Cyprus Mail
Opinion

Tales from the Coffeeshop: United in a frenzy of moral indignation

By Patroclos

THERE is nothing more annoying than the country uniting in moral indignation, collectively beating its breasts, everyone agreeing with each other and expressing the same boring views about an issue.

This all-too familiar herd mentality was set in motion by Tuesday’s decision by the Greek government to pull the plug on the mega-wasteful, state broadcaster ERT. All great and good of Kyproulla were apoplectic, protesting about the loss of 2,600 jobs, lamenting the closure of a national institution, moaning about the end to quality broadcasting (even though they never watched ERT) and expressing fears for democracy in Greece.

Hard-line commie spokesman Nicos Katsourides was particularly saddened by the event, which he felt was a big blow to democracy, pointing out that not even the junta had dared to close down ERT. Was the Greek junta more democratic than the Samaras government? Did the existence of a public broadcaster in the Soviet Union ensure democracy, pluralism and freedom of expression? And Kats is supposed to be one of the smart Akelites.

 

ALL OUR politicians, from the prez down to the last party nobody, had expressed their opposition to the closure. The public parasites union held 5-minute work stoppage in protest, RIK went off air for 10 minutes and hacks organised a very poorly attended demonstration (50 people most of whom were students) outside the Greek embassy.

The overpaid, underworked employees of RIK, were incensed with this devastating blow to democracy, also known as workers’ privileges. For two days, the ERT outrage was the top news story and the only issue discussed on chat shows; even music DJs were sermonising about it. Only the weather report was free of ERT references. If World War three had broken out it would not have been given as much coverage by RIK.

But RIK’s labour aristocrats were terrified they may suffer the same fate and decided that the best defence was to get as many people as possible to rubbish the Greek government’s decision and make it appear that their only concern was the defence of pluralism, democracy and free speech in Greece.

Their noble campaign to preserve the privileges and fat salaries of public broadcasting employees, in the name of democracy, was conducted at the taxpayer’s expense, the Rikkies using the airwaves to promote their personal agenda. That is what public broadcasting is about in Kyproulla, which is why it must preserved, even at a cost of €25m per year to the taxpayer.

Despite the passionate campaigning, RIK could still close down, considering that Prez Nik declared on Friday that what happened to ERT would never happen to RIK.

 

NEW HOPE was offered to all us suffering Kyproullans, this week, by a group of deputies who proposed that the Republic sued the ECB and its president Mario Draghi, for lending Laiki Bank too much Emergency Liquidity Assistance.

The campaign is being led by new DISY chief, Averof Neophytou, a pragmatic, upstanding neo-liberal that was recently bitten by the populism bug and has stubbornly refused to seek treatment. Averof argues that the ECB had breached its own regulations in allowing the continued provision of ELA to Laiki that resulted in a €9bn debt that poor old Bank of Cyprus now has to repay.

The Republic had to sue, “otherwise, we are losers,” concluded Averof. The legislature’s multi-purpose populist and turtle-lover Giorgos Perdikis was a step ahead as he had already sent a report prepared by economists, detailing the irregularities committed by the ECB and Draghi, to president Nik, urging him to sue.

If the ECB had not been so generous and turned the liquidity taps off sooner (Laiki needed tough, not unconditional, love) the debt would have been manageable. And it was obliged to do so (hence the irregularities) as Laiki was insolvent and therefore ineligible for assistance, according to ECB rules.

We would be suing the ECB, because it committed the inexcusable blunder of assuming Kyproulla’s banking sector was being run and supervised by responsible and sensible people.

It is the same argument used by Andreas Vgenopoulos to support that he was not to blame for bankrupting Laiki – it was the fault of the Central Bank Governor who, as the supervisory authority, did not stop him plundering the bank’s money. But not even Vgen thought of suing the former Governor for breaching CB regulations.

 

IF THERE is one person the KyproullaRepublic should be suing for Laiki’s ELA, it is our very own Central Bank Governor Professor Panicos. He was the guy authorising more and more liquidity assistance, telling the ECB that the bank was offering adequate collateral and, presumably, that it was solvent, thus increasing the debt from €3bn to €9bn.

National central banks are responsible for authorising ELA and securing it from the ECB, something Perdikis’ economists must have ignored in preparing their report. The professor publicly admitted that he had instructions from the Tof government to keep Laiki afloat until February’s presidential elections and he obeyed, drawing more money from Frankfurt and building up the debt.

The ECB bureaucrats including Draghi know very well how to cover their asses. Of course we could sue them for naively believing that the Professor, an AKEL appointee, was an independent state official who put the interests of the economy and the banking system above those of his clapped-out commie masters.

 

ONE DAY after Averof announced his plan, it was reported that Prez Nik had written to the heads of the IMF, Commission and ECB that make up the troika gang, to ask them to change the terms of the MoU, because otherwise B of C would collapse taking with it the whole banking system and economy.

He had not put it so bluntly, but this was the gist of the letter (more below) drafted by his team of economic advisors headed by our Nobel prize-winner. It seemed a bit of a tactical mistake, for deputies to demand we sue one of the organisations our prez was asking to do us this big favour.

