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Accountability pledge from new cabinet
PRESIDENT NICOS Anastasiades yesterday vowed to be unrelenting against acts of corruption and bad governance and called on his newly formed cabinet to abide by a code of conduct which would make them accountable to the people.
In his first cabinet meeting, the new president called on his ministers to act “with courage, resolve, consistency” and sign a code of conduct, to be published, which would render them responsible and accountable to the people on a daily basis.
“The rule of accountability is now the new face of political life,” said Anastasiades, who expressed determination “to bring back hope, to restore the dignity and pride of the people”.
Addressing the council of ministers, the president stressed that he would be “unrelenting” towards any sign of corruption. In a sign of intent, Anastasiades asked his ministers to inform him within three months on how they plan to implement the observations made in the last report of the state’s Auditor-general Chrystalla
Georghadji, who has repeatedly flagged serious discrepancies and wastefulness in her annual report on state and semi-state services.
He warned his cabinet that there will be an audit in each ministry to ensure compliance and corrections of mistakes or omissions highlighted by the auditor-general.
The new president acknowledged that the government was taking over at a most critical time for the country.
“We are taking on a difficult task, which is the mandate of the people,” he said, adding that it was time to “finally enter a new era characterised by transparency, good governance, impartiality, combating corruption, restoring the validity of the institutions, and combating any phenomenon of discrimination against any citizen”.
He called for “hard work” and collective consultation from the new members of the cabinet.
Speaking earlier during the swearing in ceremony at the Presidential Palace, Anastasiades said: “The people expect much from us. Hard work is needed. There is no doubt that together, with collective consultation with the political forces and the parliament, we can manage to implement everything we have declared and pledged to the people.”
On behalf of the new cabinet, new Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides pointed out the need for a high sense of responsibility, and zero tolerance of mismanagement.
“The ministerial post should not be considered as a privilege but a call for service,” he said. “Hard work, diligence and creativity await us.”
He referred to the pay cut of 25 per cent that Anastasiades has decided for himself. “We willingly follow with the reductions you have already announced,” he said.
Outside during a wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of Cyprus’ first president, Archbishop Makarios III, Anastasiades announced that the emblem of the Republic of Cyprus would be placed above the British escutcheon which still adorns the entrance to the palace from British colonial times.
Throughout the remainder of the day, the outgoing cabinet ministers of the Demetris Christofias administration handed over the reins to their successors.
During the handover ceremony at the foreign ministry, Kasoulides said he would do his utmost to restore Cyprus’ reputation abroad, noting that in the past few months, Cyprus has been “unfairly defamed”.
Kasoulides stressed that redefining Cyprus’ foreign policy means giving the message that Cyprus would be a consistent and reliable EU partner.
The application for membership to NATO’s anteroom, Partnership for Peace, would send the message that Cyprus ceases to be different from its 26 EU partners, he added.
Cyprus’ energy prospects would also help give the message to Europe that Cyprus could offer “added value” to the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.
Speaking at his handover, new Commerce Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, who will be tasked with handling Cyprus’ burgeoning natural gas industry, said he agreed with his predecessor Neoclis Sylikiotis that the ministry “may constitute the economy’s locomotive”.
“I personally believe that it can be at the forefront of the effort for economic recovery,” said Lakkotrypis.
He called on all officials and staff to collectively work harder: “We are not allowed to work as if conditions were normal,” he said, adding that now was the moment to go above and beyond the call of duty.
For his part Sylikiotis wished his successor every success, warning him that the ministry is not an easy one.
“You are assuming the duties of a multifaceted ministry of key significance at a crucial point in the history of Cyprus”, said Sylikiotis, adding that everyone’s hopes for a better tomorrow in Cyprus are based on this ministry.
Labour Minister Haris Georgiades said yesterday that combating unemployment would be the new government’s top goal. He noted, however, that there are no easy solutions and that it will take time and effort to exit the crisis.
“Unemployment constitutes the most painful consequence of the economic crisis we are facing and dealing with it is certainly a top goal of the new government,” he said.
New Health Minister Petros Petrides announced the establishment of a Public Health Council which would assist the government in implementing its plans in the health sector.
Petrides, who is a surgeon and has served as director of the vascular surgery clinic of the Nicosia General Hospital, said he would focus on patients and the quality of service to citizens.
New Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos said his ministry would work to combat bureaucracy and help boost growth.
“We should jointly combat bureaucracy which prevents growth, for the sake of our country and the thousands of unemployed,” he said.
Education Minister Kyriacos Kenevezos called for an ‘educational alliance’ between the ministry, educators, children and parents “in order to achieve our goals because failure is not an option”.
Referrring to educational reforms already enacted, outgoing minister Giorgos Demosthenous said there was no going back.
“I will strive to complete the educational reform,” Kenevezos replied.
Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou said the pillars of his policy aim at protecting Cyprus’ sovereign rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone, by establishing new military partnerships and enhancing military diplomacy.
“All we want is peace,” he said. Fotiou added that by upgrading the National Guard he also seeks to restore the public’s sense of security.
Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis said his ministry’s top priority will be a new national strategy for the development of the agricultural economy.
“We should realise that we are entering a new era which demands productivity, professionalism, expertise and constant action,” he said.
And finally, the new government spokesman Christos Stylianides assumed his duties as Anastasiades’ right-hand man with a pledge to act collectively, with consensus and reason, saying these three values will underline all the government’s efforts both locally and internationally.
Commenting on the president’s decision to make all ministers sign a code of conduct, Stylianides said the relation between citizens and politics has been tarnished in Cyprus and needs to be set right.