*By Andreas C Chrysafis
Is there any hope for Cyprus ever becoming a modern-thinking society politically and socially in line with other nations? Ask a Cypriot and will proudly admit that Cyprus may suffer from “teething” problems but it will ultimately catch up with the rest; ask others who are accustomed to live within the Rule of Law, government accountability and transparency, and they will tell you otherwise.
On the surface Cyprus appears to be as shining as a sparkling glass but there is a dark underline murkiness that lurks deep within its roots. Many academics and political analysts have attempted for many years to pinpoint the reasons as to why the social and political system on the island, has not produced favourable results. In their attempts to analysis or understand this predicament, they encounter a most perplexed situation; they discover that the problem is so deeply entrenched into society that it will take years to correct itself – if ever!
The island it’s certainly a wonderful country full of history, enriched with ancient traditions and offers excellent prospects for the future. It is also endowed with smart intelligent professionals and successful businesspersons, a highly educated population and it’s equally blessed with top-rate academics; all good reasons for a steady growth! Given those qualities the island should have been transformed into a first class nation, or even the Switzerland of the Med. But, it was not meant to be!
In contradiction to its public image, some institutions like its universities, private hospitals, financial services including its vibrant shipping industry, they have developed an impeccable reputation internationally and for a very good reason: they operate under the rules of meritocracy! Their demand for high standards of excellence, experience and professionalism as well as customer service, are second to none. The principle of meritocracy has been crucial to their success and a prerequisite for hiring brainpower. That choice has paid off handsomely! Without a doubt, meritocracy is the basic foundation for prosperity in business and fairness in government and industry. Yet, Cyprus has failed miserably on this area!
From its first day of independence, the Republic has managed to wrap a stranglehold around its neck. This social stranglehold on the nation has been devastating to say the least and the culprits of this its politics… but not any politics! Politics that manipulate dangerously and control people’s minds dogmatically, and equally dictate how a nation should think or behave; such political system that aims to control the minds of citizens, it’s not tolerated in civilized countries.
In advanced nation, people are free citizens with free minds. They can freely choose and elect a political party one-day, and another one the next! There are no political repercussions or stigmatization within such a highly developed society. That is the result of a politically matured society, where people use logic, and common sense rather that blind dogma. Unfortunately, not so in Cyprus!
Initially, the Makarios government set out to please or appease EOKA members, labour unions, and supporters of the liberation struggle. It handed out government jobs, cash or key positions in the public sector and it did that on a silver platter, just like candy. With them came a horde of others: family members; colleagues; friends and their families; payback favours and “koumbarous of koumbarous”. However, there was a small problem: none of them, qualified for the job at hand and most certainly, not how to run a nation!
Under those conditions the incubation process for nepotism had produced outstanding results. It quickly entrenched itself in all institutions, schools and government offices, including the private and public sector where the virus of corruption grew astronomically to taint everything on its path; it did so, at the expense of dignity, respect and social consciousness! In the final end – especially after 1974 Turkish invasion – trustworthiness among people has become a romantic memory of the past.
All governments followed suit! Instead of attempting to curb this appalling behaviour, they helped to escalate the “tradition” of nepotism and cronyism. In doing so, the virus of this social disease continued to grow indiscriminately with no signs of abating. It soon became a way of life in Cyprus and all that mattered, was to gain access to the right “connections”; secure a lucrative job that provided a good pension; few working hours and make money at any cost. Profits (which can never be economically sustainable) had become the new religion of the day at the expense of everything else!
Given no other choice, citizens quickly realized that in order to get things done or to get ahead, one has to pay. The principle of “nothing, is for nothing”, took deep roots in an unstable social and political environment. They accepted the code of bribes without hesitation. Then, came the proverbial “10% Man” who sprung out of the dust: now everyone expects a kickback for any kind of business introduction! In reality, many people turned into “agents” in a thriving shady system that no one, not even the government dared to change. It will be a political suicide to kill the goose that lays the golden egg!
To secure a job in the public sector for example unless the applicant is “connected” or approved by the “party committee” or the “comma” (party), the hopeful stands no chance of employment. Frustrated and disillusioned, many highly qualified experts in sciences, medicine, academia, engineering, IT and new technologies, soon pack up and leave the country. Today, this murky system continues without accountability, institutional responsibility and certainly without transparency.
Ultimately, the political parties and labour unions have become the masters of the nation and the “comma” has been transformed into a “living entity” and a controlling factor in society. They use their membership to make deals and counter-deals in order to consolidate their own powers – for power corrupts indiscriminately indeed! They have developed such a strong grip on society, that no government or political party wants to alter the status quo, for they are all part of it! Consequently, the government and its institutions work in a shroud of secrecy and shun away from transparency. As for accountability, it’s non-existent!
A classic case of the worse blunder of incompetence and non-accountability has been the Mari explosion on July 11, 2011, which killed 13 innocent people and nearly brought the country to its knees and without electricity. Rightly so, the government ordered a public inquiry to “discover” what went wrong. Ironically, it also demanded that the results of the inquiry to be kept secret – under “national security”! The president’s plan has backfired miserably. A nation-wide outcry for transparency and vociferous calls for the resignation of the entire cabinet, including the president, forced the government to retract its orders. People had enough of corruption and cover-ups of cover-ups, and finally, they have spoken out with a clear message for justice: and a healthy sign for democracy indeed!
All considered, the present social and political system, it cannot be sustainable: not unless sweeping changes are put in place! It will certainly require a complete rethink, especially of its education system, which sadly has failed to inspire an entire generation of educated people known as the X-generation – unemployed young people without hope for the future and without a purpose!
Perhaps, there remains one last option: the government must put in action a long-term plan based on meritocracy and recruit independent top experts and technocrats, academics, think tanks and brain imports to come up with solutions. These people can no longer be ignored or brushed aside for political expediency as before! They may be the only people who can provide answers and hope for a better future; not the politicians! As long as the country it’s controlled by dogmatic political parties, intransigent labour unions and self-serving petty politicians, Cyprus will never free itself from the stranglehold around its neck.
*Andreas C Chrysafis is the author of:
WHO SHALL GOVERN CYPRUS – Brussels or Nicosia? -Political analysis
ANDARTES – a revolutionary riveting novel
PORPHYRA in PURPLE – a metaphysical spellbinding novel
All books are available from: Bookshops, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Waterstone’s, Kindle and the Internet. Other published articles can be found on Google and Greek Reporter under “Vanishing Cyprus” or under “Andreas C Chrysafis”.