A year of broken banks and busted airlines
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.
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?