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The need for a Deputy Ministry of Interior

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I submitted  some years ago to the then Minister of the Interior, Neoclis Sylikiotis, that it was impossible for a single person with no matter how many qualifications, to be able to manage such a multifaceted ministry, and especially the complexities related to the property and development industries.

The discussion proceeded with our proposal for the ministry to hire qualified private assistants.

The obstacle was that bids had to be submitted, which was not in line with the goal (i.e. the cheapest to become the assistant to the minister).  Also, since this was some kind of political position, the issue would become even more complicated, without there being any guarantee that the deputy ministry would be staffed with the best officers.

Under the circumstances, I was particularly pleased with the decision to create a Deputy Ministry of Shipping, then Tourism, and more departments that followed, including Innovation, Social Welfare, etc.

The issue is to select the right deputy ministers not so much from among party officials, but people with knowledge and experience in the private sector and not former government employees.

If you ask the various former directors of the lands office and town planning departments, who are now working in the private sector, they will answer that they “did not know the situation from the other side” – that is, the private individuals, their concerns, the difficulties, the incomprehensible bureaucracy and so much more.

The Deputy Minister, as mentioned above, would do well to be aware of the government procedures so as not to be guided by the existing Civil Servants who in their majority do not want change and do not know how this will be achieved.

At that time, we had developed a relationship of mutual information with Mr. Sylikiotis and one of our successes in these briefings was our contribution towards the building amnesty regarding the calculation of compensation with “valuation bands”, although we disagreed on others.

Opportunity

Now there is an opportunity to correct matters to a new level with the new spirit of change advocated by the new government, while the initial two junior ministers of tourism and shipping, showed what a Deputy Ministry can produce results (which admittedly the results are very positive).  This in itself offers an encouragement to create more deputy ministries, as the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus limits the number of Cabinet portfolios to just ten.

I have studied the previous qualifications required for a Deputy Minister of the Interior in terms of duties and I have opinions, although they are not of the present, as long as  this proposal is adopted.

A minister has duties and obligations both those of his/her ministry and ministerial committees, party meetings, individual citizens’ problems, funerals and public speeches, social events and so many others, which are humanly impossible to deal with, both in terms of time and knowledge.

The Directors General are not the most suitable people to assist in political . By extension, I submit to you that a Director  General who has been in this position after more than 20 years of service, guided by his predecessors in the public service, will not be able to escape the status quo since he has never worked in the private sector.

Taking into account the inefficiency of the civil service and the hardships it causes, the cost of creating new Deputy Ministries is minimal with actual savings, in terms of better execution and immediate decisions.

Talking years ago with my classmate Andreas Christou, former Minister of the Interior, I told him that “I have 72 employees and at 8.30 p.m. I sleep on the couch from fatigue, how do you manage?”

I’m sure many of you have seen the very successful “Yes, Minister”  TV.series where the basis was that, whatever the minister wants, it is the civil servants that run the department.

I add as an example the various issues related to real estate, adopting the standard tactic in alternative proposals to which they would answer “this cannot be done”, a position adopted by our MPs who are called upon to study the various  issues, and are at a loss.

In a meeting with a member of the House Finance Committee and after we explained to him some issues about real estate, he told us “what do you want me to do, this is what the officials tell us. How can I contradict them and what will I propose to them?”.

Assistants for MPs

To this end, I submitted the proposal for the adoption of assistants (2-3 persons per MP) with the assistants being proposed by the same MPs and screened by the University of Cyprus for their competence. So they should be partisan on the one hand, but there should also be the appropriate quality on the other.  This idea was adopted, but without the provision of supervision or review by the University of Cyprus, which would have been an impartial partner.

This is the new approach to things and it needs the contribution of all those who can take this issue forward.

In the end, we should all remember what a new service costs and what it will yield, a kind of cost benefit analysis, before its adoption.  Perhaps the Auditor General can help or foreign consultants.

For example, I approached the respective Ministers of the Interior to regulate the legislation on common expenses  and despite their initial positive approach, the issue has been stagnant for 15 years, with the numerous economic, social and humanitarian frictions.

Similarly, we applied to the current Minister of Interior for the improvement of the proposal for the reduction of rents and affordable housing, a proposal that was submitted repeatedly since 2013 and 2017, then in 2019 and more recently in 2023 without response, while our experience in parliament with the vested interests involved is the worst.

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

  • Urban planning issues
  • Lands office issues

The above covers 40% of the minister’s work and will allow him to be more effective in his own work.

 

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