Why did the CTP lose

CTP lost the early election on April 19 for two reasons: economic mismanagement and increasing worry about the Talat-Chistofias talks.

Next in line after the defeated ‘Prime Minister’ Ferdi Sabit Soyer may be ‘President’ Talat himself, up for election in 12 months’ time at the latest.

The voters showed their disapproval of the CTP’s economic policy – or rather the lack of it – by kicking out all three men responsible for the economy: Ahmet Uzun (finance), Erdogan Sanlidag (economy and tourism) and Ozkan Murat (interior and housing).

The Soyer administration was particularly inept in its handling of the latest stage of the economic downturn in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

To be sure, the government had plenty of warnings at the end of summer 2008 that the crisis was approaching, but it chose to do nothing. Its only strategy was to call an early election, expecting that it might do better now than later.

Instead of tax relief and expansionary public works projects and job creation, the Soyer administration opted for a political gamble. His leadership – and in particular the defeated three – had no vision and no economic programme. The voters kicked them out and the Soyer administration got what it deserved.

Hopefully, within the next 30 days, the incoming UBP will mount an aggressive economic programme: that is what the electorate is demanding and the people want it now.

What are the options? First, the construction sector and the housing market must be revived based on an action plan to be worked out jointly in consultation with major stakeholders. Likewise, the tourism sector must be boosted, hopefully by creating a new and independent Tourism Board in place of the dysfunctional ‘Tourism Ministry’.

Job creation must be addressed head-on with appropriate monetary and fiscal policy incentives. Micro-credit opportunities for small enterprises must be provided, public investment projects implemented jointly with the Turkish Aid Office.

The project to import 75 million tonnes of Turkish water annually from Anamur must be given urgency. Tourism expansion and industrial growth are meaningless without adequate water supply.

Likewise, electricity, highways and other public works must be implemented for economic development of north Cyprus. Enabling tax and investment regulations must be enacted and managed by an efficient bureaucracy.

Public sector reform can no longer be delayed. The people of north Cyprus have had enough of inefficient bureaucratic offices, over-staffed and rewarded with inflated salaries. Public servants must be just that – serving the public, not the other way around.

Over and above the economic message, the voters last Sunday have signalled their anger at the lack of progress over the Cyprus problem. People feel betrayed by the EU that had promised to end the isolation of north Cyprus, and they are angry at both Talat and Christofias who look increasingly like past leaders. Elitism in politics must end. People want solutions.

In the weeks and months ahead, the new team of UBP will be at the helm. Their performance will be closely watched. Turkish Cypriot electorate has demonstrated an impressive capacity for rational behaviour: voters are fed up and they have no tolerance for incompetence at the highest political level.

Ozay Mehmet is the Dean of the Eastern Mediterranean University’s Faculty of Business and Economics

By Ozay Mehmet, Cyprus Mail, April 22, 2009

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