It’s time to fix Cyprus

5 mins read

In the next few days, it is quite likely that we shall come to see the stepping down of the UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, for holding parties at Number 10 during the national lockdown.

A vibrant, functional democracy operates on the basis that the votes that got you into office can at the same time be the votes that remove you from it.

Transparent and accountable democracies do not in any way dilute the key principle that parliament represents the will of the people, and the people or the “demos” will hold elected politicians to account for deviating from the commitments before getting into office or misleading or deceiving the people.

Another example of the democratic process working in the United Kingdom was the convictions of Members of Parliament for expenses fraud, Denis MacShane (Labour) was jailed for six months on 23 December 2013 for expenses fraud after admitting to submitting 19 fake receipts amounting to £12,900, making him the fifth MP to get a prison sentence as a result of the scandal.

David Chaytor, another expenses offender, was handed the longest sentence of any of the MPs caught up in the scandal – 18 months.

Chaytor was taken to court for false accounting charges like the other less-than-honourable members.

The case against him revolved around £18,000 worth of expenses which he was found to have falsely claimed from the taxpayer.

Corruption may be a word thrown around by many, but what is clear is that across Europe, France, the Netherlands, Germany, when a “wrong” has been committed inside parliament or the government, elected politicians, a “right” is done.

There is a scrutiny committee by elected politicians, an independent investigation by a member of the judiciary, or questions inside the elected chamber directed towards the Prime Minister, President, Minister or MP who has been accused of wrongdoing.

The findings are then made public, and if the actions are criminal, the police are involved, and the case is heard in court with the misdemeanour being punished with a criminal sentence.

Now let’s look at the Republic of Cyprus.

With the plethora of political scandals that have plagued the Republic in the last 10 years (at least), when has a single politician ever provided, or been pushed to provide, an honest and clear response to allegations of corruption?

The so-called “golden passports” scandal, which was broadcast across the globe and named high profile politicians in Cyprus, including our very own President, should have been the catalyst to a series of resignations and a clear attempt to reform how we conduct ourselves.

Can we honestly say that we have learnt from these scandals?

Our banking system was dismembered, working and retired people lost their savings during the Laiki Bank collapse or the Co-Op Bank failure, and we have still not seen one person prosecuted for these failures.

Not one person has been prosecuted, and there seems to be fear or trepidation from the media and public in Cyprus to debate and hold to account even public officials who are found guilty of misconduct.

In the UK, the debate over the No.10 parties during the lockdown has been sustained and a catalyst towards the Prime Minister effectively coming under a barrage of attacks from his own party, which will most likely lead to his exit from office.

We need a blank paper now in Cyprus; we need to start from the beginning and reform how public officials elected or appointed view their duties and responsibilities.

The people of Cyprus must stop looking for favours and “quick solutions” but rather learn to follow the rule of law.

We need a more effective system of government both at local and national levels, which encourages more younger people, women, professionals and people from more diverse backgrounds to start working for the different ministries and public bodies to encourage greater foreign direct investment.

We need a state that values hard work and merit above favour and connection.

Let’s learn from others as to how they operate but keep true to ourselves.

We need to do better, and our politicians must work for us and listen to the people more.

It’s time to fix Cyprus.

Dr Stelios Platis Economist (PhD Cambridge), Compliance Consultant