Parents were angered by the increase of the monthly bus card from €10 to €15 from this September and have sought a meeting with Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades to discuss the matter. The government had already absorbed 50 per cent of the increase which would have taken the monthly price to €20, and probably sparked street demonstrations by the confederation of secondary school parents’ associations. For now, the confederation is happy to have a meeting with the minister.
Why are parents angered by the price rise? All prices have been rising in the last two years, so by what logic did they expect bus fares to remain the same? Buses use petrol the price of which has risen significantly in the last couple of years, and if drivers were entitled to CoLA so has the payroll of Cyprus Public Transport. That the transport ministry agreed to a 100 per cent increase in the price of a monthly bus pass meant that it was justified to a large extent. The single ticket, meanwhile, increased by 40 cents to €2.40, which was not unreasonable.
Prices of almost everything have increased in the last couple of years so why should bus passes be an exception? Parents should have accepted this graciously – an extra €5 a month would not impoverish a family – given the inflationary period we are going through. There seems, however, to be a moaning culture spreading across the country, deriving from the irrational expectation that the state should pick up the bill for price increases. That the state subsidised electricity bills and reduced the tax on fuel for several months encouraged this attitude and increased the frequency of the moaning, which plagues education more than anything else.
The immediate reaction to the news about the bus pass price hike by the confederation of parents’ associations is a case in point. It was not enough for the state to subsidise the pass, absorbing half the price increase, the confederation demanded no increase. How unreasonable is this, considering they pay nothing for public education? Should the state also ensure students travel to school for free? Vafeades said on Wednesday that this was the goal of the government even though public finances did not allow it at present. It is talk like this that encourages parents to want everything for free and making a big fuss when there is a price rise.
Another big complaint from the ranks of the entitled has been the high rents in towns that make accommodation unaffordable for the students of public universities. Political parties have been advocating rent subsidies and urging the government to build more student residences! Students at public universities pay no fees, even though each one’s education costs the taxpayer several thousand euros a year and the taxpayer is expected to provide them with cheap housing next to the university as well. But there are alternatives, such as house sharing, staying in unfashionable areas with cheap housing or staying at home; they could also do part-time work to pay for the rent. This is what students do in the rest of the world, so why do our students expect to have everything provided for them at the taxpayer’s expense?
This objectionable sense of entitlement is cultivated and encouraged by the political parties and the media which invariably pander to the moaners and treat their demands as reasonable. They are never questioned, the assumption being that the taxpayer has some constitutional obligation to make life easy for everyone. Students and parents have learnt the art of constant moaning from the teaching unions which do little else. Their latest gripe is that air conditioning units must be installed in all classrooms of primary schools, and the union has been pressuring the education ministry about the matter for years, disregarding the possibility that funds are not available because most of the education ministry’s budget is spent on the excessive number of underworked teachers at public schools.
People in Cyprus appear to have been conditioned into thinking that taking as much money as possible from the state is a constitutional right, that state resources are inexhaustible and that the state has an obligation to satisfy every demand. As mentioned above, parties and media have legitimised this attitude by pandering to the entitled moaners and never questioning their demands and expectations. And it does not look like this government, which has a policy of giving in to the moaning classes, will do anything to change this attitude. That the transport minister will meet the confederation of parents’ associations to discuss their unreasonable demand is proof of this.