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Ministers need expert advice

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I submitted a few years ago to the then Minister of Interior that it was humanly impossible for a person with the best qualifications to manage such a diverse ministry.

The discussion proceeded with a proposal to hire private consultants or professionals with the appropriate qualifications.

The obstacle was that public tenders had to be invited, which is not in line with the goal (i.e. to award the job to the best and not the lowest priced, to become an assistant to the minister).

Also, since it was a political appointment, the issue would have been further complicated without guaranteeing that the ministry would employ the best.

So, I was particularly pleased with the decision to create a deputy Ministry of Tourism and Shipping and the others that followed.

The issue is choosing a deputy minister not from party officials but from people with knowledge and experience in the private sector, not former government officials.

If you ask the various former Land Registry and Town Planning directors who are now working as private practitioners, they will answer that they “did not know the situation from the other side” – that is, the worries of the public, their concerns, the difficulties, the impenetrable bureaucracy.

The Undersecretary (or deputy Minister) mentioned above should be aware of the government procedures so as not to be subject to advice by civil servants who, in their majority, do not want any change nor do they know how this will be achieved.

I then developed a relationship of mutual information with the minister.

One of our “successes” was our contribution to the building amnesty in calculating compensation with “valuation bands”.

There is now an opportunity to take things to a new level with the spirit of change advocated by the present government.

The two new deputy Ministries of Tourism (Mr Perdios) and Shipping (originally Ms Pilides and now Mr Demetriades) have shown what such deputies can do when using people outside the Public Service.

I have studied the specifications of the deputy ministers regarding their duties and have certain views.

A minister has duties of their ministry, weekly Council of Ministers meetings, meetings at the House of Representatives, ministerial committees, party meetings, individual problems of citizens, funerals/speeches, and social events which are impossible to deal with in terms of time and knowledge.

At the same time, I believe that the Directors of such Ministries are not the right people to help in political decisions.

Considering the inefficiency of the Public Service and the costs it causes, the cost of the deputy ministries is minimal compared to the savings (in terms of better execution/immediate decisions) with tangible results.

Talking years ago with my former classmate Andreas Christou, former Minister of Interior, I told him, “I have 72 employees, and the time is 8.30 pm; I sleep on the couch from fatigue; how do you do it?”

Yes Minister

I’m sure you’ve seen the popular UK TV series, “Yes Minister”, where no matter what the minister wishes, the one who manages issues is the Public Service.

For example, the real estate tax, the Land Registry, and the Interior Ministry, in various ways, adopt evasive tactics for alternative proposals with the answer “this is not possible”.

In a meeting with members of the House Finance Committee and after we explained some issues regarding the real estate market, they said, “what do you expect us to do?”.

To improve knowledge/efficiency, I submitted a proposal for the adoption of assistants (2-3 people per MP), with the assistants being proposed by the same MPs and screened by the University of Cyprus for their adequacy.

So yes, they would be party members on the one hand, but there should be higher quality on the other.

This idea was adopted but without the provision for approval by the University of Cyprus. So, once again, a “job for the boys”.

This is the new approach to matters that needs the contribution of all who can promote this issue.

Before its adoption, we should all remember what a new service costs and what it will yield – a kind of cost-benefit analysis.

Maybe the Auditor General can help or foreign consulting firms.

I have approached the respective Ministers of Interior to regulate the legislation on common expenses. Unfortunately, despite their initial positive approach, the issue has remained stagnant for 15 years (recently, the Commissioner of Legislation took some initiative).

I similarly addressed the current Minister of Interior for the improvement of the proposal for the reduction of rents/affordable housing, a proposal which was submitted repeatedly from 2013 and 2017, again in 2019, without response, while our approach to Parliament with the political interests got involved is that worst – the result was nothing.

For the potential “new” Deputy Minister of Interior, I suggest that he deal with:

  • Town planning issues
  • Lands Office matters
  • Legal issues (such as rent expropriations and T/C properties).

The above covers 40% of the minister’s work and will allow the minister to be more effective and have good governance in general.

 

Antonis Loizou, Real Estate Appraiser, Real Estate Seller & Development Project Manager