THERE is a lot of corruption at various levels of public life, former finance minister Charilaos Stavrakis said, and the bad thing is, it is almost acceptable in Cypriot society.
“In dealing with public life for the first time, I clearly realised there is a lot of corruption at various levels,” Stavrakis said in his book Economy in Politics and Politics in the Economy, presented to the media last Friday.
The former minister said certain government departments wield great power and their “sometimes arbitrary “decisions concerning town-planning, health, taxation and other matters, “can create huge benefits or burdens to entrepreneurs and companies.”
“Many times I felt that these people’s main concern was to help certain businessmen instead of trying to defend the state’s interest,” the former minister said.
Stavrakis said he did not believe there was an issue of outright bribery but to maintain good relations with the crème de la crème of Cypriot entrepreneurs “was perhaps more important for some state officials.”
Some aimed at securing important positions in banks or other organisations after retirement from the public service, Stavrakis said.
“It would be interesting for one to count how many former ministry permanent secretaries or ministers or other officials, ended up – after retirement – serving on the boards of companies or in organisations they previously had a close relation with.”
The former minister said Cyprus is a small country and one can see that some entered politics poor and at some stage became very rich.
“What is bad is that this is almost acceptable to Cypriot society and reaction is very limited.”
Stavrakis did not offer any names “because I think many of these people are known.”
Concerning himself, Stavrakis said only once did someone try to approach him.
He was a Greek businessman who owned a very large company operating in the wider financial sector.
“The finance minister’s signature would have fetched him huge revenues and he called me repeatedly asking to meet alone,” at a secret location.
Stavrakis refused, and offered to see the businessman at the ministry in the presence of his associates.
“It is then that he used the characteristic phrase: ‘are you pulling my leg minister?” Stavrakis said.
The former minister acknowledged that his personal wealth was, strictly speaking, an important element.
“I cannot know how big the temptation would be for someone who might be in need of extra income,” he said.