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Our View: Deputy ministries are simply adding to a bloated state sector

Deputy Minister for tourism Savvas Perdios (left)

One of the measures announced by President Anastasiades for combating corruption in football was the creation of the deputy ministry for youth, sport and culture. The president is too smart to think that the answer to corruption in sport is the establishment of a deputy ministry, but he used the big fuss surrounding match-fixing as a justification for it.

This is the presidency of the deputy ministries. So far, the government has set up one for shipping, one for tourism and one for innovation. And now, youth, sport and culture will also have one, taking over some of the responsibilities of the education ministry. Will the Cyprus Sports Federation (KOA) be scrapped to make way for the deputy ministry as happened to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation when the deputy ministry for tourism was established?

The logic of establishing deputy ministries has never been very clear. Was it an excuse for the government to create more positions for high-ranked officials such as deputy ministers or for the eventual creation of more public sector jobs? For now, these deputy ministries might be using existing staff from the CTO and KOA, for example but how long will it take before each one start demanding more staff to cover its growing administrative work?

After the experience of 2012-13 we would have hoped that the government that had to tackle the problems of a bloated, overpaid state sector would have taken measures to streamline this costly, unproductive, bureaucratic sector, which places obstacles in the way of entrepreneurship and private initiative rather than facilitating it. The Anstasiades government is doing the exact opposite, enlarging an oversized, interventionist state at a steadily rising cost to the taxpayer. The creation of the deputy ministries, not to mention the appointment of commissioners for every imaginable matter, is indicative of this.

At the same time as the government is increasing state bureaucracy, it has announced plans to set up a service to speed up procedures for foreign investments because it acknowledged that bureaucratic delays were driving potential investors away. Somehow it failed to see that these two policy initiatives were contradictory and that while it was trying to help out foreign investors, it showed complete indifference to the difficulties created by the state for local businessmen. Is this because there is no risk of local businessmen packing up and leaving?

None of the parties complains about the creation of deputy ministries because they all see a big interventionist state as something intrinsically good; it provides more jobs for party supporters. They refuse to learn from the mistakes of the past or recognise what an unproductive drain on resources a big and expanding state is.

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