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OpinionTales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Big buildings a testament to big egos

WITH OUR state reduced to beggar status, you would have thought that vanity projects like the much-touted Megaro Politismou (Cultural Centre) would have suffered the same fate as the Paphos-Polis highway.

But you would be wrong, because the man behind this grand folly is a well-connected member of the establishment who refuses to give up his pet project. Former banker Kikis Lazarides, in his role as patron of modern architecture, has successfully prevented the scrapping of this costly project, which should have been abandoned years ago.
But even now, with the state depending on the kindness of foreigners, there has been no final decision because scrapping the project would supposedly have a high cost. Compensation would have to be paid for cancelling contracts with architects and engineers. And if the disputes with contractors went to arbitration the cost to the taxpayer would be even higher.
The impression was that it would cost less to build Kikis’ Megaro than to abandon it because most of the 80 to 100 million euro cost would be covered by EU funds anyway. But how many big public construction projects in Cyprus have been completed within budget? I am sure it is not more than zero.
Also it has never been clear how much of the cost would be covered by the EU. Even if it is 80 per cent the penniless taxpayer would still have find the rest of the dosh, plus cover the inevitable extras that would arise during the construction. It is a lose-lose situation that will have only one positive effect – the boosting of Kikis’ substantial ego, which age appears not to have withered.

FOREIGN readers may wonder why we have used the term ‘megaro’. It is because there is no English equivalent for this word, the meaning of which is ‘big, imposing or palatial building’. It is a pretentious word that is often used ironically nowadays.
So rather than refer to Kikis’ folly as the Big, Imposing Building for Culture, we just call it the Cultural Centre, which is not very accurate and does not really do justice to the grand conceit of the project. If you break up the word into ‘me garo’ and put the accent on the ‘a’, in the Cypriot vernacular it literally means ‘with donkey’ of civilisation.
Incidentally, the project is managed by the equally pretentiously titled Cultural Foundation. In Kyproulla we think we will develop culture and the arts by putting up expensive buildings. By having a fancy music hall with several auditoriums, good acoustics and state-of-the art sound systems that cost millions we will suddenly become passionate music lovers and all kids would be wandering the streets with a violin case under their arm. But first the megaro has to be built.
It was not only Kyproulla’s population that would benefit from the megaro. As we were reminded by a report in yesterday’s Simerini, when Kikis gave birth to the idea in 2003 and sold it to his bosom buddy Ethnarch Tassos, the project had two objectives. It would aim at developing and promoting culture, but also turn Kyproulla into “a centre of culture”. Once the megaro was built we would have become the Paris of the Middle East, a regional centre for music and the arts.

OVER the years we have toyed with the idea of being a regional centre for higher education, banking and financial services, organ transplants, Chinese manufactured products, golf, advanced technology and more.
Although our role as a regional cultural centre is in the balance, defence minister Fotis Fotiou thought of another way to satisfy our regional pretensions. The aim, Fotiou said, was to “transform Cyprus into a regional centre of stability and peace for the area, a role that had been confirmed by the crisis in Syria.”
Would we not have to build a Megaro for Peace and Stability before staking our claim as a regional centre?

THE CULTURAL centre is not the only megaro the sophisticated patron of culture would be responsible for.
Before stepping down as President of the Cyprus Olympic Committee, which he ran for decades, Kikis had also commissioned architectural plans for the ‘Olympic Megaro and Park’ that would be built, according to the committee’s website, on “a plot of 7,500 square metres, having a commanding position over the entry point to the capital.”
There are a lot of details about the architectural plans of the Megaro, which in the website’s English translation is referred to as “Olympic House”. As the introduction pretentiously states: “Its architecture expresses three basic dimensions, these being the components of the Olympic ideal”.
If I am correct, only the first stage of the construction of the Olympic House has been completed because, according to the website, it “will soon be the new decoration and reference of the capital and simultaneously the first important monument of sports and Olympism in Cyprus.” Who would be paying for it the website does not mention.

SEEING the pictures of Olympic House, like the Cultural Megaro, it is in the glass and steel architectural style championed by the patron of architecture. Kikis was also responsible for the industrial steel and glass design of the flagship Laiki Bank building at another entry point to Nicosia.
Built during the golden years of Kikis’ chairmanship of Laiki, the Bauhaus building has now been inherited by the Bank of Cyprus which is looking for a buyer, as it does not want to use the ostentatious premises of a collapsed bank.
But the building will be there to remind Kikis every time he enters the capital in his car that he played a decisive part in the collapse of Laiki as it was he, personally, who got rid of HSBC and handed control of the bank to the crook Andreas Vgenopoulos.
This is what he will always be remembered for no matter how many of his proposed vanity projects in commanding positions were completed.

