Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist

Gambling in search of paradise lost

By Hermes Solomon

BRUSSELS has supplanted the British Empire and Ottomans, the Franks, Venetians and Genovese. ‘Free’ Cyprus is destitute and again enslaved.
Former finance minister, Michaelis Sarris told us three months ago that the only safe euros are those in our pockets. Was he intimating that our banks are no longer trustworthy? House finance committee chairman, Nicholas Papadopoulos thinks 300 euros per account per day from ATM’s, and 5000 sent abroad monthly, is unsustainable. Does he want the Central Bank to tighten restrictions? Will bank employees strike and close down banks anyway as soon as job losses are announced? Will disenfranchised Cyprus Airways employees disrupt holiday traffic? If banks and airports seriously malfunction during the tourist season, we are kaput!
Our captains of industry, banking and financial services have jumped ship. We are left with a scandal riven government lacking in purpose and direction, impoverishing us through increased taxation and unheard of levels of unemployment causing an inability to reimburse loans; misery and a sense of hopelessness.
Gambling in search of paradise lost is all we have left – the Joker lottery winning seven million for someone in Greece last week. But if Greece is next in line for a bail-in, where will the winner bank his winnings – under his mattress?
We have lost our grandparents’ art of surviving on less – stuffed by this government rather than stuffing peppers, tomatoes, marrow and vine leaves and eating macaronia. Back then we ate real village bread, cheese and olives fit to fill empty stomachs, by-products of fruit, grapes in particular. Nothing was wasted: snails, (holidaying kids are upturning plant pots this year) wild molocha and asparagus, capers and mushrooms, almost anything that grew or moved on the ground, swam in the sea or flew in the air. Even locusts are edible, and Cyprus was plagued by them a century or more ago.
But we survived! Survived in sufficient numbers to emigrate and taint the Commonwealth with our blood, customs, history and ambitions, so much so that we rebuilt Cyprus from without only to destroy it from within.
Land values and the construction industry sky rocketed due to emigrants investing every spare penny back home. We owe them a debt of thanks for back then, but who will invest in Cyprus today?
I see Nobodies driving new Mercs when Mercs were once taxis that we filled and shared from the port of Limassol to Nicosia along that bumpy road which cut through the Turkish Cypriot village of Kofinou – refreshment stopover under a clump of eucalyptus swaying towards the hilltop village of Kornos – a two hour dusty drive and no air-con on those sizzling summer days.
A track of land that my grandmother purchased in 1938 for 25 pounds (financed by her merchant son in Addis Ababa) was valued at 12 million euros prior to the island’s economic collapse.
In 1938, 25 pounds was a year’s income for a smallholder. Which of our farmers earns 12 million today? And that’s where everything went wrong – insane rise in land values due to outsider money turning smallholders into ‘property developers’ – abstract wealth exploited by uncultivated ex-cultivators.
What percentage of our present government and administration are sons or grandsons of smallholders, proud men who scrimped and saved to send their offspring abroad to colleges, polytechnics then universities?
While professors pontificate on ways and means to reinvigorate the economy, the ordinary man absorbs the body blows of a government which signed a memorandum unopposed by opposition parties, who now say, ‘I told you so!’ as bruises become blatantly visible.
Skilled artisans can find work in Germany, but not our lawyers, accountants, civil servants and bank clerks – service industry employees are no longer serviceable – helpless, useless in today’s economy! This group will remain permanently unemployed unless they emigrate like our forefathers had to 60 years ago.
Anyone can be wise after the event, but nobody closed the gate when the ‘studs’ were munching in the stable. In 2008 we were told our banks are ‘safe’. Today they are all under threat of closure, bankrupt and unsustainable. Union leaders hassle over provident funds, bonuses and redundancy pay. They know that thousands more jobs will be lost – not theirs, but those of their members.
When the number of unemployed reaches 30 per cent of the working population will our leaders and administration reduce their numbers/wages accordingly? Yeah, you bet!
The House bill to reduce rents by 20 per cent was put back to September for the simple reason that ‘elite’ landlords chose to be the last to incur the inequities of this island’s economic collapse. Don’t they realise that 80 per cent of something is better than an empty shop? Or do they think that rent reductions will cause the final collapse of their untenable ‘house of cards’?
If politicians believed in an economic upturn they would call for a rent free period until then. But they know that any upturn before 2016 is utterly unimaginable; we are being fed promises, promises! And promises do not fill empty stomachs…
Sophistry, cynicism and sarcasm, bilging and bellowed from the mouths of those ‘studs’ who destroyed Mari/Vasiliko, who stole from our banks and transferred their loot abroad – avoiding prosecution by ‘rigging’ endless judicial enquiries and investigations – should know that their time for paying the piper will come, as it did for more than a handful of corrupt Greek politicians, Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, and is about to for Bernard Tapie and Nicholas Sarkozy in France.
Our ‘golden boys’ and their political associates are on the run. But the ordinary man, when wronged criminally and irredeemably, never forgets.

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