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25 July, 2024
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Will anyone be held accountable?

The challenges and manipulations in local government reform

Eleni Xenou

Eleni Xenou

Experts conduct studies, and we pay them for their work. However, the problem arises when these studies are manipulated to align with the interests of our friendly MPs. These lawmakers prioritize responding to local, economic, and various other interests, often distorting the findings to suit their own needs. This manipulation undermines the integrity and usefulness of the studies. Subsequently, a reform law is enacted, but it is so tainted by these manipulations that it ends up undermining the very reform it was intended to support.

After celebrating the passage of the law, those responsible for its manipulation are quick to realize that the bill, when implemented, may not achieve the intended reform. The minister responsible suggests that the bill has deviated from the relevant studies, rendering the reform unviable. This pattern of operation by our political parties raises questions when citizens eventually voice their discontent.

The reason for highlighting this issue is the concerning state of local government reform. Not only does it deviate from scholars' recommendations, but it has also been altered drastically with the approval of the House. The outcome is that by the time the reform finds its true path and goal, citizens may bear the brunt—either through practical difficulties in their daily lives or financial burdens.

While some sacrifice may be acceptable in the context of a transitional period for a major reform, it seems inappropriate here. Citizens find themselves at the mercy of their representatives in Parliament, who appear more concerned about upcoming elections than the well-being of the people. Dr. Koutalakis, a Berlin-based consultant for local and regional development, emphasized this issue on a recent Morning Telegram episode.

Dr. Koutalakis had been tasked with producing a study detailing the workings of certain schemes under the merger. Despite thorough documentation and collaboration with Mr. Petrides, chaos ensued after the bill's passage. Mr. Petrides himself admitted that the enacted reform bore no resemblance to the bold changes he had envisioned. According to Dr. Koutalakis, the gap in preparing the new formations post-passage has been significant, resulting in unpreparedness and added difficulty due to intervening elections.

Dr. Koutalakis insists that the Ministry of Interior should have played a more active role in the preparation of post-law passage, similar to other European countries that successfully implemented such reforms. Unfortunately, the current approach indicates a trajectory toward failure rather than success. Despite numerous successful international examples, we continue to tailor studies to fit our partisan measures, leaving us unprepared. The question remains: will anyone be held accountable, or will this be swept away like so many other issues down the river?

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original and may have been edited for brevity and clarity]

Cyprus  |  local  |  municipal  |  elections

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