By Poly Pantelides
THE STATE can be modernised by giving the public a greater say in the decision-making and reform process, President Nicos Anastasiades said yesterday.
Addressing volunteer groups on the first year marking Public Consultation Day, Anastasiades invited the public and stakeholders to discuss how the volunteerism movement can be supported and modernised. The discussion was held at the Presidential Palace with the participation of local authorities, the Church and volunteer groups.
The cabinet established public consultation day as a way to institutionalise public involvement on policy drafting. The plan is for ministries and state services to hold public consultations on core issues every four months.
Three such meeting were held yesterday – the health ministry discussed organ donation, the communications’ ministry discussed road safety and job issues were discussed at the ministry of labour, while earlier this week the justice ministry discussed women’s participation in politics. Next week, the agriculture ministry will host a discussion on environmental laws.
Anastasiades said the process of public consultations will bring the government and the public closer together and help them modernise government.
The government’s efforts are largely outlined and motivated by an agreement with international lenders to modernise much of the system, a huge endeavour for a country that has kept intact structures dating back decades that now need to be urgently reformed.
The idea to institutionalise public consultations was suggested by the recently appointed commissioner on volunteer and non-governmental organisations, Yiannis Yiannaki.
Anastasiades said the government appointed the first volunteer commissioner so that together they could draw up a comprehensive policy on volunteerism. As part of that policy, NGOs now need to submit audited financial accounts to remain registered, while the government is finalising its strategy on donations by mulling setting up a body to check and evaluate priorities. The government is also considering codifying the skills and knowledge obtained via volunteering, to incorporate them in education and in the workplace.
“You have taken on many of our society’s problems with your worthwhile work,” Anastasiades told volunteers.