Cyprus Mail
Opinion

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Dreams of oil wealth shattered

The president puts a brave face on the barrage of criticism he received over the joint statement

By Patroclos

DO NOT expect too much festive cheer, even though the season of goodwill is upon us and we are perilously close to Christmas Day.

Things might have been different if Phil’s Tuesday, front-page headline about the existence of vast quantities of oil in Block 12 that would have made us a cool €60 billion was correct. Unfortunately the killjoys of Noble Energy punctured our euphoria before we even had time to start dreaming of a life of affluent leisure, travelling the world, staying at the most expensive, plushest hotels and dining only at Michelin-star restaurants.

The government must have been relieved by Noble’s party-pooping, because if the story went unchallenged for more than 24 hours, public parasites would have been on the streets demanding pay rises and a chauffeur-driven limo each to take them to work at 10am every morning.

Our euphoria lasted only a few hours. By late afternoon Noble issued a statement saying that there was “evidence of multiple opportunities” in Block 12 with approximately 1.5 billion “barrels of gross unrisked oil potential” (another 1.5bn was in Israel’s block). However, exploratory drilling had to be carried before the quantities were confirmed and it was established that the oil could be extracted.

Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis also acted as a party-pooper saying that we could only talk of proven oil reserves once drilling had taken place and this was scheduled in a year’s time.

 

THE LEADER of the Alliance of Citizens and hydrocarbons expert, Yiorkos Lillikas who has the same supernatural powers as Solon Kasinis – both men have the gift of being able to estimate the quantities of gas and oil reserves under the sea bed by instinct (no drilling required) – urged the government to pressure the companies that had drilling rights to get on with it.

“The procedure must be speeded up so that we can have the extraction of the oil and its exploitation as soon as possible.” If necessary “the government would have to offer incentives to the companies so that in a short period of time the Cyprus Republic would have revenue from oil.”

This would help us disengage from the memorandum, he said, suggesting we could be collecting cash for our oil before the assistance programme ends in 2016. Hearing Yiorkos, I almost started to dream of the life of affluent leisure, but then I remembered that he always was a cheap, false hopes salesman, masquerading as a great political mind.

The patriotic Paphite also wanted “to send a message to those who systematically try to downplay the value of our hydrocarbons, that they were not offering good services to the country and our national cause.”

Kasinis’ soul-mate and fellow psychic then gave the facts: “Cyprus has a very big wealth disproportionately big for our population, as long as there is the right strategy by the government ….”

 

THE FOLLOWING day Noble’s Energy Senior Vice President Keith Elliott held a conference call during which he said that the data gleaned so far is raw and therefore the company was in no position yet to assign any probability to the discovery of oil.

He then mentioned certain features (too boring to repeat) that had to be explored, explaining that “failure of any of these features to occur can cause the prospects of discovery to disappear”. He did not hear Lillikas’ message that downplaying the quantities of our hydrocarbons was a disservice to the country.

 

THE NEWS of the probable oil quantities in Block 12 must be the reason our government tried to secure a speedy approval from the legislature for wasting €100 million on two gunboats that it signed a contract to buy from Israel.

It also wanted approval for wasting €28.5 million on repairs to our 11 Russian assault helicopters. With our gunboats, that will feature light weaponry and assault helicopters any attempts by the bullying Turks to violate our sovereignty and stop our drilling for oil will be repelled.

There is also another very good reason I can think of, for depriving our cash-strapped economy of €128.5m, on defence equipment that will be of no use or value to anyone, but libel laws prevent me from mentioning it.

 

THE BREAKTHOUGH on the joint declaration that was expected last weekend never materialised and Downer headed Down Under feeling very down, having pissed us off big-time by meeting Turkey’s mousy foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu, who was visiting Kyproulla illegally, at Turkey’s illegal embassy in the pseudo-state.

Apparently the government made official protests to the UN for Big Bad Al’s provocative behaviour but Ban Ki-moon has declined to tell us what his punishment would be. Our sources at the UN inform us however that Ban will not be sacking him because he is so fed up with everyone in Kyproulla he believes we deserve to have to deal with the bolshie Aussie.

 

UNFORTUNATELY our collective hatred for the Turk-loving Aussie did not keep us united for very long. Big divisions appeared at Wednesday’s meeting of the party leaders, during which Prez Nik presented his latest proposal for a joint declaration that was very similar to the proposal submitted by Al.

Worse still, Nik defended the proposal informing the moaning leaders that he would submit it to the UN and if Eroglu accepted it, start negotiations. The professional naysayers were apoplectic, with Ethnarch Junior, whose already sizeable arrogance was given an unneeded boost by his election to the DIKO leadership, leading the barrage of criticism on the poor prez.

