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Our View: The greed of our ruling elite knows no bounds

Christodoulos Veniamin

THE GREED and selfishness of our ruling elite – or should we call it the Cyprus Republic nomenclature – never cease to amaze. Although these loathsome qualities have been observed on countless occasions in the past, when demonstrated in times of state insolvency, record unemployment and widespread poverty they acquire real shock value, because they show that nothing has really changed.

Those who have been plundering state coffers – lawfully and legitimately, we should underline – believe it is their right to carry on doing so, even though this was one of the main reasons the state became bankrupt. It is very difficult for them to break the habit of a life-time, during which the state provided them with the high standard of living ordinary mortals of this country could only dream of.

Earlier this week, it was reported that three former state officials, who had also served as senior civil servants, had filed appeals in the Supreme Court, against a law that reduced their state pensions. They were Afxentis Afxentiou, formerly a permanent secretary, finance minister and Central Bank Governor, Veniamin, formerly a permanent secretary, deputy and interior minister and Dina Akkelidou, formerly a director of the state lab, a deputy and a health minister. A fourth, Christodoulos Christodoulou, who was formerly a permanent secretary, interior and finance minister and Central Bank Governor was reportedly considering appealing.

The above-mentioned three feel financially hard-done by because a January amendment to the 2011 law on pensions of state officials, drastically reduced their civil service pension. The 2011 law had put an end to multiple pensions paid for holding different state positions (that such a legal arrangement existed is indicative of the money-grabbing tendencies of our top officials, who influenced the drafting of the laws), ensuring that the payout could not exceed half the earnings of any of the pensions concerned. But the substantial civil service pension was left untouched, a weakness remedied by 2013 amendment, against which the three former officials are appealing.

Before the 2011 law some of the above-mentioned officials were collecting monthly pension payments in excess of €10,000 a month, without having contributed a cent towards them during their working life. With 2013 amendment, Afxentiou’s pension has fallen by another 53 per cent, from €8,000 to €3,800 per month, causing him to complain about his falling standard of living, which was rather insensitive when we consider that thousands of people’s monthly earnings have been zero, because they receive no unemployment benefit after six months out of work.

This attitude exemplifies the despicable entitlement culture of our ruling elite, who show as much sensitivity to the plight of the poor as Marie Antoinette. This was why Demetris Christofias, while he was president, insisted on being paid his €200 per diem allowance, when abroad, despite all his expenses being paid for by the taxpayer. It is the reason his wife, the former first lady, has applied for redundancy pay, according to reports this week, after losing her Akel job. The last cent possible must be squeezed from the state, even though Mrs Christofias’ husband will be receiving a super-pension for the rest of his life.

We never hear the union bosses, who constantly attack the half a dozen ‘golden boys’ of the banks, say anything about the ‘golden boys and girls’ of the state system. At least the bankers were not taking the taxpayer’s money, like top civil servants, ministers, state officials and deputies have been doing. But union bosses are part of the ruling elite that has milked dry the Cyprus Republic.

These state leeches always cite the law to defend their money-grabbing and greed. Pasydy always reminds us that big wages, big non-contributory pensions big retirement bonuses are part of the collective agreements which are legally binding. The officials appealled against the reduction of their state pension because they believed their right to squeeze as much money as possible out of the state was a legal issue. They do not know that what the law gives, the law can also take away.

This behaviour underlines our society’s biggest problem – everything is treated as a legal issue. But the payment of extortionate pensions to people who have contributed nothing towards them is not a legal issue but a moral issue. When the state is bankrupt and is borrowing billions to stay afloat, when it cannot afford to provide a safety net for the thousands of families with no income, when soup kitchens and supplies depend on the charity of individuals, maintaining state pensions at obscene levels is exclusively a moral issue.

We have lost our moral values, as a society, because we treat everything as a legal issue. This suits the members of our ruling elite, as it allows their lawful plundering of state coffers to continue.

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