There were no big surprises in the new cabinet line-up announced by President Anastasiades on Tuesday as six old ministers were kept, five at the same ministry while Costas Kadis was moved from education to agriculture, in what appeared a demotion. It was more a freshening up of the Council of Ministers than an overhaul, the ministers deemed to have done a good job retained by the president and only five new people appointed.
Nicos Christodoulides, who was appointed foreign minister, could not be described as a newcomer as he has served as government spokesman and director of the president’s diplomatic office for five years. Anastasiades had set his mind on appointing Christodoulides, ignoring Harris Georgiades’ threat last week to quit the cabinet if he did not move to the foreign ministry. In the end the president persuaded him to stay at finance, which was a good thing as he has done an excellent job in a very difficult period for the economy and inspires the confidence of the public and the business world.
The job of foreign minister enjoys high status and little responsibility, a small country like Cyprus having a very small role to play in foreign affairs either on its own or as a member of the EU. The main responsibility of the foreign minister is managing the rivalries of the high-ranking ministry employees that are all vying for the four or five top posts. Christodoulides’ management skills will be tested at the foreign ministry at which one of his subordinates will be his wife.
The other ministers retained were Constantinos Petrides (interior), Yiorgos Lakkotrypis (commerce and energy), Zeta Emilianidou (labour) and Ionas Nicolaou (justice), all of whom were successful and will provide experience and continuity. The new education minister, Costas Hambiaouris, has an impressive list of educational qualifications but we have to question the wisdom of appointing a former teacher to a post that has to deal with aggressively militant teaching unions. Would he be able to stand up to them or will he allow them to call the shots as his predecessor made a habit of doing?
The new health minister, Costas Ioannou, a businessman with no political experience, arguably has the toughest job of the lot as he will have to implement the introduction of the national health scheme. His lack of political experience may be an advantage in dealing with all the different interests that are threatening the introduction of Gesy.
Anastasiades just about kept his election promise to bring in more women to the cabinet, even though women remain grossly under-represented. Vassiliki Anastasiadou (no relation) was made minister of communications and Natasa Pilidou was appointed to the newly created post of under-secretary for shipping. A woman was also appointed deputy government spokesperson.
Anastasiades has opted for continuity rather than radical change, which was no bad thing, especially as he kept Georgiades at finance.