On the day that mayor Nicos Nicolaides announced that Limassol would be turned into a friendly, green, smart city for citizens and businesses, Nicosia municipality announced that works on Omirou Avenue that have caused havoc with the flow of traffic in the centre of the capital for close to two years, could be completed next month.
This is indicative of the stark contrast between the island’s two major cities. Whereas Limassol municipality has a plan for the city, undertaking a diverse range of projects that improve infrastructure and the quality of life of citizens, its Nicosia counterpart has been pursuing random projects that mainly consist of digging up roads and inconveniencing drivers, pedestrians and shopkeepers. The redesign and transformation of Eleftheria Square has still not been completed
There does not seem to be much of a plan or vision for the capital. For example, Omirou Avenue has been closed for almost two years to build a multi-storey underground parking place. At the same, the mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis has been writing articles arguing that the number of cars driving into town should decrease and urging people to use public transport. Building more parking places in the centre of town is a funny way to reduce car use.
Nicosia municipality, regardless of who was the mayor, has never had vision or coherent plan of how the city should develop, the disastrous re-building of Eleftheria Square being a perfect illustration of this slapdash approach. Limassol municipality, in contrast, seems to have been following a plan, both medium and long-term, regardless of who the mayor was, and the positive results are evident to everyone. There may still be problems to tackle but we suspect people trust the municipality to put things right, a sentiment that is not shared by Nicosians.
What is the reason for this tale of two cities? Does Limassol elect visionary mayors and more capable councillors? Does the municipality generate much higher revenues that allow it to invest in improving the town? Does it employ smarter technocrats? Perhaps citizens take a more active part in the Limassol municipal council’s decision-making, whereas in Nicosia people display apathy about their city. Then again people may be disinterested and indifferent because they have grown disillusioned and fed up with the consistently poor showing of the municipality. The spectacular, long-playing, mess-up of Eleftheria Square would disillusion the most naïve optimist.
What should Nicosia municipality do to become more like Limassol municipality? An answer is desperately needed.