By Petros Florides
FOR DECADES, Cyprus has been addicted to bad governance whilst also suffering from compulsive behaviour towards poor practices. This is evidenced by the seemingly endless stream of alleged corruption and proven recklessness, negligence or incompetence emanating from the wider public sector and banking industries. Despite differing opinions about our treatment at the hands of the troika, it is clear to all neutral observers that some kind of outside intervention was necessary to save us from eventual self-annihilation.
We can no longer fool ourselves that we are immune to the deleterious outcomes of our desperate condition that is the antithesis of transparency, accountability, probity and sustainability. So, the opportunity now exists for Cyprus to follow a tried and tested method of recovery to break free from its chronic addiction and crippling compulsive behaviour.
Step 1: We admit ‘the way we do things around here’ is utterly hopeless as a modus operandi to achieving sustainable economic success. As Albert Einstein taught us, a problem is not solved using the same consciousness that created it. Therefore, good governance is the best solution to a crisis induced by bad governance.
Step 2: We accept ‘we are all in this together’ and put aside our differences to unite for a better future around this common cause. Tired and vacuous arguments that serve only to artificially divide society into opposing groups should be ignored.
Step 3: We commit to identifying a purpose higher than our short-term self-interest to inspire us to build a sustainable economic future. The nation’s children, who play oblivious to the huge burden they will inherit due to our failure to be good and honest stewards, should provide the perfect inspiration. If not, we are truly beyond help.
Step 4: We commit to undertaking a fearless inventory of ourselves to identify what has gone so wrong in our country within such a relatively short period of time. Our cultural idiosyncrasies of, inter alia, cronyism, tokenism, short-termism, populism, scapegoatism, clientism and tribalism must be confronted with all the courage and determination we can muster.
Step 5: We declare a collective mea culpa for what has transpired to date, reinforced by private reflection on the way each of us tolerated, acquiesced or manipulated the system. Each one of us must model good governance in our private and professional life and be part of the solution. Otherwise, we are simply contributors to the wider problem.
Step 6: We acknowledge that ordinary people have suffered because of our actions or inaction. This includes: countless losers-out to ‘rusfeti’, buyers of property without title deeds, depositors subjected to a haircut, over-charged but under-served taxpayers, minority shareholders lacking proper protection, retail investors mis-sold unsuitable products, to name just a few.
Step 7: We commit to making amends to the people who suffer by demanding justice prevails. A way must be found to pressurise the authorities into utilising, without fear or favour, laws and regulations whenever a breach occurs. It is an insult to everybody when laws and regulations are not implemented or enforced.
Step 8: We will not succumb to fatalism due to size of the task at hand. Each small step on the long journey towards good governance contributes to a better future. We need to keep encouraging and supporting each other as we collaborate through initiatives like ‘New Governance for a New Cyprus’ that is open to any organisation, institution or individual to join. Let’s be the ones ensuring “hope springs eternal” in Cyprus too.
Step 9: We commit to identifying the ethics, values and principles that should determine how our systemically important public interest entities, whether public or private, are governed and managed. The conversation must move beyond “You can’t prove I’ve done anything wrong” towards “I’d like to show you what I’m doing right”. To facilitate this step, World Vision and Noverna Consulting are co-sponsoring qualitative and quantitative public research to inform a proposed governance charter with universal applicability.
Step 10: We commit to revising and enhancing laws and regulations governing the duties and obligations of directors of our systemically important public interest entities. The discussion should include the efficacy of increased personal liability on directors for any breaches of either the letter or spirit of these laws or regulations.
Step 11: We commit to learning from our past mistakes by holding each other accountable. All stakeholder groups (e.g. lawmakers, regulators, shareholders, customers, academia, professional bodies, civil society, employees, media, creditors etc.) must be encouraged to play an active role and contribute to a new, holistic, good governance environment.
Step 12: We commit to regular self-review and evaluation for the foreseeable future. Our addiction and compulsion are so strong and entrenched we will probably need a generation to pass before even considering declaring victory.
Anybody interested in signing-up to Cyprus’ Twelve Step Recovery Programme is invited to contact PetrosFlorides at [email protected].
The views in this article represent those of the author and not any other individual or organisation.
Petros Florides is regional governance advisor for World Vision International and executive officer of World Vision Cyprus. Petros is also on the board of the Institute of Directors (Cyprus), co-founder of the Cyprus National Advisory Council for the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investments, co-founder of the Institute of Risk Management Cyprus Regional Group, and a chartered management accountant.