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16 June, 2024
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A picture is worth a thousand words

Amidst woes of delayed buses and futuristic stops, accountability lags in Cyprus governance



By Panayiotis Kaparis

A picture is worth a thousand words, a picture is a gut punch. In Paphos, a woman with a cane lies on the ground in front of a bus stop. Thousands of similar scenes unfold across Nicosia and other cities, where predominantly foreign workers, both men and women, endure the snow, rain, and darkness while waiting for buses that often run late and arrive empty. The situation persists until these foreign workers scrape together a few hundred euros, 'redeem themselves,' and purchase 'old cars' to commute. Meanwhile, satirical shows have long mocked the chaos at bus stops, while officials make empty promises.

Old-timers reminisce about the battles waged decades ago between private companies vying for control of bus stops in exchange for billboard space. Now, history repeats itself as spectators, albeit with a twist: rather than inviting private individuals to manage the stops, the government opted to foot the bill with €60 million from public coffers, despite EU contributions. Reports suggest these 'futuristic' stops will be more aesthetic than practical, offering little protection from the elements. Some, already erected in Nicosia, seem disconnected from Cyprus's reality.

Private entities have long supplemented the state's functions, renting costly buildings or providing services like traffic surveillance. The narrative of a virtuous private sector versus an inept public one has eroded amid suspicions of collusion, evident in recent corruption scandals. Major projects often stall, plagued by irregular contracts and cost overruns. Despite four layers of oversight, scandals persist, challenging public trust.

In countries like the US, independent auditors scrutinize public spending rigorously, ensuring accountability and efficiency. In Cyprus, however, decades of investment in bus infrastructure have yielded little, save for airport routes. Similarly, grandiose bike lane inaugurations ahead of local elections have failed to promote cycling. Perhaps it's time to acknowledge Cyprus's unique challenges and devise tailored solutions.

Since the Republic's inception 64 years ago, mediocrity, corruption, and incompetence have prevailed. Yet, as the proverb goes, 'the sins of the parents are visited upon the children.' Ultimately, accountability will catch up, albeit belatedly.

[This op-ed was translated and edited for clarity]


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