By Hermes Solomon
THE Citizen Service Centres (CSC) issue documents and certificates for the road tax licence, motor vehicle immobilisation, international driving licence, driving licence, Identity card, Birth Certificate, Permanent Residence Certificate, European Health insurance card, social insurance contributions record and certificates to those insured under the social insurance scheme.
Other helpful services include the submission of applications for employment injury benefit, marriage grants, sickness benefits, student grant, refugee identity card, child allowance, maternity grant, registration in the electoral register (change of residence address of electors) passport issue or renewal and old age pension. All application forms are also available online from relevant government websites.
Government departments also offer services such as those for motor vehicles at Latsia ministry of transport, passports, IDs and electoral register at your local district office, refugee visas at the migration department, health cards at the ministry of health and unemployment claims/benefits, etc at the labour ministry.
There is a CSC in every major town (six in total) and they are, quite frankly, growing in popularity, well organised and efficient – staffed by charming, erudite, bi-lingual and computer proficient helpful employees – no pastries, frappes or mobile phones littering desks or in-trays.
I have availed myself of the Nicosia CSC on four separate occasions; the first time last August when most citizens were at the sea. I arrived fifteen minutes before opening at 7.45 am to join the queue and be issued with ticket number 32, which was called within an hour, my needs served supremely well.
The second visit in September to renew my driving licence coincided with the health ministry’s directive for all citizens to renew their health cards. The queue was a ‘mile’ long so I departed.
I returned at lunchtime and was issued with number 360 as the ‘crier’ called numbers 180 to 185. I returned the following late afternoon (open until 5.00 pm) when I was issued number 248 as the ’crier’ called 190 to 195, the issuer claiming that I would be seen within an hour. I waited 20 minutes before the crier called 196 to 201. I departed.
I went early the following morning to the Ministry of Transport head office at Latsia, where I was issued with number 30 as their ‘crier called numbers 6 to 8. I waited 15 minutes before the crier called 9 to 11. I departed.
Yes, I have completed driving licence application renewal form T.O.M. 7B and visited a pathologist at a cost of 50 euros to stamp health form T.O.M. 153G before acquiring two new passport sized photos at a cost of 10 euros, but I refuse to hang around for anything up to 4 hours, standing in a packed reception area or outside among smokers, waiting for my number to be called.
Such bureaucratic physical torture inflicted upon ‘less young’ citizens does not belong in a so called civilized EU member state, especially to those sufferers of osteoarthritis, heart conditions, obesity, varicose veins or similar ailments.
Why does this government not introduce a postal service for elderly citizens, many of whom drive down from the ‘hills’ to queue and painfully endure?
Driving licence renewals are obligatory for the over 70s and again at 73.
At first I visited the Old General outpatients, paid 3 euros and queued for an hour to be told by the lady doctor that I should go instead to the New General in Latsia, this putting me to untold inconvenience. If you can read a number plate at 20 metres, any pathologist can sign and stamp the ‘health form’.
You must appear in person at CSCs to renew a driving licence. Why, if the ‘paperwork’ has been accomplished satisfactorily – health check, form filling and photos? Renewal is free, but freedom from physical pain and endless queues is unavoidable!
The ‘personal touch’ in Cyprus is a hang up from Ottoman times and it’s about time many Citizen Centre services were offered online or by post with the aid of computer technology, scanners, faxes and printers as is the renewal of the Road Tax Licence.
If a survey was undertaken to establish the reasons behind citizens’ bureaucratic paper trail journeys’, most would be regarded as wasteful and pointless.
The population is growing older and the aged will soon outnumber the under 50s on an island ideally suited for retirees. Some consideration should be given to future simplification of bureaucratic demands lest the aged die queuing.
Modernisation and simplification of our civil service and judiciary is long overdue. The older I get the more I hurt in the mornings and the less I am inclined to stand in queues.
The general public have a right to demand they be treated like human beings and not like cattle queuing in pens at slaughterhouses to pay taxes, argue IPT assessments, health claims, etc. My wish to comply with the laws of the land is self-evident, but my physical ability to do so is waning.
A CSC spokesperson claimed last week that ‘the health card rush’ would die down and that ‘normal services’ would resume by January 2014. She did not say that chaos would resume by next July when those pensioners and citizens living below the 400 euro poverty line would rush to claim assistance under recent ministry of labour directives, which failed to say how those applying for assistance next July are expected to survive this winter.
By doubling the number of CSCs, our administration could radically reduce the number of bureaucrats ‘doubling’ for presently overworked CSCs at underworked government departments.
Any new CSCs should be easily accessible to public transport and offer adequate parking and more than adequate seated reception areas with wall wide screens showing the latest movie of ‘How the ordinary citizen was, and still is being raped by bankers, developers, politicians and bureaucrats’.