THE POLITICAL parties have every right to complain about government plans to create a National Security Council, which is nothing more than an excuse to create a few more highly paid but totally unnecessary jobs for the president’s cronies. Setting up a council with no real purpose at time of deep recession when the government has undertaken to cut public sector jobs to make the public wage-bill sustainable is a big provocation and the parties are perfectly entitled to block its creation.
The only justification given by the government was that the establishment of a national security council was included in President Anastasiades’ election programme. Does every stupid idea in an election programme have to be implemented? In fact President Anastasiades would be hard pressed to find a single person that voted for him that would feel cheated if he did not keep his promise to establish this ridiculously meaningless council, which all parties, including his own, have objections to.
Anastasiades and his advisors do not seem to realise that such badly thought out moves undermine the good decisions the government takes. Its decision to merge the Inland Revenue and VAT departments and place the new organisation under a tax commissioner, helped by three assistants was a welcome rationalisation step. The plan to allow anyone to apply for these posts was also an excellent decision, as it would put an end to the PASYDY closed shop. But because of the national security council proposal, the parties are claiming that the only reason public posts would be open to non-civil servants is so that Anastasiades would offer more jobs to his cronies.
The government has weakened a very strong case unnecessarily. Senior public positions must be open to individuals from the private sector for a number of reasons. First, it gives the state a bigger pool of candidates to choose from; second, outsiders have new management ideas and are better-equipped to manage because they are not former colleagues of their staff; third they have more incentive to get results because they would be hired on a four- or five-year contract; fourth the hiring of outsiders would make the public sector more competitive and encourage those eyeing top posts to work harder and more effectively; fifth removing someone from a top post every few years reduces the danger of de-motivation and corruption.
There are plenty more reasons for giving public sector posts to outsiders. For instance it would weaken PASYDY as it would no longer be able to place its members in the top posts, regardless of their abilities and management skills. This is why the union is so opposed to this radical measure and has recruited the support of the opposition parties in fighting it.
The only argument against the move is the danger of nepotism, the government of the day appointing party supporters to top public posts. This being Cyprus, this possibility could not be ruled out, which is why the government must also put in place procedures that ensure the right person is hired for each post. If that can be guaranteed, the government’s decision could prove one of great benefit to the public sector.