By Loucas Charalambous
THE NEWS that essentially political appointments have been created with the introduction of new positions – known as under-secretary at ministries – is yet another demonstration of the callousness that has always characterised our political culture. It shows how ruthless our leadership is when it wants to implement its petty, political designs.
The indifference shown by President Nicos Anastasiades to the universal public outcry indicates that even what our politicians describe as political cost, cannot deter them once they have decided their petty political designs are the priority.
No rational person can accept the arguments used to justify the creation of these posts. It is ridiculous, in a microscopic statelet – with the population of a municipality of a European state – that already has 11 ministries, to claim that we supposedly need six to seven under-secretary posts and to present this foolish idea as a necessity that would help development.
If there was a real need in some departments, could not a directorate have been set up at the relevant ministry and one of the many senior pen-pushers that exist in all ministries, be placed in charge of it? Do we really need to set up new positions and burden the empty state coffers with additional costs?
In today’s conditions of state bankruptcy, the president’s insistence on implementing his plan becomes an intolerable provocation. At a time when 50,000 people are jobless and, in order to stay afloat, the state has imposed crippling taxes while also forcing tens of thousands of pensioners to live on 300 to 400 euro a month, it is an insult to the intelligence of every citizen to insist on creating new posts to distribute among sulking party members.
The justice minister tried to gloss over the issue and temper the hostile reaction – expressed even by the DISY chief – by claiming that the cost for three under-secretariats, which the government plans to set up in the first stage, would only be €350,000. However he also said that the under-secretaries would receive the same salary as a minister and be eligible for a state limo and police guards.
He omitted to mention the bonus they will receive when they step down and the hefty state pensions they will be entitled to for the rest of their lives, after completing 18 months in the post. With 30 months of service, an under-secretary will be entitled to a retirement bonus of €58,000 and an annual pension of €12,500, which is as much as private sector employee receives after 45 years of work.
What cheek the DISY leader Averof Neophytou had to say, the other day, that this government would scrap the privileges and distortions and dismantle the ‘small kingdoms’. In reality, it will be creating new ones.
Apart from provoking public criticism, this ingenious idea of the president constitutes an aimless and foolish political act at this moment in time. Within the next few days or weeks, an initiative for the settlement of the Cyprus problem is set to begin, an initiative Anastasiades considers the most serious to date.
The president himself speaks of negotiations lasting a few months. It would not be possible for the settlement drive to last longer, because of the scheduled elections in Turkey. A possible settlement would render some of today’s ministers redundant as many responsibilities (foreign affairs, defence, European Union) would be transferred to the federal state.
So who is obliging us now to proceed with the creation of under-secretariats and the appointment of under-secretaries who, in the event of a settlement, will be abolished? What other need, apart from satisfying the few party hangers-on that will be appointed, does this unjustifiable insistence of Anastasiades serve?
And how convincing can the president be when he speaks, on the one hand, about the excess fat of the state which he is determined to cut and, on the other, he is pursuing a policy designed to add fat to the state that would only have to be cut in a few months if the efforts for a settlement, he supposedly craves, succeeds?