The Cyprus Mail has sent questions to the main candidates in next week’s presidential elections. Below is independent candidate George Colocassides’ response
What do you think are three main issues at stake in these elections?
The big issues that demand a new approach are the change of course on the Cyprus problem and the extensive corruption produced by the partocracy. Beyond that, immediate and practical solutions need to be provided for the cost-of-living crisis, while the uncontrolled flow of migration needs to be addressed immediately.
Do you have specific plans for helping people deal with the rising cost of living?
As an immediate measure I propose a review of the way in which electricity consumption is calculated. There should be a low rate for all households and businesses up to a certain ceiling that represents the necessary use and from there upwards, the rate should be higher. The measure has been implemented in Germany. It both relieves the most vulnerable and encourages reduced consumption. At the same time, I propose that the use of our natural gas and the expansion of renewable energy sources should proceed immediately. Another way of dealing with high costs is to promote the development of cooperative organisations in the livestock sector, especially by dedicating land for the concentrated production of animal feed. This will significantly reduce the price of meat, milk and cheese.
The standing of Cyprus abroad has been tarnished by the golden passports, which has also landed us in trouble with the Brussels. We have also been at the centre of European parliament investigations regarding the illegal surveillance software. How do you plan to improve our country’s image abroad?
The restoration of Cyprus’ international image comes through strengthening the rule of law and reinforcing transparency, checks and accountability. I propose the appointment of independent criminal investigators for all major scandals, whether they concern passports and wiretapping, the collapse of the banking system, the closure of the co-ops and Cyprus airways. Also, the way in which independent officials are appointed should be changed and auditing mechanisms should be strengthened, which should also have powers to bring charges and not be a front as they are today.
Can you give us three practical measures you would take to deal with the migration problem?
I propose the abolition of the benefits policy and the implementation of the voucher system, the reaching of bilateral agreements to transfer some of the migrants to other countries until their application is processed, the drastic speeding up of the asylum application procedure and the strict monitoring of the Green Line.
Is there an innovative project your presidency would undertake?
Incentives for the utilisation of decentralised technologies (blockchain) for transparency purposes regarding food traceability – certification of origin and improving the trustworthiness of a label. Food traceability also enhances the ability to quickly identify potential sources of contamination for effective prevention or containment of outbreaks.
Gesy has been under pressure, plagued by overspending, staff strikes, complaints by patients. Can things be improved?
This is why, I propose the creation of a team in the health ministry which would oversee the operation of Gesy and which would identify in a timely manner wastage or signs of malfunctioning to put things right immediately or to quickly discipline or dismiss those responsible. I also propose the establishment of a subcommittee of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) which will proceed immediately to draw up best practices protocols to be followed by personal doctors to avoid overburdening Gesy. Furthermore, a strict operating framework for personal doctors should be established and a quality monitoring unit should be set up to supervise the quality of services provided under Gesy and the correct implementation of quality and best practice protocols.
Housing is becoming unaffordable in parts of the country. What can be done to help people?
For young people in particular, the housing problem is huge. We need to support young couples by offering government-guaranteed loans for a first-time home buyers on very favourable terms, but also to give housing benefit to those in need, but based on strict income criteria.
There is great inequality between private and public sector workers, in terms of wages, pensions, job security, working conditions – which undermines the social cohesion you seek. Do you believe that this injustice should be addressed?
This is indeed the way things have developed and it is causing distortions. The public sector wage data is a given. But the government can gradually rebalance it by increasing the productivity of the civil service and reducing the admission pay scales. But the evaluation of civil servants is also an issue that needs improvement.
Will you follow the practice of seeking the archbishop’s approval for the person who will be appointed education minister?
As far as I know, the archbishop has clearly stated that it is not the church’s responsibility to appoint the education minister, let alone approve him. The sole responsibility for the appointment of the cabinet is constitutionally that of the president-elect of the Republic.
Would your government be prepared to introduce same-sex marriage and allow the adoption of a child by same-sex couple as is the practice in most European countries?
Since same-sex relationships have rightly been decriminalised, it is right and consistent for the state to recognise same-sex marriage. Adoption is more complex because it involves the rights of third parties (children). Experts should therefore also talk about the psychology of children. And, of course, for such a measure to go ahead, there must be considerable social awareness work because such children will certainly have to deal with prejudice.
Would you support the legalisation of marijuana?
Medical cannabis has been allowed since 2017 under relevant legislation. Now, for the legalisation of marijuana, it would be necessary to examine how the legalisation of marijuana has affected countries that have implemented the measure and to have an extensive public debate.