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Our View: Scrounging from the taxpayer is not a human right

feature elias main pic in 2018 the dls began the mammoth task of updating property values – private as well as state owned – to better reflect their market values 1024x683

Nobody cultivates the idea of state dependency and the sense of entitlement as much as Akel. It is an integral part of its socialist mindset and what’s worse, it has managed to make the nanny state the national aim of the majority of political parties. Nobody dares to speak out against this misguided idea for fear of being accused of insensitivity or not caring for people.

The biggest drive to establish a nanny state during the Christofias presidency, when state handouts increased by close to a billion euro, ended in disaster. Cyprus entered an assistance programme and the benefits generously given by Akel were drastically cut so that public finances could be placed on a rational footing. Few appear to have learnt anything from this experience, with calls for higher state spending a regular political tune.

On Wednesday, the Akel-controlled student movement Proodeftiki, lashed out against the government for its failure to do anything about the high rent students had to pay for accommodation. These rents had become unaffordable, but the proposals of the movement for dealing with the situation “crashed on the lack of political will by the government of today.”

What were these proposals? Higher grants for students and an expansion of the beneficiaries, the speeding up of the construction of the second phase of student housing at the University of Cyprus and the amendment of the existing legislation to allow the state to set ceilings on rents. The movement failed to say where the money for funding its proposals would come from, nor did it explain how the state would take over from the market in determining house rents.

A day later, Akel decided to take up the campaign, with the head for economic matters, Haris Polykarpou, claiming that “student housing has become a luxury item,” and that “for another year, the housing costs for hundreds of students is huge and, in combination with the wave of expensiveness, make the daily lives of students even more difficult.”

Having cut student assistance, the government was “today closing its eyes to the non-existence of social policy for support of students.” The state “has an obligation to take the lead in dealing with the increased living costs of students” and formulate a scheme for covering the increased housing costs for students and increase its budget for student grants so these were aligned with the higher cost of living. Polykarpou ended his outburst by saying the government owed an explanation to students, “because access to dignified housing cannot be a privilege but a right.”

What constitutes ‘dignified housing’? Would this include marble floors, state-of-the-art kitchen, big bedrooms, gym and jacuzzi? When they were studying in the Soviet Union did Akel’s leading lights have the right to ‘dignified housing’? University students, even in the most affluent countries, live in cheap housing, in rundown or remote areas, often sharing bathrooms and kitchens with others, because they have limited funds. Many of them would rather spend what little spare cash they have on going out rather than on ‘dignified housing,’ which only Akel believes is a right.

Living in cheap housing, like cheap meals, is part of the university experience for the overwhelming majority of students all over the world and they do not expect the state to give them grants or ‘dignified living’. Many students supplement their small incomes by taking on part-time work. Nor do they all expect to find accommodation in the vicinity of their university. In Cyprus, given the smallness of the place, there are not big distances to travel to get to get anywhere, and the assumption that students have some God-given right to live in the vicinity of their university, where rents are high, is absurdly unreal. Rather than demanding the state impose ceilings on rents Cyprus students should do what happens in other countries – move to areas where rents are lower, arrange flat-sharing or live at home.

The state does more than enough for students. It offers good quality education free of charge at public universities, which also offer subsidised accommodation even though there will never be enough for everyone. It is, to say the least, ungrateful of them to expect anything more from the taxpayer. Sadly, Akel and its fellow travelers have elevated the scrounging from the state into a human right and, worse still, have established the view that the state is responsible for tackling all problems faced by individuals. They do not care that fostering state dependency and a sense of entitlement among people undermines individual liberty and free society, which some of us still value.

The big state, which Akel is always trying to impose, interferes in people’s lives, diminishes their liberty, wastes the taxpayer’s money and crushes private initiative that is vital for a dynamic and flourishing society. We do not want a society in which young people want the state to do everything for them.

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