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Our View: Broad problem solving meetings at palace merely aim at boosting Anastasiades’ popularity

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Anastasiades at a broad meeting at the palace on Tuesday

Potato farmers are seeking a meeting with President Anastasiades to set out the problems they are facing as a result of the continuous increase in the prices of fuel and fertilizer and to find solutions to their problems. This was decided on Monday at a meeting of farmers, farming organisation representatives and deputies, called to deal with the rising production costs.

“The cost has doubled and become difficult to sustain and with the price of the potato both in Cyprus and abroad, we will not be able to continue this work,” said the head of a potato farmers’ committee. He added that farmers do not have the money to subsidise the potatoes, as the increased cost could not be passed on to the consumer. Under the current conditions potato farming was unviable.

Why are they seeking a meeting with the president? Does he have any expertise in farming, agriculture economics or in marketing of agricultural products to help them out of the very difficult situation they are in? The representatives of the potato farmers are unlikely to get any useful advice from Anastasiades, in the event that he grants them an audience, but advice is not what they are seeking.

They want to meet the president to demand more state cash assistance than has been offered by the agriculture ministry. The meeting with the agriculture minister left them unsatisfied, said the committee head, because “the compensation to be given to potato farmers is not enough for their survival.” They will therefore try to meet the president in the hope he would ignore his government’s policy on farming subsidies and overrule his minister.

This is how things operate under the Anastasiades presidency. Broad meetings of stakeholders or pressure groups at the presidential palace, under the president is how decisions are taken. Ministers cannot be trusted to solve problems satisfactorily, so Anastasiades takes the responsibility. He has held dozens of such meetings, often giving in to the demands of his guests. On Tuesday he played host to the cow farmers, in his role as mediator in the halloumi PDO dispute, and also representatives of unions and employers with regard to the minimum wage. Both meetings were inconclusive.

Anastasiades has set a very bad precedent with these broad meetings that reflect badly on his government and his ministers. The message is that ministers cannot deal with big problems and provide solutions. But if they are incapable of doing so why has the president not replaced them, and appointed more capable individuals, instead of trying to do their job for them? The truth is this has nothing to do with the capabilities of the ministers and everything to do with a president interested in his personal popularity as his term nears its end. This, however, is a very a bad guide for government decisions.


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