Not only does Christis not look like a banker he doesn't act like one either
Not only does Christis not look like a banker he doesn’t act like one either

STAYING on banking issues, the chairman of the Bank of Cyprus Christis Hasapis, who recently had a hair-cut, seized the opportunity to be the messenger of good news on Monday. He announced that the BoC would be cutting interest rates by a paltry one percentage point on some random and irrelevant types of loan.
Interest on housing loans for “financially vulnerable groups” would be cut “by as much” as one percentage point, he said, without stating who was eligible to join a financially vulnerable group. In Kyproulla of today anyone who is not a public parasite should belong to a financially vulnerable group, even though I doubt the bank sees it this way. You probably would have to have been unemployed for three years, have heart problems, at least one kid with learning difficulties and a wife who works as a cleaner before the bank classes you as a member of a financially vulnerable group, in which case the one per cent rate cut would be as helpful as an option to buy bank shares.
Chairman Christis felt obliged to announce this wonderful news personally, because he wants to be loved. Normally a bank would issue a press release to announce rate cuts. The chairman does not have to announce rate cuts or visit the House president to inform him personally as Christis had done. It just goes to show that appearances do not always deceive. Christis does not look like a bank chairman and does not act like one either.

THE BANK employees union ETYK, which is currently in pay cut negotiations with the banks’ association, has made a quite extraordinary demand. The union wants 4 per cent from the 14 per cent each bank contributes to the provident fund of its employees to be given to the union Solidarity/Strike Fund.
This is not dissimilar from the practices of the mafia-controlled unions in the US. But worse than that is the audacity of union boss Loizos Hadjicostis, who wants the banks to fund strikes. He wants to use the banks’ money to ensure strikes against the banks were successful. The mafia model of trade unionism, without the violence, has always thrived in Kyproulla.
After all, Hadjicostis, leader of ETYK for 30 years or more, is an employee of the National Bank of Greece, which still pays his salary and has been regularly promoting him as a reward for all the harm he has done to the banks.

YOU HAVE to admire the television scriptwriter who publicly apologised to homophobes and anti-gay bigots for causing offence to them by including two gays in a series currently being shown by Sigma TV. The gays were not shown having sex on screen but merely agonising whether to inform their parents about their sexuality.
This still offended the religious fanatics who inundated the station with complaints. The scriptwriter, Demetris Tokaris, being a self-respecting coward not only apologised to the social fascists but promised not to include any more references to the relationship between the two men, whom he would eventually write out of the series, sending them on a one-way trip to Spain.
The series called ‘Efta ourani ke synnefa alites’ (Seven skies and cloud tramps) which features a lot of adultery sucks big-time and we should not be wasting valuable space on it, but someone has to defend the rights of gays and take a stand against the religious bullies. We just wanted to add our voice to the protests, against Tokaris by the Lesbian Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender group known as LGBT Accept.
I just have one point to make to LGBT (they sound like a sandwich you buy at Subway). In their statement they spoke disparagingly about ‘far-right elements’ of or our society, to which I took personal offence and am considering issuing an announcement urging them not to persecute far-right elements because we were the only people who publicly supported them on this matter.

GOOD news for National Guard reservists who do not want to keep an army issue rifle at home. The government passed a series of measures that would prevent reservists who have psychological problems or had shown aggressive behaviour from keeping a rifle. The decision was taken after a reservist killed his wife and then himself.
So anyone who wants to return his gun can get his wife to call the police or the National Guard and inform them that her husband was a psycho who frequently threatened to shoot her. If you are not married, just turn up at your neighbour’s door with your rifle and tell him that if he parks his car outside your house again, there would be blood.

INCIDENTALLY, why is the taxpayer being obliged to contribute €300 million he does not have to cover the losses to ETYK’s provident fund from the collapse of Laiki Bank? Was it the taxpayer’s fault that Hadjicostis had all his members’ pension money deposited in Laiki and the BoC? This is a scandal for which the government is squarely to blame. And where did it find €300m to give ETYK at a time when we have no money to build a cultural megaro? It was afraid of the bullying Hadjicostis who had also imposed another insane idea on the government – the hiring of all Laiki’s staff by the BoC.

WE RECEIVED the following letter this week, but will not reveal the identity of the sender as she is in a serious

Delectable - Delia with dashing side-kick 'Derek'
Delectable – Delia with dashing side-kick ‘Derek’

relationship and would not like her man to know that she finds other men attractive.
‘I don’t know what the name of the handsome European Commission guy is who is usually by Delectable Delia’s side when he visits Cyprus, but as a female skettos drinker I would like to complain to your establishment for failing to feature his nerdy charms. I call him ‘Delectable Derek’ because he is every bit as interesting as Delectable Delia.
‘At least two women in your establishment think Delectable Derek deserves more media attention. His haircut never disappointed us and we believe the media has been sexist for ignoring his cute looks and coy smile.’

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