Cyprus scored poorly in the Sustainable Governance Indicators survey prepared by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation, which compares policy performance of members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and European Union member states.
The survey, which measures the performance of economic, social and environmental policies, the level of democracy and governance, showed that Cyprus ranked 38 this year in policy performance among 41 countries, with 4.82 points out of 10, just ahead of Turkey, Mexico and Greece, the survey of the Bertelsmann foundation said. In terms of levels of democracy and quality of governance, Cyprus ranked 32nd with 6.2 points and 41st with 4.31 points respectively.
Sweden topped in policy performance and democracy with 8.0 points and 9.19 points ahead of Denmark and Finland, while Norway had the highest score in governance with 8.44 points in which Finland was runner-up, according to the survey posted on the website of the foundation.
The sample average score in policy performance was 6.1, in democracy 7.2 and in governance 6.4 points.
Policy performance takes into account indicators reflecting the country’s policies in economy, labour market, taxes, budget, research and innovation, a government’s contribution in regulating the global financial system, education, social inclusion, health, family support, pensions, integration, crime safety, contribution in addressing global inequalities and environmental protection at local and international level. The quality of democracy evaluates the electoral process, independence of media, civil rights and the rule of law. The level of governance is determined by the ability of the executive to conceive, plan and steer reform processes and the accountability of the executive.
With respect to economic policies -where Cyprus scored 4.3 points- the Bertelsmann Stiftung said that “despite bright spots in its crisis management, Cyprus falls into the bottom ranks internationally with regard to economic policies”.
“Spiralling debts and banking-sector weaknesses forced Cyprus to accept an international bailout in 2013, resulting in significant spending and benefit cuts,” the foundation said. “Subsequent growth has been faster than expected, with deficits falling substantially. However, broader reform progress has been slow, and key social forces have been shut out of the process”.
While supervision of the financial sector “is being significantly strengthened,” the island still has way to go before it achieves consensus on long-term reforms.
The Bertelsmann Stiftung survey said that recent austerity and the recent increase in unemployment increased the risk of poverty and exclusion adding that welfare policies, including the introduction of the guaranteed minimum income have a mitigating effect.
“Non-Cypriots face a significantly higher risk of poverty than do natives, and many have left in recent years,” the survey said. “Migrant European Union nationals form a large share of the labour force, but little is done to facilitate long-term integration”.
The survey also described Cyprus’s environmental policy as “fragmented and badly coordinated” adding that the island “failed to meet is EU obligations in this area”. “Use of solar energy is rising, but progress in renewable-resource use more generally has been slow,” the survey said. “Water conservation and overuse of ground water are pressing issues. The crisis is leading to a relaxation of development restrictions, harming ecosystems”.
The Bertelsmann survey said that Cyprus’s saw the quality of its democracy fall in 2015 compared to 2014. “Mandatory-voting laws are no longer enforced, and electoral-participation rates have declined,” it said. “Voting rights in European elections have been extended to Turkish Cypriots, but response has been limited. Public and media debates have focused unfruitfully on partisan confrontation and assigning blame for the crisis”.
“Human trafficking has emerged as a serious civil-rights concern,” it added. “The revelation that security services were using surveillance software failed to trigger widespread debate. The media is increasingly dependent on financial interests, undermining critical reporting”.
The survey said that effectiveness of anti-corruption measures is ineffective and added that “political parties control access to appointments and other goods, creating pressure to join”.
While Cyprus has improved its strategic planning in fiscal matters after it resorted to a bailout in 2013, its administrative units continue to lack planning capacities and lacks a government office with sufficient expertise in evaluating draft fiscal laws and strategic plans, the survey said.
The survey added that Cyprus’s regulatory impact assessment “is unsystematic and often superficial” while “the relevance of consultation with societal actors has been diminished by bailout obligations”.
“A comprehensive plan for administrative reforms has been passed, but there is no central body tasked with monitoring,” it said. “The government has performed some bailout-related obligations comparatively efficiently, but with sharply negative impact on many individuals’ welfare”.
Last, the survey said that voter-turnout in recent elections is in decline reflecting “plummeting trust in politicians and institutions” with media being “often biased” with increasing dependence on financial interest which in turn influenced coverage.