enriches the privileged few and accumulates consequences for the many.
The economy needs a new vision that will aim at ensuring a fairer distribution of the wealth produced, reducing social inequalities and improving people’s living standards. We need a vision that creates conditions for increasing production, boosting incomes and ensures dignified jobs.
The tax system needs to be reformed with the goal of guaranteeing a fairer distribution of tax burdens through the taxation of wealth.
It is imperative that incentives for sustainable development and the effective stamping out of the phenomena of tax evasion and corruption are adopted.
Policies are needed to provide support for small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed people who constitute the backbone of the Cyprus economy. Their position with their technological upgrading and ensuring access to affordable financing is demanded.
Today, the development of a cooperative economy and the re-establishment of the cooperative credit sector are even more necessary so as to protect farmers, small and medium-sized businesses, the economically vulnerable groups and the improvement of the country’s developmental prospects.
Today we need to turn our attention to creating an economy of knowledge by increasing expenditure in the fields of research, innovation and technology, but also the strengthening the primary sector and development of the agricultural economy aiming to support farmers.
It is also necessary to elaborate a new modern industrial policy aiming at eradicating the structural weaknesses and the modernisation of the Cypriot manufacturing sector.
The development of shipping, but also the strengthening of Cyprus’ role as an international centre for the provision of professional and consulting services is imperative.
The combatting of corruption, strengthening of transparency, stamping out of bureaucracy and speeding up the administration of justice is demanded.
The correct solution of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of our homeland plays an important role in the entire effort to create preconditions that will drive the country forward. Mr. Anastasiades must move in two directions. The President of the Republic must take initiatives so that immediately after the voting process in the Turkish Cypriot community substantive negotiations for a just under the circumstances, functional and workable solution of the Cyprus problem are resumed.
Furthermore, with his rhetoric he needs to cultivate the need for a solution, reconciliation, peace and reunification. He should be preparing all Cypriots to support the efforts for a solution.
The nightmare is not over. The effects of this crisis will become much more pronounced for the majority of society in the period ahead. AKEL is determined to act decisively and struggle with all its strength to defend the interests of the people and of Cyprus, dynamically and militantly. The difficulties are before us, but our people can hope in its own strength – in the strength of AKEL.
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