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Our View: Government must learn to better manage expectations

SOME ANGRY words were exchanged between government spokesman Christos Stylianides and a radio show presenter yesterday morning about President Anastasiades’ meeting with Mario Draghi in Frankfurt on Wednesday. Stylianides had criticised the media for building up the expectations for the meeting, something that ensured the outcome would have been seen as disappointing.

However the presenter, hit back, arguing it was the presidential palace that had built up the expectations and journalists were merely reporting what was being said by the government. Even if the government had not clearly spelt out that the president’s intention was to seek practical support from the ECB to ensure the survival of the Bank of Cyprus, it was easy for journalists to conclude that this was the purpose of the visit, given everything that has been said about the issue by the government in the last few weeks.

Stylianides may have had a point, in blaming the media, but ultimately it was the government’s responsibility to manage the situation and failed to do so. There were many ways in which this could have been done, the easiest being the issuing of an announcement, in advance, playing down the importance of the meeting, labelling it as being of ‘a general nature’ and saying no decisions would be taken. If the government had made this clear from the start, no journalist could have built up expectations or attached so much significance to it.

Then again, it is a bit rich of the government to complain about the media given the publicity it has been giving to the problems faced by the Bank of Cyprus. The president, his spokesman and the finance minister have all been publicly expressing their concerns about the future of the bank. The government was not even able to keep the president’s letter to the members of the Troika, seeking support for the Bank of Cyprus, a secret. It was leaked to the media a few days after it had been sent, prompting cynics to suggest that the letter had been written primarily for domestic consumption.

The same could have been said of the Draghi meeting. The government expected nothing to come of it, but domestically it would be seen, like the letter to the troika, as part of the president’s efforts to save the Bank of Cyprus. We do not think this is the case and hope the government would have learnt that some important issues are best kept out of the public domain. The letter should have been kept secret, because of the possibility of a receiving a negative answer, as came to pass. And after the publication of the letter, the build-up of expectations for Wednesday’s meeting was inevitable.

In the end the government needs to act more prudently and keep important issues out of the public domain if it wants to keep control of what is happening.

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