By Cleopatra Kitti
Cyprus has been in the spotlight in the Financial Times and other international media these past few weeks this week because of misuse of its ‘investment for passport’ scheme – the golden passport visa programme designed on the same lines as a number of other OECD and EU countries.
What is clear to me is that the problem is not a lack of rules. Rather, the problem is a lack of oversight, exacerbated by a culture that defines success by materialistic wealth. This not just a Cypriot challenge; it is an international governance challenge.
Cyprus’ public sector governance model needs modernising. It is still based on an anachronistic model in place since the colonial era with almost no reform. Unfortunately, government services do not function in a synchronised matrix enabled by technology, as they should, but are made up of thousands of public sector desk officers working in silo structures where bureaucracy prevails. It is these mechanisms and lack of oversight that allow for bad practice. And it is coupled by a culture where the power of money carries more weight than ethics and values. Money talks in many countries, large and small.
It is infuriating for those of us who champion good governance and ethics across all sectors – public, private and civil society – to be tarnished by the failings of governance by the few.
Cyprus must reform its public sector, both in terms of organisation and process. Other small countries have done it – Luxembourg being a shining example. Investment in technology and e-government brings efficiency and transparency. Its independent institutions, especially the media, must defend the rule of law and protect ethical codes of conduct in business. And Cyprus’ legal, accounting, audit professions and business associations carry significant responsibility in defending reputation, ethics and good governance.
We need role models of integrity and accountability; otherwise, culture never changes. It takes leadership to change culture, and those leaders who demonstrate the courage to persevere must be given a voice.
Change has to happen not just in Cyprus, but also in other countries around the world. We need to redefine what success looks like, and it is not short termism and selfish acts of greed.
Leadership occurs not just in high office, but also in everyday life. Find trusted, like-minded partners to do business with and base your relationships on integrity and good ethics. As Plato said: ‘For justice in the life and conduct of the state is possible only if it first resides in the hearts and souls of its citizens.’
Cleopatra Kitti is a Certified Independent Director, non executive director, founder of the Mediterranean Growth Initiative and advisor to multinationals doing business in the Mediterranean region