The transparency the government decided to introduce for the distribution and use of Turkish Cypriot properties is a welcome move even though it has arrived some 35 years too late. All the prime pieces of Turkish Cypriot real estate were distributed in the 80s and 90s without transparency and tight regulations.
Over the years countless irregularities have been reported. People that were ineligible, not being refugees, were given big plots, eligible individuals sub-let properties they were given, others did not pay the small rent charged by the guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties, big developers being were given access to such land and so forth.
Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides spoke openly about the corruption and unfairness of the old procedures on Monday after the Council of Ministers approved the new regulations that ensure transparency and access to information. In the past, Petrides said, information about available Turkish Cypriot properties was not made known to the public, with the result that a small group of people in the know benefited. To make matters worse, there were no objective criteria, thus allowing corrupt practices.
The new system provides that all available properties for housing, farming and business will be listed on a government website that everyone would be able to access. The names of successful applicants would subsequently be published, except those for housing as this would be a violation of personal data. Transparency of this type is a safeguard against corruption, as it would ensure the criteria are satisfied and there is no bending of the rules.
This is a commendable initiative by the government, which has also initiated proceedings to reclaim Turkish Cypriot properties used by ineligible individuals. Since 2013, the minister said, about 600 properties had been reclaimed and the objective was full compliance with the law eventually. Given the slowness of the justice system it could take a very long time before all the properties are reclaimed and made available to those eligible, but nobody could accuse the government of ignoring the matter, like all its predecessors had done.
Corrective measures are being taken to put right the injustices of the past and transparent procedures have been introduced to ensure against corrupt practices in the future. It may have taken a long time to tackle the issue, because the political parties were involved in the corruption surrounding the distribution of Turkish Cypriot properties, but it is better late than never.