IT SEEMS the preferred form of travel of all our presidents is by private jet. When he was president, the late Tassos Papadopoulos had asked his associates to explore the possibility of purchasing a small jet but abandoned the idea after receiving contradictory messages from these associates. Demetris Christofias did not consider purchasing a jet, but he would hire one when there was a need, having first secured the approval of the legislature for the expenditure.
President Anastasiades has also developed a liking for this ultra-exclusive form of travel and has in the past used private jets provided by friends. Now he has been made an offer he finds very hard to turn down. Super-wealthy, UK-based, Cypriot businessman Chris Lazari has offered to pay the cost for the use of a private jet by the president and Anastasiades accepted. In order to show that there was nothing suspicious in the arrangement the presidential palace announced it publicly.
But the transparency backfired, the president coming under heavy criticism both from opposition parties and the media, for compromising himself. He was reminded that his ministers, on appointment, were made to sign a ‘Code of Conduct Charter’ so as not to compromise themselves in performing their duties. It was also noted that private individuals should not undertake state responsibilities. If the president had to use a private jet he should have followed the normal procedure of having the necessary expenditure approved by the legislature, it was pointed out.
Anastasiades refused to back down, issuing a statement on Monday saying that if he had thought for a minute that the institution of the presidency would have been undermined by this donation to the state by “a patriot living abroad with no business interests in Cyprus and no intention to pursue any” he would not have accepted it. The statement then said that if his critics preferred that he burdened the state budget with the same amount used by his predecessor for private jet travel, he would turn down Lazari’s offer.
This was not a very smart response, because it treats the use of a private jet by the president as a priority. We hate to agree with AKEL, but the party was correct to point out that the amount Lazari would have spent on providing the president with a private jet could have been used to help impoverished Cypriots. For instance, it could have been used to purchase supplies for the many charities that support families that have no money to buy food. That is a much more worthwhile cause than providing the president with a private jet for his travels.