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President: Zero tolerance to corruption

19/04/2016 16:10
The President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades reiterated on Monday that the Government will show zero tolerance to corruption, pointing out that for the first time since the Republic was established politicians and people in public life and the economy, who have remained untouched for decades, are being brought to justice, some have been convicted and others are under investigation.

Anastasiades presented the achievements of his Government over the past three years, referring to the policies implemented to address the problems of the citizens, especially the vulnerable groups, talked about the measures to modernize and strengthen the state and its institutions and about the decisions to consolidate the rule of law by combating corruption.

He also outlined the measures aiming at upgrading the country`s defences and its international credibility as well as its plans to exploit its natural resources.

The President said that due to the problems caused by the economic crisis, reforming social policy to create a new welfare state was considered a high priority, noting that with the introduction of the Guaranteed Minimum Income 11,300 families are now supported by the State for the first time.

“The effectiveness and success of the new system is reflected in the sharp fall in the number of people who resort to social grocery stores,” he said.

The President said that in June 2014, 14,850 people where supported by the social grocery stores, while this number has been reduced to 4,688 with more than half of them being foreigners.

He noted that 35,100 families or 59,000 persons receive the Guaranteed Minimum Income every month, with the Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance Ministry spending 860 million euro per year on social benefits.

Anastasiades noted that the Government took a series of other measures to protect the vulnerable groups and citizens with low income.

The President also referred to a number of measures taken to address the high unemployment rate, including a series of schemes implemented by the Labour Ministry to provide incentives to enterprises to hire young unemployed and wage subsidy schemes.

He added that the Government has taken measures to protect the rights of the employees and secured the minimum wage at 870 euro upon recruitment and at 924 euro after six months.

“I am not claiming that we have completely solved the problems affecting the vulnerable groups or small and medium sized business nor that we have tackled, in the way we all have wanted, the problem of unemployment” he acknowledged, but noted that within three years the Government has managed to strengthen the safety net for vulnerable workers and also to lay the foundation for recovery and growth.

In his opening remarks, Anastasiades reiterated the Government`s zero tolerance to corruption and outlined a series of measures.

“As a result of measures taken to date, criminal charges against managers and directors of the Bank of Cyprus were filed, whereas investigations into the same bank continue for other offenses. Managers and directors of Laiki Bank have also been prosecuted, while investigations in important cases are at an advanced state,” he said.

The President admitted that there has been a delay in prosecuting individuals responsible for the collapse of the Cypriot economy, but noted the complexity of the cases and the required legal assistance from third countries.

He said that investigators have proceeded to investigating various allegations of corruption in the public sector and semi public organizations, municipalities and credit institutions.

As a result of the Government’s determination and the measures adopted, he said, the cases under investigation which are related to corruption, embezzlement of public servants and abuse of power, doubled in 2015 compared with 2014.

Significant measures have been promoted and are pending before the House of Representatives on the political responsibility and accountability of state officials, President Anastasiades said and added that a series of measures and changes have been launched to ensure the rapid and efficient administration of justice and facilitate the access of citizens, such as the setting up of an Administrative Court.

Anastasiades also referred to a gradual reorganization of the Police, with changes in the administrative structure and implementation of a new policing model, noting that “particular emphasis has been placed on meritocracy and good administration”.

“It is confirmed that for the first time after 56 years of existence of the Republic and in just three years, such a determination has been demonstrated as a result of which, politicians, personalities in public life and the economy who have remained untouched for decades have been convicted whereas others are facing trial or under investigation,” the President stressed.

He then referred to the shake up of the public service and said that five bills that have been submitted to Parliament aim to introduce changes that will increase the productivity and efficiency of the public service.

He noted that another priority of the Government was the educational reform “which was necessary not only to end long-term distortions but also to offer quality education, cultivate critical thinking and development of skills”.

Anastasiades said that in realizing one of his election promises, the Cabinet approved last February a series of measures to modernize and upgrade the National Guard, such as new armament programs and the reduction of military service to 14 months.

The President said that “unfortunately objective reasons such as economic crisis and its effect on public finances, the employers and the employees, have prevented the intended reform of the health sector”.

Nevertheless, he said, the government has taken measures to mitigate the problems, such as cooperation with the private sector to reduce the long MRI waiting list and an 11% reduction in the prices of medicines.

“I want to reiterate that we do not ignore the real problems in the health sector” the President noted, adding that after the Parliamentary elections the Government will make announcements related to the implementation of the National Health System.

The President said that taking into account the international and regional environment the Government has drawn a reliable and comprehensive strategy to utilize in the best way Cyprus` EU membership, strengthening the country`s new geostrategic role in the region.

“Within this framework we have pursued a multidimensional foreign policy that ensured and strengthened our excellent relations with traditional friendly countries, and on the other hand we achieved the restoration, strengthening and deepening of our relations with countries that play a leading role in international politics,” he added.

Anastasiades noted that “these developments have allowed to build and strengthen alliances and link the interests of powerful states to our own national interests”.

He stressed that the “strengthening of the status and the prestige of the Republic, and the restoration of national sovereignty through our exit from the bailout, allowed me to reject at European level proposals that were against the interests of our country”.

“The undeniable strengthening of the Republic`s prestige internationally and the emergence of the geostrategic role that Cyprus acquires at international level as a European energy center has allowed us to follow with consistency our energy plans in order to exploit the natural resources of our country” he said.

The President referred to the third licensing round announced by the Government recently for offshore exploration in blocks 6, 8 and 10 of Cyprus` Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The results of the ongoing research programs or those of the new licenses will be a decisive factor in implementing the strategic objective of building an LNG terminal in our country and convert it to an energy hub,” he said.