By Hermes Solomon
SEVEN thirty in the morning and I can hear the distant beating of tin drums, practicing for the parade – the 28th – Ochi Day for Greece and my secret wish for a ‘Yes Day’ for Cyprus – together we can!
The boy is the school standard-bearer for the first time and leading the ‘bunch’. I told him to salute the president and general staff – politicians and priests stood to attention on the official rostrum.
He said the flagpole would fall from his grasp. I said, ‘How very symbolic!’
Greek flags everywhere on the day. My wife wanted to wave the Cyprus flag. I told her not to be silly – today we are Greek!
Next summer the boy will be inducted into an army ruled by mainland Greek officers. He will be ordered to slosh out the latrines along with all new conscripts – commanded to do so twice on the same day – sergeants seeking blind obedience to authority and the party line.
He wants to pursue studies in ballistics and/or forensics – he’s gun mad, but like Norman Bates, wouldn’t harm a fly.
The army stultifies studies and leads some of our boys into Sunday liturgies, which talk of Greece, our motherland, the Holy Cross and painted images – icons galore, distracting and disorientating.
Where is ‘half’ of Cyprus on the 28th – genuflecting and kissing the hand of the ‘motherland’?
I am a Grecophile, but not a Greek. I am also a Francophile and anglophile, but do not genuflect on the 14th of July – Bastille Day, or salute Queen Elizabeth’s portrait on her birthday. I was a Europhile, but now, after seeing what’s happened to Cyprus, I have my doubts.
And what is a Cyprophile – does the word exist? The well-publicised phrase, ‘Love Cyprus’, does, and I do. And by my life, have we got problems today somewhat more important than parading for Greece on their Ochi Day!
Three weeks ago I wrote ‘all present were photographed at different times posing clustered about a tired looking President Anastasiades’. Two weeks later he spent 48 hours in a Brussels hospital due to a high blood pressure induced nosebleed. Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras covered for him at an important EU meeting. And after the president’s return home, he was absent from the Ochi Day celebrations.
Apart from those embarrassments there are others: the House of Reps seeks to extend the closing date for payment of IPT and still offer 15 per cent discount; must be because so few have thus far paid.
Added to that our banks have passed the stress test – poppycock! All that’s happened is the juggling of parameters by the tested and the testers.
We are still in debt to the tune of €30,000 per head of the population with no visible or tangible signs of an upturn in the economy.
The insistence that banks must lower interest rates and kick-start handing out loans is all we are fed by Harris and Nicos – the beating of the economic upturn tin drum, distant, hollow sounding and empty.
By contrast, the IMF honed in on our banks’ non-performing loans (NPLs), citing the urgency for Cyprus to implement a foreclosures framework.
“The recovery of the Cypriot banking sector now hinges primarily on the successful and sustainable resolution of NPLs,” they said.
And Cyprus’ sixth tranche of its €10bn bailout programme has been held up due to differences between the executive and legislature on the foreclosures legislation – time wasting by opposition parties beating empty drums.
And if we don’t soon meet Troika demands there will be no fuel, food on tables or festivities; we will have nothing with which to pay for it all!
Added to that, specific proposals on civil service reform will be tabled by the end of the year, the IMF saying that high levels of public salaries and pensions could be further reduced.
It also suggested subjecting public pension gratuities to income tax; lump-sum payments received at the start of retirement averaged around €104,637 per person in 2013.
Added to that, the IMF said that education authorities should consider increasing working hours, class sizes, extending school schedules, and rationalising (reducing) non-teaching staff. Secondary education had an average of only eight students per teacher in 2011, compared to the European average of 14.
Added to that, Cyprus must, by the year’s end, enact new insolvency legislation to facilitate debt restructuring.
This legislation is designed to complement foreclosures related legislation, the aim being to weed out uncooperative borrowers and give solvent debtors incentives to settle their arrears with banks.
As many as 30 companies owe the state a total of €100m in VAT; the list including investment companies, contractors, developers, banks, trading companies and football clubs. In addition to VAT arrears, the state is owed €525m in unpaid income tax. Have taxpayers got problems or are they tax avoiders?
Added to that, tourism from Russia is anticipated to be considerably down next year although up a little from EU member states.
And that’s it – a short summary of just several of the island’s more ‘serious’ problems without a single mention of Barbaros (the most modern German designed frigate in the Turkish Navy) which stunted the Cyprob talks with its ‘messing about’, hogging the headlines and House of Reps ever since I predicted Nicos’ hospitalisation.