Cyprus Mail
Opinion Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Season of peace or it’s just that Nik’s not here?

Burly taxi drivers are afraid to go home to their wives

By Patroclos

WE WERE delighted to hear Prez Nik speak publicly, from his New York hospital, earlier this week, even though he still looked a bit under the weather. However the fact that he spoke to hacks and played host to Vice President Biden, only a week after major surgery, showed that our prayers were answered – our leader was indeed making a speedy recovery.

In his two-week absence from the madhouse, political life has been much quieter and calmer. There have been no big political rows, no issuing of endless statements exchanging puerile accusations and no fiery speeches at village-fair openings that dominate the news.

While this political calm has been anathema for the news business and columnists seeking something to rant about, it must have been welcomed by ordinary folk, fed up of listening to daily stream of colossally meaningless political rows between the prez and the opposition parties.

Given how quiet political life has been in the last fortnight, we can only deduce that the main cause for never-ending political bickering is Nik who, apart from his heart trouble also seems to suffer from a compulsion to respond to all criticism levelled against him. This sparks the rows that have become a trademark of his presidency.

Only a psychologist would know whether his knee-jerk reactions to the mildest criticism are caused by some deep-rooted insecurity or are just an excuse for him to always be the centre of public attention. What we know is that we should enjoy the few days of political peace and quiet left, because Nik said he will be back before Christmas.

CENTRAL BANK governor Crystal may have kissed and made up with Nik before he left, after his scathing public attack over the changes she deviously sneaked into her contract, but her troubles are far from over.

She may have signed the original contract with the provision about the conflict of interest and slightly lower pay but deputies are still demanding that there is an investigation into the matter. Whether there will be one is not known, but Crystal seems to have quite a talent for bad decisions that land her in trouble.

Some 10 days ago Phil reported that Crystal had decided to send her predecessor’s poodle, the gormless George Georgiou (better-known as GG), who served as the head of the Governor’s office and of communications during the Akelite professor’s calamitous reign, as the Central Bank’s representative at the EU.

The CBC’s man at the Republic’s permanent representation in Brussels is due back having spent the maximum five years there and Crystal had to send a replacement. This is an eagerly sought posting for overpaid CBC staff as it offers generous allowances on top of their fat salary. For unknown reasons she chose the gormless GG, whom a few months earlier she had put in charge of the Publications Unit – a professional graveyard.

Most interesting of all was that she decided to send GG to Brussels without following the proper procedure of advertising the post in-house and inviting applications from interested staff. She did exactly what she used to publicly censure heads of government departments for doing when she was Auditor General – violating state procedures.

THE BOARD of the Central Bank had a meeting with Crystal earlier this week and raised the GG issue. Directors wanted to know why she was rewarding a member of the Panicos regime, who had spent his time as the professor’s poodle arranging for hostile and unflattering reports about the government to appear in the foreign media, with such a dream posting.

Directors were left speechless with her response. She had just told Harris (Georgiades) a joke she said, and wondered why the directors took it seriously. Crystal’s management style includes announcing joke appointments to the finance minister, perhaps in recognition of what is beginning to look as the mother of all joke appointments – her appointment as governor which is becoming funnier by the day.

The board was unimpressed and demanded that she followed the proper procedures before sending a CBC representative to Brussels.

Meanwhile, poor old GG, we hear, was devastated on being told that the dream posting with loads of extra cash he thought was his had been taken away from him so cruelly. He is much more gormless than usual, walking around the bank like a zombie, one of his colleague’s informed us. Not having a sense of humour, GG did not get Crystal’s very funny joke.

THE SHARE of much-maligned Bank of Cyprus resumes trading this week, we are pleased to report as it indicates our leading financial institution is returning to normalcy. However it still faces countless problems in recovering money it is owed.

Executives thought they had made some progress when they reached an agreement to rent the Orphanides building in Polemidhia, which had been empty since the supermarket chain went bankrupt two years ago, to Jumbo stores. Things however were not as straightforward as they seemed because the building never had a final approval of operation from the authorities.

Although it was operating as a supermarket since 1994, it had never obtained the required permit of use which is essential before a building obtains the so-called final approval. Orphanides Supermarkets may have been a CSE-listed company but its main shareholder was too powerful and rich to have to obey the law.

So now the BoC cannot rent the building as there is no permit of use and the Limassol authorities are not too keen to issue one, because they are under pressure from local shopkeepers that fear the aggressively competitive Jumbo store would take away a lot of their business.

