Cyprus Mail
CyprusOpinion

Municipalities strangled by the party machine

Mayor of Morphou Charalambos Pittas

OF everything that has been said about municipalities, mayors and municipal councils ahead of next Sunday’s local government elections, the most important concerns the financial costs, which are paid for by the taxpayer.

We pay for the upkeep of a huge number of municipalities (39 in total), of which nine do not even exist as they are occupied. It is plainly ridiculous that there are 39 municipalities for a total population of 800,000 when in Europe and elsewhere cities with populations of millions are organised into a single municipality.

The occupied municipalities are one of those paradoxical phenomenons that could only happen in this strange country. Even if we accept that for Famagusta we could make an exception, because of special circumstances, there is no logic or justification for the rest of the occupied municipalities. As they do not exist, one wonders what is the point of maintaining the municipalities of Lefkoniko, Akanthou, Lysi and Kythrea for so many years.

Apart from keeping party members happy by offering them posts as sham mayors and municipal councillors, there is no rational explanation for this story. One wonders what topics are discussed when the municipal councils of Kythrea, Akanthou, Lefkoniko and Morphou meet, if and when they meet.

As mentioned above, the only practical consequence of maintaining and operating, at least the so-called occupied municipalities, is to take care of many party members with taxpayer’s money. For the salaries of the mayors of the nine occupied municipalities alone, about €280,000 is spent every year according to the figures given by the Statistical Service.

The annual salary for the mayor of Famagusta is €42,168, for those of Morphou and Kyrenia €35,130, while the mayors of Lapithos, Lefkoniko, Akanthou and Kythrea receive €28,164. There are also expense allowances, travel allowances etc. To these amounts we should also add the remuneration of municipal councillors, the pay and benefits of employees, rents and operating costs for offices, trips abroad etc.

Which brings us back to the same question: what purpose is served, apart from paying money to party members, by the operation of municipalities for villages in the north some of which do not even have residents? The blame for all this belongs to our political establishment which after the invasion ensured it maintained, for no real reason, all this bizarre and unnecessary infrastructure with taxpayer’s money.

We should also point out that in the case of municipalities, occupied or not, the other hideous phenomenon that prevails is the Methuselah rule. The posts of mayor and councillor have recycled the same people for decades now. Some of them are pensioners from the public or the private sector. I see promotional leaflets and messages from mayors and councillors who are seeking re-election to posts they have held for 20 or 30 years. “We continue” is their most common slogan.

But of course the question is: why do they continue? To do what? What they had to give they gave in the previous 20 or 30 years. Even if they were once good at their job, how much energy and strength have they got left?

We need young people with appetite, new spirit and fresh ideas, but unfortunately such people are not backed by the party mechanisms. And where they appear on their own, as candidates with ambitions to be elected so they can bring new ideas and proposals, they face the open hostility of the parties that prefer the Methuselahs. This tactic confirms that everything they say and promise voters are just slogans and cheap demagoguery.

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