The Cyprus Mail continues its series of articles with the main presidential candidates. We have reprinted their responses in the order we received them. Today, we pose questions to Christos Christou
Which do you think are three main issues at stake in this presidential election?
There can be no prioritisation of problems, as everything that concerns society is important. But if I have to say three main issues are the Cyprus problem, the problem of illegal migration and the economy – expensiveness.
The standard of living of most people has been affected negatively by the rising prices. Do you have specific plans for helping people deal with the rising cost of living?
There are plenty of plans and proposals that can be implemented, but what is needed is proper planning, will and desire on the part of the political leadership to deal with inflation.
One important tool that can help is the one that has recently been intensely discussed in the daily debate, and that is the restoration of the automatic adjustment of wages (CoLA).
In addition, we have proposed a price ceiling on essential goods such as bread, water and so on; a radical reduction in VAT on basic goods such as children’s products, medicines, nappies or products for the elderly, as well as a reduction in VAT on fuel and electricity prices.
The standing of the country abroad has been tarnished by the issuing of golden passports, which has also landed us in trouble with 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 fight against corruption is one of the key categories of our electoral programme, but also of our political parliamentary action. It is widely known that Elam has often clashed with other parties over cases of scandals.
In order not to leave words unsaid, we have submitted specific proposals, such as the creation of a special court for financial crimes, while we urgently demand tough punishments for those guilty of misappropriation of public money, including the simultaneous confiscation of assets of corresponding value.
Can you give us three practical measures you would take in order to deal with the migration problem?
Dealing with the migration problem cannot be solved with only three measures, but it is necessary to draw up a strict migration policy, which only Elam has been promoting, as the political party that highlighted this problem at a time when everyone was attacking it.
Three of the many measures that must be implemented are ending the benefits policy that turns Cyprus into an attractive destination and providing only the essentials, such as clothing, housing and food. Suspension of asylum procedures and mass deportations of those in Cyprus illegally. All this must be under the authority of a junior ministry of immigration that must be set up, as we have been calling for since 2018!
Is there a pioneering project your presidency would implement?
There are many pioneering projects included in our election programme, whether it concerns the countryside, society, people with disabilities, etc. For example, the transformation of Rik 2 into a channel that will exclusively serve the needs of people with disabilities, through sign language and subtitling. While for the countryside we have proposed tax incentives for businesses that want to operate away from urban centres and the creation of an artisan area with incentives to attract craftsmen.
Gesy has been under pressure, plagued by overspending, staff strikes, complaints by patients. Can things be made better and, if yes, how?
We have to safeguard the viability of the Gesy, so we all have to find solutions for its smooth functioning. Of course, the situation can be improved with a comprehensive health plan that takes into account the needs of society, doctors, nurses and the capacities of health centres.
First and foremost, public hospitals must be strengthened with the necessary equipment and human resources.
Housing is becoming unaffordable in parts of the country. What can be done to help people for whom housing is a big problem?
Housing is one of the top problems facing our society today, which is why a holistic policy is needed to address this problem.
Such as, for example, the construction of housing that will be given to young couples, based on certain criteria, while at the same time there should be a “loan against instalments” scheme, granted on specific criteria.
From time to time, we have proposed the free allocation of land in abandoned rural areas for owner-occupation and giving special incentives to young people to settle in the countryside.
There is great inequality between workers of the private and public sector – in terms of pay, pensions, job security, work conditions – which undermines social cohesion that you value. Do you believe this unfairness should be addressed?
We believe that all injustices must be addressed. It is well known that workers in the private sector do not have a secure work environment and changing economic conditions can affect their wages.
At this time, conditions dictate that measures are taken, across the board, to reduce the cost of living.
Will you follow the practice of seeking the archbishop’s approval for the person who will be appointed education minister?
We believe that the President should listen to the view of the head of the Church of Cyprus, but the choice should not be subject to his approval. We believe that the church has a very important role to play in preserving our Greek Orthodox identity.
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?
We cannot go against nature itself. For us, mother is the woman, father is the man and marriage is the union between man and woman. Therefore, we stand against the adoption of children by same-sex couples, which ignores the basic and natural right of every child.
Would you support the legalisation of marijuana?
No, we do not agree with the legalisation of drugs, as for us the saying ‘an empty mind does not think, a weak body does not fight’ applies; we want young people with high national ideals to fight for their country, not idle young people who resort to drugs. We could consider legalising it for medical purposes only.