MUCH HAS been written and said about the ridiculous ‘solidarity fund’ set up by Demetris Christofias, a couple of months after his election, in order to help citizens in need of financial help. No accounts were kept, the auditor-general was never informed about its existence, the money in the fund, apart from €30,000 was given out in the two months preceding the 2013 presidential elections and there was no documentation to justify/explain donations.
It is nothing less than we would have expected from Christofias, who, in his five years in office, behaved as if he owned the state and believed the concept of accountability did not apply to him. The very idea of the ‘fund’ was suspect. Individuals were invited to contribute to the ‘solidarity fund’ and the money – a total of €542,000 was collected over five years – would be distributed to the poor Christofias considered deserving.
The fact that €522,000 was given out in the two months preceding the elections suggested Christofias’ motives were not so pure. There were also allegations that money was only given to AKEL sympathisers and supporters, which was most probably the case as there was no way people not connected with the party could have known about the fund, the existence of which was never made public. Surely all poor citizens should have been informed about the fund so they could apply for help from the president.
This is too much to expect in a country in which rusfeti (personal favours) reigns supreme. Christofias’ charity was rusfeti. These practices also create the conditions for corruption; if a businessman who donated tens of thousands to the ‘fund’ requested some rusfeti or bending of the law by the president, could he have been turned down?
In properly-run states, cash assistance to the poor is the responsibility of the state services – criteria need to be satisfied, procedures followed and rules obeyed. Here help is at the discretion of the politicians. Earlier this week, it was reported that AKEL deputy Stavros Evagorou would write to the finance ministry seeking cash assistance for individuals in need; apparently other deputies did the same. What is incredible is that the finance ministry has a special fund that is part of its annual budget and is used to help poor citizens, on the recommendation of deputies, in what is rusfeti for a worthy cause.
This type of rusfeti suits politicians as it makes them appear compassionate and caring; it is the reason Christofias set up his ‘solidarity fund’. When will our politicians learn that it is not for them to decide who deserves cash hand-outs, but that this responsibility belonged to the state and was governed by rules and regulations?