Intervention of Yiorgos Loucaides, MP of AKEL Cyprus, at the plenary of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
10th October 2017, Strasbourg
The Report on the OECD activities during the 2016-2017 period includes a very critical point: economic recovery, where and as it is recorded, is slow and fragile. This confirms the position that economic crises are unavoidable in an economic system governed by the law of profit, inequality and exploitation.
As the European United Left, we believe that growth indicators, positive or recessionary, do not reveal the real situation the majority of the people are facing in a given society, namely the situation of working people, households, the self-employed and small businesses. These indicators do not reveal how much public wealth is being privatized and how much salaries and working people’s rights are being curbed to “get the economy moving”.
My country, Cyprus, is a prime example: On the one hand, the government is celebrating about the indicators on growth and the formal exit from the Memorandum. On the other hand, according to the Gini coefficient, the Cypriot people have suffered the most over the past four years as a result of the biggest growth in social inequalities in Europe. Cyprus registers the worst performance in Europe with regards public spending on health and social benefits. Wages have fallen to 1996 levels, while unemployment remains among the highest in Europe and the young generation has been forced to migrate.
This is the reason why we believe that we should look beyond indicators or at least attach equal importance to all indicators. In this sense, the Report’s alarming key point on the continuing trend of widening inequalities, even after the crisis, must be stressed. Indeed, as the Report points out, sharpening inequality, in addition to the severe humanitarian costs, undermines growth itself in economic terms too.
The key question is what we should do. Despite the different and opposing views on such an issue, we believe that the Report includes certain points that can be broadly supported, that is, inter alia, public investment in a green economy.
– Strengthening labour laws
– Increasing the efficiency of public spending
– Combating tax evasion of big businessmen
– Ensuring equality of results (and not just opportunities) in education.
– Implementation of social measures to support the family
Bearing this in mind, we as the Left at an EU level also support the demand that social indicators – such as for example dignified work and child poverty – must be made binding in the European Semester process where member states are monitored for their economic and financial policy.
As the report we have before us also confirms, by supporting the welfare state and combating inequality, unemployment and poverty, we are creating the preconditions for growth, not simply growth in economic and financial terms, but growth with the content that it needs to have and with the measure with which people and their needs should be measured.