Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Boot well and truly on the other foot

Paphos property signs in Chinese

By Hermes Solomon

Back in 2005, my bridge partner, an official from one of the Commonwealth’s high commissions, told me that due to high demand for extra-marital sex he’d heard that most Chinese housemaids had deserted their Cypriot employers to become ‘members of the most ancient profession in the world’, this phrase quoted from the opening line of a short story by Rudyard Kipling published in 1888.

But instead many Chinese either married a Cypriot national and acquired citizenship or returned to their own now booming economy. Today’s housemaids are refused visa extensions at the end of any four year term in an effort to dissuade demands for citizenship, which are now virtually unobtainable for any ‘underclass’ third country national. Besides, many applications can now take a minimum of seven years to complete and few are bothering to apply since the island’s economic collapse, which presages grim future financial prospects for us all.

A team from the ministry of commerce and industry, along with several ‘notable’ Cypriot business tycoons, recently embarked on a trade mission to China in the hope of resuscitating our flagging (bankrupt) construction industry.

Give-away offers of casino licences will be high on an agenda that seeks investors prepared to gamble on this island’s future. The Chinese are notorious gamblers. But they are not stupid! They will regard this mission as what I believe to be ‘members of the most ancient profession in the world’ – international traders with little for sale other than their ‘charm’.

Our ‘missionaries’ will be obliged to bow, beg and scrape on their knees at the feet of Chinese dignitaries to whom they will offer citizenship in this bankrupt EU member state in exchange for hard cash.

The Greeks are a year ahead of us in exploiting this brothel-like business model, the Chinese having invested billions in our ‘motherland’ while we still parade our schoolchildren in honour of their Ochi Day, long faced and yet again deceived.

News travels fast and worldwide at the tap of a key. The new chairman of the Bank of Cyprus does not speak Greek and his English is intoned with that most attractive of Irish lilts. Our banking sector will become monolingual, English speaking, not Mandarin. Our tourist destinations will become bi-lingual, Russian and English, not Greek or mandarin. Our SME’s will be weighed down by non-paying customer debt and immovable stockpiles. Municipalities will be cut to the bone and public services will deteriorate to the point where they will seem non-existent. Wages, benefits and pensions of civil servants and hospital staff will be slashed and PEO union chief – that man Kiritis, who even looks like a Pekinese – will incite strikes and ‘pillow fight’ riots that will further impoverish those once upon a time ‘cushy’ employees and deter Chinese investors.

The boot has changed feet! Most former Cypriot employers of Chinese housemaids are themselves now out of work, but not yet ‘on the streets’ soliciting.

What this government doesn’t tell us is what we already know; we are in for a very hard time without any realistic or sustainable hope of an economic upturn! Worthless predictions of a 2015 improvement do not fill empty stomachs, most of which are still sagging over trouser belts from having lived the good times, sagging flesh an indication of past profligacy.

There is nothing substantial in the rhetoric of all political parties and ministers, who vote for wage cuts and higher taxation while selling their mirage of economic sustainability.

If remodelled, Cyprus could offer an excellent tourist product and sustainable agriculture. These two industries built the economy during the early years of independence with the help of cheap air travel and predominantly UK package tour market share, only for both to be destroyed by insanely greedy and maliciously bent developers/hoteliers, banksters and lawyers. And I do not exclude the complicity of our church when banksters encouraged our naïve clergy to indulge in Ponzi schemes that became the ruin of financial markets.

Investors, investments and money alone will not save Cyprus. A radical change in attitudes, indictment of known criminals and justice served instead of perpetually adjourned, might. Above all, we must now be prepared to offer a full day’s work for half a day’s pay.

When will government departments, banks and developers stop feeding us poppycock and confirm groundless statements with proven facts and figures rather than piffle?

Perhaps the two government spokesmen, Stylianides and Papadoupoulos, will victoriously announce troika truths established by next weekend instead of yet more lies.

After the Ochi Day parade had ended, the president’s entourage returned to the presidential palace via Chilonas Street; two police motorbikes leading the way with blip sirens to jostle crowds, followed by a security Merc and then the president’s limousine, which was backed up by a further two security cars and two more blip bikers. An elderly lady with grandchild was forcibly hurried off the road, which was technically closed to traffic and she turned on the biker giving him more than a mouthful. I waved my Jermyn Street ebony walking stick in support, which Nicos mistook for a greeting, smiling and waving back at me like an ageing royal cheered by roadside spectators.

Ah, Nico! That permanently fixed sickly smile will fool some of the people some of the time, although I admire his courage for taking on AKEL’s mess at 67 years of age.

But then again, François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand (French president in 1995 at the age of 79) was also renowned for his permanently fixed half-smile and uncharacteristic admission on Bouillon de culture (a French TV, cultural, prime-time talk show) that he was a compulsive liar.

I simply ‘loved’ the extremely well-read Mitterrand for his intellect and illegitimate daughter as I do Nicos for his illegitimately cultivated bravado!

Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl’s shared dream of forgetting the past and unifying Germany and France came to pass, but Nicos doesn’t have a dream or hope in hell of reunifying Cyprus! Yet it is only when Cyprus is reunified that ‘big-time’ investors will come our way.

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