Junior is turning out more hard-line than his late dad, if that were possible, said someone attending the meeting. The bash-patriotic resistance fighters of DIKO, EDEK, EUROKO and Perdikis left the meeting very disappointed and began calling for the preparation of a Plan B.

This cunning Plan B would ensure the solution of the Cyprob without negotiations with the Turks, because it would place the problem, as EDEK never tires of telling, “on its correct basis, as an issue of invasion and occupation”. And if Plan B does not work, we could prepare Plan C and then Plan D. And who knows there may be an agreement on the text of the joint declaration before we have exhausted all the letters of the alphabet.

 

IF ANYONE was wondering why so much fuss was being made about the joint declaration, the answer was provided by Movement of Lillikas supporters. In a sombre statement the party warned that before long there would be “another text based on the last one submitted by Mr Downer so that the problems caused by some words could, supposedly be overcome.”

It added: “We want to inform Cypriot citizens that these words are the whole essence of the Cyprus problem. These words will determine the content and the quality of the Cyprus problem.” And we have been wasting all these years thinking that lawyers and diplomats could help us solve the Cyprob, when a couple of semantics professor would have completed the job in a couple of days.

 

WE HAVE to take our hats off to Christos Orphanides the founder and major shareholder of the bankrupt supermarket chain with his name. Orphanides Public company went into receivership last January owing Laiki and B of C €140m and its suppliers €85m.

Having conned his suppliers, some of whom went bust as a result, Christos Orphanides is now behind a new supermarket, named Microstores that opened in Paliometocho. Leaflets with his amazing offers have been distributed to houses in the surrounding villages. Microstores is probably registered in someone else’s name, but everyone knows who the real owner is?

One would have thought that having stitched up so many suppliers, there would be nobody willing to supply Orphanides’ new supermarket with products, but this has not been the case because the dodgy businessman is not demanding credit, but paying cash up front. Where did he find the money to pay cash up front?

His company may be bankrupt but his personal fortune has not been touched and Mr Christos obviously enjoys reminding all the suppliers he duped out of millions that he remains a wealthy man.

 

IT GETS worse. One of our regulars, an importer who likes his skettos with a few drops of Scotch, could not contain his anger the other day, because Microstores asked him to supply it with products. He is owed about €1 million by Orphanides and did not want to supply him with any products, even if he would be paid in cash.

He was livid when he was informed by his lawyer that he could not refuse to supply Microstores, as it was offering cash on delivery. If he did, the law-abiding Orphanides could report him to the Commissioner for the Protection of Competition for violating some competition law by which all retail outlets have to be treated equally.

Our customer is obliged by law to do business with a guy who conned him out of one million euros.

 

BUSINESS web-site Stockwatch, the semi-official mouthpiece of Professor Panicos, posted a story last Thursday informing its readers that “the capital of the Bank of Cyprus is significantly lower than the average for the big banks of ‘memorandum’ countries according to the European Banking Authority.”

The report said the BoC core tier one capital stood at 10.5 per cent at the end of June. Greek banks were among the most well capitalised, Stockwatch reported, informing its readers that Bank of Piraeus, was top of the list with core tier 1 capital of 15 per cent. These media plugs for Piraeus are becoming very irritating, especially combined with the bombardment of its nauseating advertisements claiming it is motivated by selflessness and human values.

Was this another stab in the back of the BoC by Professor Panicos, who has it in for the bank, or was Stockwatch angling for advertising? On the day this item was posted the BoC was contacted by a web-site boss, demanding the renewal of the lucrative advertising budget for 2014. And as a gesture of goodwill the unflattering item was removed from the web-site.

 

A SHIPMENT of Islamic chicken bought by the defence ministry for the army caused uproar when the press got hold of the story and claimed that “infected chicken imported from Turkey” were being supplied to the National Guard.

The press had jumped to this mistaken conclusion because the packaging had the star and crescent symbol that featured on the Turkish flag. This was to indicate that it was halal chicken and therefore fit for consumption by Muslims, who have a bit of a fetish over how animals are slaughtered.

Defence minister Fotis Fotiou found a pretext to withdraw the batch of poultry, saying the chicken’s weight was not up to spec and there had been irregularities with the slaughterhouse seal and package labeling, presumably the star and crescent.

The chicken was not infected and did not come from Turkey but the Netherlands. But they were withdrawn because as Fotiou said, he would not compromise the health and safety of soldiers, by allowing them to eat chicken of the wrong weight supplied in the wrong packaging.

 

I HOPE that the chicken has not been destroyed or dumped because there are plenty of families that would be more than happy to have them for their Christmas dinner. I am informed by people in the know that Islamic chicken tastes as good as Christian chicken even on Christmas Day.

 



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