A year of bro­ken banks and busted air­lines

Just Words...

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - CYPRUS - By Char­lie Char­alam­bous

It’s dif­fi­cult to fathom what kind of a year this has been for Cyprus as like most of us we gained a lit­tle and lost a lit­tle on our jour­ney through the year.

For some of us 2018 would have brought some chang­ing mo­ments but for most this year would seemed a lot like the last.

To be hon­est, Cyprus seemed to bluff its way through the year in pre­tend­ing it was a re­gional en­ergy heavy­weight and cared deeply about re­sum­ing re­uni­fi­ca­tion talks while mov­ing the goal­posts.

We can all judge whether we are worse off this year than last or whether the New Year will bring brighter prospects.

On the near hori­zon, the govern­ment plans to in­tro­duce a na­tional health ser­vice that will de­liver the med­i­cal care that Cypri­ots de­serve and pre­vent it from be­ing a lot­tery based on where you live and so­cial class.

A univer­sal health sys­tem based on treat­ing ev­ery­one equally with the best care avail­able goes against vested in­ter­ests who profit from a dys­func­tional ser­vice that puts doc­tors pay and priv­i­lege first and pa­tients last.

Those with most to lose are the line of most re­sis­tance, so the govern­ment will need to fight a few more bat­tles to drag all the par­ties kick­ing and scream­ing into a pi­o­neer­ing Na­tional Health Scheme.

The govern­ment must show iron de­ter­mi­na­tion in en­sur­ing the new health sys­tem works for all and not cave into the first sign of trou­ble as it did with the teach­ers when it tried to re­form the an­ti­quated ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

This is an­other hugely prof­itable arena for state teach­ers to cash in on a mis­fir­ing ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that makes Cyprus an in­ter­na­tional laugh­ing stock when it comes to maths and science met­rics.

Teach­ers get well paid whether they bother dur­ing class time or not and can still earn a pretty penny of­fer­ing pri­vate lessons to kids who can’t keep up with their school work.

Moon­light­ing is il­le­gal, but it is ac­cepted (un­of­fi­cially of course) as part of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and a damming in­dict­ment of the class­room.

How is that a fair and ef­fi­cient sys­tem? Cyprus is one of the high­est spenders on state ed­u­ca­tion but has noth­ing to show it for it, apart from mil­i­tant union teach­ers who be­lieve they know best – the re­sults speak for them­selves.

This ad­min­is­tra­tion may also want to step up to the plate and bat for re­search and in­no­va­tion which is woe­fully un­der­funded and ne­glected.

Tech­nol­ogy is the way for­ward, but we are lag­ging be­hind in e-com­merce and the dig­i­tal econ­omy.

Al­most ev­ery govern­ment ser­vice should be avail­able on­line be­cause call cen­tres don’t work while most of­fi­cial web­sites are rel­a­tively pre-his­toric in na­ture and hard to nav­i­gate.

De­spite

Cyprus mak­ing

some

dis­tance

from

life­have

the eco­nomic melt­down of 2013, the econ­omy seems to be over-re­liant on boom­ing tourism and a prop­erty boom driven by the pass­ports for in­vest­ment scheme.

Toxic loans that still pose a for­mi­da­ble ice­berg for the econ­omy could run aground if Cyprus does not plot a steady course of ac­tion where it al­lows busi­ness to grow.

Red tape, pub­lic sec­tor in­ef­fi­ciency and low pro­duc­tiv­ity are all neg­a­tive marks against an econ­omy ham­pered by risk-averse banks that are not gen­er­at­ing the kind of in­vest­ments needed.

There is a lack of sup­port for young en­trepreneurs not to men­tion a gen­der pay gap and gen­der in­equal­ity when it comes to women in top po­si­tions be it in govern­ment or the board­room.

This was also a year when we un­ex­pect­edly lost the big­gest Cypriot air­line – Cobalt went belly up – and the sec­ond largest lender – the Cyprus Co-op Bank.

Un­for­tu­nately, Cobalt tried to fly too high too fast in its short life and landed on the hard tar­mac of re­al­ity with a shud­der­ing jolt.

Cyprus again proved that it is rub­bish at run­ning banks and op­er­at­ing an air­line when faced with se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion.

Cypri­ots only suc­ceed when the odds are stacked in their favour – like a mo­nop­oly (ev­ery­one loves one of those).

An en­quiry into the col­lapse of the Co-op – which saw the govern­ment throw money at it and then sells it for peanuts – also proved with­out a shadow of a doubt that casino bankers didn’t die in the flames of cri­sis.

Loans were given out like free sweets at a birth­day party, es­pe­cially among the bankers them­selves and their mates – all very cosy and typ­i­cal of a so­ci­ety we have be­come.

Why there was a pub­lic in­qui­si­tion into how badly the Co-op cus­tomers were ripped off is a mys­tery be­cause noth­ing will be done about it with the bill posted at the door of the tax­payer.

None of these cronies are go­ing to be marched off to jail in hand­cuffs, even if their case gets to court – the jus­tice sys­tem will rule in their favour.

If child sex­ual preda­tors can get a pres­i­den­tial par­don, there is no chance of these bankers do­ing a long stretch be­hind bars.

Just like state ed­u­ca­tion and health – those with­out fi­nan­cial means or in­flu­ence are doomed to suf­fer while those with power and ac­cess get free­dom of the king­dom. That is some­thing that def­i­nitely won’t change in 2019. Cyprus may have lost an air­line and a ma­jor bank, but Li­mas­sol saw the Repub­lic’s first casino open­ing while Lar­naca got its first five-star ho­tel since the 1970s. It can’t be all bad… can it?

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