Financial Mirror (Cyprus)
Indifference at the seat of government
This administration knows its time is nearly up, so it has grown a thicker skin than usual to society’s ills and hidden in its bunker of unkept promises and platitudes.
Even though the Presidential Elections are nine months down the road, you can already hear the government shutters coming down.
The President will have trips abroad to signify his kudos on the world stage and trumpet the energy alliance with Greece, Israel and Egypt.
Distinguished guests will also be invited to underscore the great strides Cyprus has made as a ‘valuable’ member of the European Union.
But as the Anastasiades roadshow winds down after two terms, Cypriots face a gruelling post-pandemic doubleshock.
After two years of COVID-19 restrictions – and no certainty the pandemic will return stronger – Cyprus faces unprecedented inflations with supply chain shortages aggravated by Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Rising energy bills and price inflation has reduced Cypriot purchasing power, with inflation expected to peak above 10%, making people poorer overnight.
Make no mistake; if people aren’t struggling already, they will be soon as interest rates rise to make loan payments harder to maintain.
The residue of the financial crisis still lingers, as does the COVID wreckage to our social and working life.
More grief is coming as the cost of living crisis transforms into a mega-monster that can’t be contained.
Assurances from the government that it has the situation under control have all the conviction of a fortune cookie.
It says vulnerable groups will be taken care of – but we are all vulnerable to soaring food prices and stonking energy bills.
Taking a few cents off the petrol pump price and energy bills is not enough; there has to be a comprehensive and cohesive strategy to keep people from falling into poverty.
People don’t talk about Cypriots living on the bread – because we are supposed to take care of our own – but there is no welfare state to catch those who fall through the trap door.
Inflation is at a 40-year high of 8.8%, and it will grow into double digits during the summer, and it could worsen as the war in Ukraine rumbles on.
What is the government going to do about it? What’s the plan?
It says vulnerable groups will be taken care of, but even middle-income families are beginning to feel the pinch as they are essentially earning 10% less than they did last year.
If the government believes there is not much it can do to rectify a global phenomenon, why aren’t the opposition parties offering a road map out of the financial crunch.
President Anastasiades may feel he had done enough by steering the country clear of bankruptcy when he first came to power in 2013 and then leading the march through an unprecedented deadly pandemic.
Fair enough, but he has also managed to bury the Cyprus problem further out of sight than even his biggest critics could think possible.
Fresh-faced candidates in the elections – immune to the cost-of-living blitz – will tell us they can resurrect the reunification process, but they will have to find it first.
Even if the search party does rescue it from an underground cave in deepest Mexico, chances are it will never be able to produce a seed that can grow after such a lengthy trauma.
A sign that the government has grown indifferent and lacks the mindset to lead was its rather muted approach to the mindless violence outside a football stadium that saw an innocent bystander almost burn to death.
A 20-year-old was critically injured when his clothes caught fire after a Molotov cocktail was thrown as rival football fans clashed in Larnaca in full view of the police.
The incident shocked public opinion with mounting criticism that hooliganism was allowed to go unchecked by the authorities.
There was no immediate response or condemnation from the government taking a stance against football violence on the streets.
Only when government officials understood staying silent for several days made them appear callous and disinterested did a half-hearted intervention occur.
Anastasiades demanded a full explanation from the police on the events surrounding the incident, although that’s something all politicians do when they want to be seen doing something.
He will flick through it diligently and place it on the pile with the other criminal probes his successor will have the luxury of ignoring.