The creation of deputy ministries has been one of the main administrative projects of the Anastasiades government. So far, three have been set up – tourism, shipping and digital policy – and there is another one in the pipeline, a deputy ministry for culture, establishment of which has been approved by the council of ministers.
There was sound rationale behind the creation of deputy ministries. It gave the authority for important sectors of the economy, such as tourism and shipping, to independent entities, instead of having them operate as a department of a ministry. This allows each deputy ministry to forge its own policy for its sector and take its own decisions rather than require approval from the ministry the sector belonged to.
As part of this reform, the powerless Cyprus Tourism Organisation, an SGO under the authority of the commerce and industry ministry has been transformed into an independent entity. There was a fear that many new public service appointments would be made to staff the deputy ministries, but this has not been the case with employees being moved to these from ministry departments.
While nobody could argue with this administrative reform, the same cannot be said for the establishment of a deputy ministry for culture. Is culture really something that requires so much state guidance and direction it justifies its own ministry? The political parties fully support the idea as Thursday’s meeting between Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou and Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos indicated.
Prodromou, who has been explaining the government’s idea to the parties, said Edek “gives great importance to the functioning of culture in a society” and considered a “distinct structure that will attach importance to culture policy a positive development.” Sizopoulos said that culture was “an important part of the national and physical survival of Cypriot Hellenism.”
This is how the politicians see culture – as a state policy that can be imposed from above by politicians and bureaucrats. A dynamic and creative society does not need the state to create its culture – the people do this without guidance from bureaucrats and politicians. What the ministry of education should be doing is using the education system to encourage love and passion for the arts – music, drama, painting, literature etc – among children so they can grow up to contribute to, as well as appreciate culture.
In this regard, our schools, with their utilitarian values, have failed spectacularly. If the government wants culture to flourish in Cyprus it needs to change the school curriculum in a way that it would encourage an interest in arts and culture. Culture cannot be imposed from above by a deputy ministry.