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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ We are more European: we trust the government less ]

We are more European: we trust the government less

IT HAS been four years since Cyprus acceded to the European Union. Have Cypriots in the meantime become more European? In one sense the answer is yes. The trust of Cypriots in their government has declined and has approached the same low level as that in the rest of Europe. This is one of the results of the latest Eurobarometer, the survey of European public opinion.

Also just like other Europeans, Cypriots trust more European institutions such as the Council and the Commission than their own government and parliament.

It is difficult to explain these attitudes and why the level of trust has declined during the past few years. It is tempting to attribute the decline to the performance of the Papadopoulos government [the latest survey was conducted just before Mr Christofias took office]. Undoubtedly, its handling of the Cyprus problem must have coloured the perception of many Cypriots. But, was it really worse than previous governments?

Undoubtedly again, it made a number of serious blunders: the mismanagement of water resources, the poor planning of major infrastructural projects, the weak co-ordination of the various departments that tackle major forest fires. The list is indeed long. But these problems were mostly inherited from past governments. So Cypriots have become more European but it is not clear why.

Also Cyprus has become more European by making the process of governance more stable and less costly. On at least two points Cypriots should be thankful. First, the succession of government is bloodless. Just witness, by comparison, the situation in Zimbabwe, Kenya or Lebanon. Second, some officials in Cyprus may be too easy with public money and some of the practices of elected politicians may be questionable but at least government is not predatory.

I was amazed to read in a report a few days ago that the agreement that former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan brokered in Kenya between the two rival presidential candidates also provided for the establishment of a 43-member cabinet. It did not seem right that a country like Kenya needed such a large cabinet. The average cabinet in Europe has about 20-25 members including deputy ministers.

A bit of research offered a hint why the Kenyan cabinet was so large. It was a way of buying off political stability. Being a minister there is very profitable, perhaps so profitable that it may be worth risking your life for it.

The salary of a Kenyan minister is about $190,000 per year. That does not include the perks that go with the job such as the official limousine and the five bodyguards that each minister is entitled to have. Compare that princely salary to the miserly $1,600 which is the annual income of the average Kenyan. It is 120 times larger. Also compare it to the salary of US ministers, which is about $180,000. Yet per capita income in the US is over $45,000. A minister in the US earns only four times more than the average American; just about the same ratio as in Cyprus.

Government in some countries is a form of legal robbery. At least Cypriots do not have to put up with a predatory government. Hopefully it will remain that way. Protection from the excesses of your own government is the best reason for being a member of the European Union.

n Phedon Nicolaides is Professor at the European Institute of Public Administration in Maastricht (NL) and Visiting Professor at the Cyprus International Institute of Management

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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