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Our View: Why the finance minister was slammed for telling the truth

Harris Georgiades

FINANCE Minister Harris Georgiades has become everyone’s favourite target. He is the member of the government who inspires by far the most criticism from the opposition parties, unions and the media. This is partly because he has been in charge of economic policy at a time of deep recession and is responsible for implementing an unpopular adjustment programme that has greatly restricted the ability of the parties to pander to voters.

There are also other reasons Georgiades has become such an easy target. He is one of the few Cypriot politicians that does not engage in the widespread practice of telling people what they want to hear, but is more inclined to deal in factual reality. He is not economical with the truth, he does not opt for superficial sound-bites and he always defends his policy choices with honest and well-rounded arguments. In short, he avoids the empty rhetoric that is the bread and butter of most politicians.

This tendency has caused him problems on countless occasions. Yesterday one newspaper columnist demanded his resignation because he “overstepped every boundary” and “shamed every citizen of this country” by saying that he did not know what Greece’s demands were at the Eurogroup meeting. He had spoken exactly like the German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, wrote the columnist, accusing him of taking the same position as the rest of the Eurogroup ministers.

This was also the view of most opposition parties and other columnists. He spoke “like Schaeuble”, said AKEL, while the Citizens’ Alliance accused him of not supporting Greece, as he had said he would, adopting instead “the German rhetoric and argumentation.” The parties and columnists would have preferred it if Georgiades adopted some hollow, but nice-sounding rhetoric, about Greece’s unclear demands of the Eurogroup.

But even the claim that he had not supported Greece is lacking in substance. What if he had? Would this have made the slightest bit of difference, to the stance adopted by the ministers of the big countries? The Cyprus position at Eurogroup meetings is of no consequence, but even if it were it would not have made any difference considering the rest of the 17 members insisted that the bailout agreement should have been extended. The truth is that there was nothing Georgiades could have done to meaningfully support his Greek counterpart at Monday’s meeting.

He could have told parties and journalists what they wanted to hear, about the justness of Greece’s demands and that the Europeans had an obligation to satisfy them, but instead he chose to speak honestly. And that did not go down well with the parties for which empty gestures and hollow words are preferable.

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