This column has on countless occasions argued that government deci-sion-making through consensus is a misguided practice, which in the name of democracy causes untold harm to society. The argument supporting this way of doing things, so dear to our politicians as it frees them of the burden of responsibility for decision-making, is that all stakeholders should have a say on policy formulation and legislation. This is why at House committee meetings discussing government bills every interest group is invited to have its say.
Politicians are of the belief this is the democratic way of running a country. Nothing could be further from the truth, because policy designed to satisfy all interested parties is at best ineffective and, at worse, disastrous. However the concept of consensus allows politicians to have an easy life as they do not have to take personal responsibility for tough decisions – that is why real leadership is unknown – leaving this to the committee of interests they set up in the name of democracy.
In the end, the consensus is a sham, because it is used by powerful interest groups to impose their wishes on the rest of society. It is the way our elite covers up union rule. Cyta and the EAC will not be privatised because their respective unions have vetoed the government decision. The government has bent over backwards, offering an array of sweeteners to the employees, but unions, supported by the opposition parties, refuse to budge. How demo-cratic is it for a few thousand employees to be blocking decisions taken by the government elected by the majority of the population?
The lunacy of consensus is best illustrated by the way state education is run. Consensus is so highly valued by the education minister he even consults clueless teenage school-kids that have also organised themselves into a un-ion about education policy. But the real force are the teaching unions which, in effect, decide everything in education. If the education ministry takes a decision they do not approve of, they threaten a strike, the minister calls un-ion representatives for talks, gives in to their demands and consensus is se-cured. This happened just a couple of weeks ago with the education minister changing a policy decision after unions had threatened to strike.
His submission to the unions did not go down well with another group of stakeholders – the pancyprian confederation of parents’ associations – who feel the minister had let down their kids. An announcement issued by the confederation claimed the trustworthiness of the minister and the ministry had been dealt a fatal blow. It has even been reported that the confederation was considering calling its own strike – parents telling their kids not to go to school in protest against the union-imposed ministry decision – to put pres-sure on the ministry.
This should not surprise anyone, because blackmail has always facilitated the securing of consensus.