The his­tory of cor­rup­tion


Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

As much as we seem to loathe it, cor­rup­tion has been around in Cyprus (and the rest of the world) for cen­turies, but it has been es­pe­cially tol­er­ated here be­cause of many ex­oge­nous fac­tors linked to the is­land’s con­querors.

From the time of the philoso­pher Greeks and en­tre­pre­neur­ial Phoeni­cians, fol­lowed by the ruth­less Franks and Ot­tomans, and even­tu­ally the Bri­tish colo­nials who per­fected the art of ‘di­vide and rule’ in Cyprus, the na­tives have had to re­sort to fraud, em­bez­zle­ment, theft, bribes and kick­backs in or­der to get things done. This men­tal­ity has, un­for­tu­nately, been im­printed into our DNA, which is why we have all heard of sto­ries of push­ing en­velopes in the hos­pi­tal or the Land Registry to get things done prop­erly.

Over the years, this ap­proach has also spilled over into non-es­sen­tial ser­vices, such as the Reg­is­trar of Com­pa­nies, the Cus­toms Of­fice, the ports and air­ports, the depart­ment of mo­tor ve­hi­cles, and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, which is why you have houses built on the wrong side of a coastal road or right next to the fence of an air­field or air­port.

Dur­ing a ra­dio de­bate among MPs over the week­end, the bi-par­ti­san ap­proach was “we must com­bat cor­rup­tion at its root.” But how can you when the reg­u­la­tory bod­ies have been handed vague laws, or when trans­parency is chas­tised as an evil thing.

If MPs want to show the way to the rest of us mor­tals, they should start by putting their own house in or­der. It is strange that th­ese same deputies who lecture or­di­nary folk about morals have pre­vented the pas­sage of laws re­fer­ring to the dec­la­ra­tion of in­ter­ests and are cur­rently de­bat­ing whether th­ese should be lim­ited to se­cond or third de­gree rel­a­tives. Sim­i­larly, it seems, there are reg­u­la­tions about con­flict of in­ter­est when it comes to de­ci­sion mak­ing in key bod­ies or or­gan­i­sa­tions, but th­ese have never been im­ple­mented – only se­lec­tively, with a hand­ful of scan­dals re­vealed in the past few years.

One proof of the es­tab­lish­ment’s re­luc­tance to deal with cor­rup­tion and trans­parency is­sues is the lack of co­op­er­a­tion from govern­ment of­fi­cials when it comes to the in­quis­i­tive me­dia. To date, the jour­nal­ists’ union has failed to break this wall be­hind which hide the peo­ple cov­er­ing up for the real crooks, which is why fre­quent ques­tions are faced with re­fer­rals to su­pe­ri­ors. This also raises se­ri­ous ques­tions about checks and bal­ances, as well as cor­rup­tion when it comes to the new casino pro­ject.

If only we had a proper law se­cur­ing whistle­blow­ers, then we would see a ten­fold of scan­dals be­ing un­veiled, and peo­ple in key places be­ing more cau­tious in get­ting in­volved in any sus­pect deal or help­ing out a friend or rel­a­tive, ei­ther for money or for moral sat­is­fac­tion. Per­haps then we can start be­com­ing a so­ci­ety of gen­er­ally law abid­ing cit­i­zens.

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