It seemed weird that Averof a close associate and ally of Nik would undermine him in such clumsy way. Of course, there is the possibility we were witnessing a brilliantly clever plan unfold which aimed, through the threat of legal action seeking billions in damages, to force Draghi to agree to Nik’s reasonable request.

It is a good plan, but if it doesn’t work, our deputies might consider watching the Godfather film trilogy which shows a variety of methods of persuasion, that are much more effective in achieving results than the threat of legal action.

 

WHO LEAKED Prez Nik’s troika letter to the media, sparking a mini-run (restricted only by the capital controls) on the banks in the last three days of last week? Frightened head honchos of co-op banks were on radio Friday morning telling customers that everything was fine and was no reason to worry.

The leak could have been avoided if the prez had not given the letter to the party leaders, notorious for passing on information to the media. But he may have wanted the contents made public so that in the event there was a banking collapse he could claim that he had foreseen it and done everything he could to prevent it happening.

What his communications advisors might not have pointed out was that the publication of the letter could help this happen much sooner.

 

NOT CONTENT to exchange polite insults with AKEL deputy Erini Charalambidou on Facebook, over his holiday in Mykonos, DIKO chief Marios Garoyian decided to make a more meaningful contribution to public life by demanding a criminal investigation into the purchase by the B of C of Russian bank Uniastrum.

It was a change of priorities for Marios who until recently was only interested in defending Kyproulla from foreign attempts to impose an unfair, unjust and speedy solution to the Cypob. Why was he now demanding a criminal investigation into the Uniastrum deal, citing the Alvarez and Marsal report and claiming that €50m was paid in backhanders?

The A&M report clearly stated it had found “no evidence to substantiate rumours of corrupt payments in relation to the transaction,” but motor-mouth Marios’ gut feeling told him otherwise. As the prez feels eternally indebted to Marios for his election and makes a point of pandering to him, he asked the AG to order a police investigation.

So now our clueless cops would waste time and resources, looking for evidence of corrupt payments that much better qualified investigators were unable to find, because Garoyian had a hunch of wrongdoing.

 

MY HUNCH is that there is a hidden agenda. Marios has another reason for posing as a crusader against bankers’ corruption and fraud as it could help him hold on to the DIKO leadership, by seeing off the challenge from Ethnarch Junior.

Junior’s law office has represented the banks, including Laiki, a point that will most certainly be made by the devious Marios when leadership elections approach.

DIKO voters would have to choose between the cynical candidate who was working for the nasty bankers and the idealistic candidate who zealously campaigned to bring the greedy bankers before justice.

 

SPEAKING of bankers, Professor Panicos has encountered some insubordination at B of C. Panicos has written to Christakis Patsalides, the head of the bank’s treasury department, which bought the Greek government bonds, demanding that he submit his resignation.

Patsalides, unlike other top managers who received similar letters (former CEO Yiannis Kypri was one of them) and obeyed, has ignored the professor’s command. He has told colleagues that he would not resign as long the Central Bank is acting both as the administrator and the supervisor of the B of C, a perfectly legitimate point that nobody has raised.

Panicos is not only running the B of C, he is also supervising himself doing so, quite a cosy arrangement considering how badly he has been performing both duties. And when the politicians try to challenge his absolute power he runs crying to the ECB that his independence is under threat.

When a couple of weeks ago, DISY drafted a bill curtailing his powers, he begged the ECB to issue a statement of support for his independence and it did so. If he devoted as much time and effort to saving the banking system as he does to saving his ass, the banks might not be so deep in the merde today.

 

ELECTRICITY Authority workers have been visiting business premises to check that electricity meters are working properly. I hear there is no real reason for these visits other than to give EAC employees something to do now that all repair work at the Mari power station has been completed and there is no real work for them. The Authority cannot possibly make them redundant, as this would be a big blow to democracy and pluralism.

 

PHIL carried a story on Tuesday referring to a €300 fine imposed on the Cyprus Mail by the Commissioner for the Protection of Personal Data, for reporting that a leading political family had a Harrier fighter jet in its garden and naming the family. But the journalist never mentioned the Cyprus Mail, referring to it as ‘the English language newspaper’ four times. Why did the journalist of the Greek language newspaper not mention the paper’s name? We would not have reported him to the Commissioner of personal data if he mentioned our name.

 

AN EVEN bigger blow to democracy was dealt by the Cyprus Airways board which decided that it would give redundancy notices to some 200 staff tomorrow, without paying them the additional compensation that the government had promised them. The bankrupt airline’s unions have called general meetings tomorrow to decide how they would react to this broken promise. Sadly, strike action is no longer an instrument of blackmail for CY employees, another reminder that we live in undemocratic times.

 

A SKETTOS drinker related this anecdote to our establishment, but we cannot vouch for its authenticity. Two deputies were chatting in a Nicosia cafe and the Akelite was expressing his strong disapproval of Nik’s dog Leo roaming freely in the presidential palace. This was not appropriate, especially when important guests were visiting the palazzo, he said. The DISY deputy reportedly responded as follows: “You are one to talk, you had a gaaaros roaming the presidential palace for five years and were not bothered.”

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