SPEAKING of the bankrupt Orphanides Supermarkets, we hear there has been a clash between the receivers working for two of the bankrupt chain’s big creditors. One represents the Cyprus Development Bank and the other the Bank of Cyprus. The quarrels between them became so nasty that they ended up suing each other. The funny thing is that the warring receivers work for the same auditing firm – Deloitte.

THE NICOSIA headquarters of the B of C has become a regular venue for angry demonstrations. It is now the second most popular venue for protests after the House of Representatives, which attracts a broader spectrum of protesters.

Last week the bank welcomed the angry staff of Aqua Sol Hotels who were protesting because they had not been paid their wages for three months. But was the B of C to blame for this? Being in deep financial trouble and knowing that the bank would put his business under administration, the owner of the Aqua Sol chain had transferred several of the chain’s hotel’s to another company, under his wife’s name.

These hotels were not placed under administration. Those that were have been paying staff’s wages promptly. It was a bit crazy for the workers of the hotels that were not under B of C administration to demand that the bank paid their wages. Were the union reps that organised the demo not aware of this minor detail?

NOBODY likes to see people losing their jobs, but I have to admit that I will not feel the slightest bit of sympathy for the pilots of Cyprus Airways when the national carrier finally closes down sometime next month. Let’s not kid ourselves, the finance minister included €10 million spending provision in the 2015 budget as compensation for the airline’s staff.

By far the best-paid workers on the island, the pilots refused to take a pay cut to help their company survive. Instead they sued the company and won. They are now owed €2.5 million in back-pay and until recently were moaning because the company had not paid them. They also have the nerve to accuse the government of not doing enough to save the airline, when they were not even prepared to give up 10 per cent of their salaries that are in excess of 100 grand a year (half of it non-taxable) to help save the company they care so much about.

As part of the campaign to save the princely wages, the pilots commissioned an opinion poll which found that 87 per cent of respondents considered CY a safe airline! “Even global airlines cannot boast such numbers,” said union chief Petros Souppouris.

Was he being serious? Was he suggesting that less than 87 per cent of Germans considered Lufthansa a safe airline? What were the pilots trying to tell us, that safe airlines did not close down when they were bankrupt and nobody wanted to buy them? I can name a dozen very safe and reliable national carriers that are no more.

One question the survey failed to ask was the following: ‘Do you approve the taxpayer pouring millions into a company, whose highest paid employees are on €100,000 plus a year and unwilling to give up a cent of this to help the company?’ I bet 100 per cent would have answered ‘no’.

WE ALL love a little bit of Cyprob drama, so it was no big surprise when comments by Turkey’s tyrannical president Erdogan about plans to drill for oil in the Black Sea in January were adapted and turned into another act of aggression against poor old Kyproulla.

The authoritative Greek web-sites were responsible for this, reporting that Turkey would set up an oil platform to drill in the Cyprus EEZ; the Cypriot media which immediately picked up the story and made a big issue out of it. It was the same Greek web-sites that reported about a month ago that a Turkish drilling rig was headed to Cyprus. A drilling rig was indeed heading to Cyprus but it was not Turkish and it was coming here for repair work.

However, even after it became apparent that Erdogan was referring to the Black Sea our hacks were asking questions about Turkey’s planned drilling in Cyprus waters and our politicians were answering as if this were a real possibility.

AKEL chief Andros Kyprianou was very worried because “Turkey has made a habit of carrying out the threats it makes.” In this case however it would be inaugurating a new habit – carrying out threats it did not make.

A METRIOS drinker, who had read last Sunday’s Shop about Kyproulla being abandoned by its two mother countries, both of which were openly flirting with Turkey, saw this as a positive development, especially compared to what was happening in the north. As he said “the Turkish Cypriots have not been abandoned by their mother country but she is so controlling and oppressive she will never let them grow up, always treating them as kids and never letting them do anything without her permission.”

A TAXI driver, speaking on a radio show about the reasons for the four-hour strike held last Wednesday that caused traffic chaos in the capital, said the profession had hit very hard times. There were too many taxis, demand had fallen and they were not making any money he said.

“We walk into our house and start rowing with the wife, because we have not earned enough for our needs,” he said. You have to feel some sympathy for the poor guys, but it is not a very sound economic argument to back the drivers’ demand for subsidised fuel.

Instead of blocking the roads the cabbies should have commissioned a survey to find out what percentage of people think Cypriot taxis were safe, but they are not as rich as Cyprus Airways pilots to pay for such opinion polls. And I doubt the pilots start rowing with their wives over money as soon as they enter the house, despite working for a totally bankrupt company.

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