SPEAKING at a public event organised by the ‘New Wave: the other Cyprus’ movement Cypriot Nobel prize winner, Christophoros Pissarides, said that the way forward for the country was through an economic reform programme free of party influence. He was absolutely right, in theory, but how can the theory be put into practice? How does our society rid itself of the toxic influence of the political parties, which exercise control over all aspects of public life making citizens feel beholden to them?
Pissarides mentioned people’s fear of cutting their links with the parties as political clientelism was the only way to achieve anything, and said this was a form of corruption. It is indeed a very effective form of corruption that has existed ever since the establishment of the Republic and keeps the parties in business. The parties have created an oversized public sector that pays big wages and benefits plus extortionate pensions and, not surprisingly, most of the population wants a job in it. Joining a party is the easiest way to secure such a job – abilities are irrelevant – and regular promotions, as long as the employee can attain mediocrity.
How can this system be broken, when half the population – if not more – wants to jump on the public sector gravy train and be set up for life, knowing that party membership would enhance prospects of landing the dream job? Polls of youths have shown that more than half of respondents wanted to work in the public sector, which unions, in cooperation with the parties, have made the best employer imaginable. If there was ever an attempt to reform this rotten system, there would be a revolution, not just by the parties and unions, but by all those that have been benefiting from it.
Presumably, Pissarides hopes that the New Wave movement would eventually have enough public support to introduce the much-needed reforms that would defeat the existing party system and make our economy competitive and dynamic. Perhaps a start would be to produce facts and figures illustrating the glaring inequalities between workers of the public and private sectors, exposing the provocative privileges enjoyed by the fat cats at the expense of the taxpayer. It may be divisive, but the system will never change without private sector workers being turned against public sector employees and their patrons – the political parties.
If the New Wave movement is sincere about wanting to change things and end the stranglehold the parties have on our society, it needs to go on the offensive, be prepared to clash with the union-party establishment and its followers. The system will never be reformed through consensus.