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Our View: Clear lack of government policy for rural areas

COMMUNITY leaders of the mountain villages of the Limassol district (the southern slopes of the Troodos mountain range) met President Anastasiades on Monday to discuss the problems faced by their communities.

The meeting was in keeping with the long tradition of the president meeting with different social or professional groups and taking a direct interest in on their problems. All presidents liked to have such meetings as the practice showed they were approachable, in touch with the people and took a direct interest in their problems. It also allowed a president to pose as the caring leader that solved problems facing the people.

Nobody seems to understand that these presidential publicity exercises reflect badly on state services that are shown to be unable to deal with routine problems faced by different interest groups. It also reveals the absence of government policies, which are shaped by interested parties meeting the president and telling him what they would like done. Anastasiades, during his term has met with countless groups, ranging from farmers to bondholders and from teachers to doctors, in some instances changing government policy where it existed.

In the case of Monday’s meeting, the main demand of the community leaders was for state assistance for keeping young people in the mountain villages, which had “come to resemble old people’s homes.” In the past there was housing assistance for young couples, of up to €17,000, which was suspended in 2012, and community leaders wanted it re-introduced. The interior minister, who was present at the meeting, was instructed to explore the matter as well as the possibility of offering cheap land to couples.

Predictably, the main demand of the community leaders was the building of a new road from Limassol to Saittas village. Plans for the road had been abandoned because of the economic meltdown, but it is back on the cards now, on the grounds that that it would make it easier for young residents to drive in to Limassol for work from the mountain villages. Work on the first section of the road would begin in 2018, the president told the delegation.

All this is indicative of the lack of a government policy for the rural areas which seems to be improvised in accordance with which groups the president sees. It is true that more and more young people are moving to the towns, but this where there are jobs, easy access to schools for children and an infinitely better range of services. Have government services ever conducted a study on how this trend could be reversed? Is this even possible or is it a losing battle. And why should we spend over a hundred million euro on a new road, if it will not reverse the trend, especially as the existing one satisfied the needs of road users?

This what happens when the government services do not have policies and these are shaped at meetings between the president and the interested parties.

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