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CYPRUS EDITORIAL: We need public debate not amateur spin doctors

13 April, 2019 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

In just over 40 days, voters in Cyprus and throughout the European Union will be called to elect the next house of 750-odd MEPs, with an interest in the “institutions” at a disappointing low and the “establishment” of the core political parties doing little to spark interest among the public to cast their ballots.


At home, the parties have embarked on a lukewarm soft campaign, avoiding the issues of gender equality, public-private pay gap, jobs, the environment and general social wellbeing, by sending out all-too confusing messages on what their platforms represent.

Instead, they are regurgitating their usual rhetoric about the Cyprob (with no constructive idea from anyone on how to move forward), promoting phobias about another imminent crisis (naming banks that “are next” to collapse), and general mudslinging about who’s to blame for everything that’s gone wrong in Cyprus ever since the Republic was established.

 

This path of placing the entire society and national economy on automatic pilot has also had a trickle-down effect on management decisions, whether in the state or private sector, with key decisionmakers happy that they are evading issues such as transparency and accountability.

The voters are as much to blame for this indifference as the media are to blame for allowing this opacity to prevail, whereas both groups have ample tools to make themselves heard – voters have their say and should use this democratic right, instead of sitting on the sidelines and then moaning about ‘poor judgment’ decisions, while the media should be more persistent to let the truth be told, at any level and by any official.

For the media to do their job, state officials and business managers must also be willing to cooperate, as lack of (proper) information will only result in poor information to the public, often resulting in giving out the wrong impression about one’s competence, leadership and innovative ideas.

When President Anastasiades (and all his predecessors) appointed people to key positions, promoted officials and selected board members to manager certain institutions (including the ill-fated Co-op bank), party politics were always placed ahead of national interest.

In other words, people rarely got the job on merit, no matter what politicians argue today. The result we see with the Co-op failure following on other disasters where in most cases the lack of initiative or simple indifference created a chain of events resulting in many organisations going under and Cyprus losing its competitiveness.

There are many recent high-profile examples, the halloumi fiasco, Bank of Cyprus bail-in, Laiki downfall, Cyprus Airways debacle and stock market crash.

What the president should have done was to insist that one of the attributes when choosing an individual to take up a post would have to be their ability to engage with the public, to talk freely to the media and be forthcoming to parliament or public debate.

‘Public relations’ has in recent years been misconceived as the simple process of issuing a bland press release, putting a spin on negative events and ‘informing’ the general public (voters and taxpayers) on a need to know basis.

Good media relations should fall under the same umbrella as good corporate governance, as, in the final analysis, what we expect of our politicians and business leaders is honesty, transparency and accountability. Otherwise, they don’t deserve to get elected or be appointed to key positions.