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Our View: Signs that government’s ‘can do’ approach is paying off

THE MAYOR of Ayia Napa Yiannis Karousos complained on Monday about the large numbers of drunken louts in the resort, expressing fears that their anti-social behaviour – causing disturbances and vandalising property – “will mark the end of Ayia Napa as a tourist destination.” He was afraid the troublemakers would drive away family tourism and stressed the need for drastic action in order to save the resort.

Perversely, the mayor’s outburst was not really a cry of despair but a sign that business is actually booming in the resort this summer. Nobody would have been complaining about drunken tourist behaviour if hotel occupancies were at 60 per cent and the Ayia Napa square was quiet and peaceful at night. Hotels are full this summer and the area (like all resorts) is heaving with foreign and local tourists, which is why the mayor felt he was in a position to have a dig at the ‘undesirable’ visitors that he perceived as a threat to the thriving resort.

Things are going very well in the tourism industry and this will have a positive knock-on effect on the rest of the economy which has also seen tangible signs of improvement. These are not a figment of the government’s imagination or a devious attempt to create a feel-good factor as opposition parties maintain. On the contrary, there are grounds for some cautious optimism with regard to the prospects of the country, after four consecutive years of crises, instability and uncertainty. The Anastasiades government’s assertions that it had steadied the ship were no idle boast, even if more could be done.

The banking sector has been stabilised and on Tuesday the Central Bank reported that by March of this year €4.9 billion worth of NPLs, almost 20 per cent of the total, had been restructured. It was another small step forward and if by the end of September the bill allowing banks to sell loans to third parties is approved, the banking sector would be further strengthened and in a better position to fund growth. Foreclosures would be stepped up and companies buying loans could act ruthlessly but recovery would be stalled otherwise.

It is not just the improving economic indicators that are making the public mood more positive. The great strides made in the Cyprus talks in the last two months, which suggest an agreement is no longer a fantasy, have also given a boost to the public mood with regard to the country’s future prospects. Anti-settlement politicians and media have been tirelessly attempting to poison the climate with their unrelenting negativity and scare-mongering but have not had much success, because the discourse is outdated.

Economic conditions have changed dramatically after the years of recession and people are looking at a settlement as a development that would improve the country’s prospects and benefit them directly. The general tendency, despite the efforts of politicians, is no longer to identify the negative aspects of what the two leaders have been agreeing but to view the bigger picture of the benefits and opportunities that a settlement could bring and would far outweigh its constitutional imperfections.

This is part of the confident ‘can do’ attitude exhibited by the two leaders at the talks. They do not adopt the sterile approach of the past, publicly complaining about the other side’s unreasonable positions, when there are disagreements, but together find compromises. The ‘can do’ approach has replaced the ‘blame game’ that led nowhere and is having a beneficial effect on public sentiment, in combination with the improving state of the economy.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the country hit rock-bottom with the bail-in of deposits, capital controls, austerity measures, soaring unemployment, pay cut etc but the Anastasiades government, to its credit, did not spend every day complaining about the great injustice done to Cyprus. Instead it co-operated with the lenders and adopted a ‘can do’ approach which started correcting things and gradually lifted the economy. There is still some way to go before we can talk of a full recovery, but everyone can see the favourable signs which resulted from the government’s ‘can do’ approach to the crisis.

This approach is changing public attitudes, encouraging people to view the future with confidence rather than fear, steering them away from the miserable, fatalistic, negativity – be it about the economy, the peace talks, privatisations etc – served daily by scare-mongering opposition politicians. Bouncing back from the economic meltdown of 2013 has built public confidence which is why a prospective settlement is no longer seen as something to fear but as a challenge people are looking forward to.

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