By Nathan Morley
While most of us prepare to tuck into our turkey and puddings this Christmas, the Institute of Statisticians has provided a set of figures which is proving very hard to swallow.
According to their numbers, 5.7 per cent of adults now depend on emergency food handouts from municipal and private food banks.
The head of the institute Chrysanthos Savvides, tells me that the study, which is the first of its kind, lays bare the shocking scale of hardship and hunger all around us.
The report also revealed that a staggering 7.4 per cent of Cypriots have admitted to receiving help from the food banks at least once.
Savvides adds that with employment set to rise further, we can expect an even grimmer set of figures next year.
The realisation that so many people need food aid should horrify us, but is made more bearable by the news that the government have their finger firmly on the pulse of the nation as they pressure the House to let them sign a €100 million contract to purchase a set of Israeli gunboats (with missile capability).
Reading such news often causes severe dizziness, it’s almost a feeling of being detached from reality. I can only conclude that I obviously don’t know the basics of how government finances work.
To add to the misery, motorists face a very unwelcome New Year’s present as petrol and diesel prices are set to shoot up again up from the new year. The latest rise is as a result of a five cent increase on consumer tax, plus a one cent VAT hike.
Petrol station owners are lucky to be in a location where most of the population is totally dependant on cars. Rising fuel prices in countries with adequate public transport usually encourages motorists to switch from using cars, but this is not feasible given the state of the local transport system.
It simply highlights that the way we travel needs to undergo major transformation in the near future.
The fact that we need a serious effort to upgrade the country’s public transport system reminded me of a story last year, when the former Foreign Minister Erato Marcoullis announced that Cyprus would boast a high-speed intercity service within the next 15 years.
At the time, she said the network would link all major travel hubs, towns and cities and a journey from Nicosia to Paphos would take just half an hour. Marcoullis was one of the most competent and effective ministers Cyprus has ever seen, should she ever return to high office, I hope this idea will be picked up again.
Certainly the circumstances for embarking on a massive transport project are not ideal during this economic depression, but as a long term endeavour it’s worth planning now, especially as the European Commission announced last week that it is to triple its funding for rail research and development after formally adopting the industry initiative ‘Shift2Rail’.
Incidentally, a study from the University of Cyprus revealed that a train service on the island could reduce carbon emissions by a staggering 70 per cent.
Drain cover theft epidemic
Drain covers in Cyprus need to be forensically tagged – or changed to plastic as metal theft looks like the fastest growing crime in the country.
Almost every single gully cover on a road in our village has been stolen recently, leaving dozens of great gaping holes along the road, posing a real danger that people could be seriously injured while out walking, cycling or driving.
A quick browse in the archives shows the growing problem of metal theft. Churches, schools and homes have been targeted, with the situation bordering on the ridiculous.
Scrap metal dealers may now only buy from licensed holders, but it’s known that cash is still the king at some establishments and I’m informed a drain cover can fetch €10 for scrap (but cost over €200 to replace).
The high spot of the week was going to see the NEMESIS III being scuppered off the coast of Protaras as part of the scheme to lure divers to our shores. The old French tug has become the first artificial reef to be sunk in a scheme which will see three more vessels being sent to a watery grave by summer next year.
There was quite a festive atmosphere as drinks were served on the shore and a dozen boats carrying sightseers positioned themselves as close as possible to the sinking site. Cheers went up when the boat slipped beneath the water.
And back to the curry
Last week I harped on about the curries served on British Airways, which resulted in some interesting correspondence. Apparently in 2008, a British Airways jet flying from Belgrade to London had to make an emergency landing as a result of both aircraft crew and passengers mistaking curry smell for poisonous gas.
Passengers who mistook the curry stink for poisonous gas were frightened out of their wits, fearing it for another terrorist attack.
And finally before I sign off to enjoy a week of Christmas cheer….the story of the week has to go to a Taiwanese tourist that had to be rescued after accidentally walking off a pier in Melbourne while checking her Facebook page. An Australian police spokesman called on people to pay more attention when using social media around water.
There was no need to search for her mobile, as she “kept hold of her phone throughout the entire ordeal”. Priceless.
If you spot my drain cover, drop an email [email protected]