Cyprus Mail
Guest Columnist Opinion

Falling from the loge, again and again

The story of Sandor Nadelmann became kind of popular some 20 years ago in Germany following a comment in Der Spiegel which made reference to a joke attributed to American comedian Woody Allen.

Nadelmann went once to La Scala in Milano and in a moment of clumsiness while bending from his loge, he fell over and landed in the orchestra pit. The fall, witnessed by every spectator, from several metres in height caused poor Nadelmann a lot of pain, a concussion and a huge embarrassment. But as he was too proud to admit that he made a mistake, he pretended that his fall had not been an accident but instead an intentional display of his ability to survive unscathed from a fall of several metres.

He therefore visited La Scala the very next evening, and again, this time on purpose, he fell from his loge into the orchestra pit below forcing spectators to hold their breath, just to prove that his intentional fall was in fact harmless even though it did hurt a lot.

And from that day on, our hero Nadelmann repeated the same ritual evening after evening with self-abnegation forcing hundreds of onlookers to become witnesses of a person sustaining self-inflicted injuries in order to prove that he could withstand the pain.

While Nadelmann’s behaviour may have a certain name in psychiatry, it is not restricted to individuals. The latest decision of Cypriot authorities to cancel a tender procedure they announced to find a supplier of natural gas shows a lot of similarities to Nadelmann’s case.

While the initial decision to introduce natural gas to Cyprus was first taken in late 2002 by the Glafcos Clerides government, it took the succeeding government four years to initiate a tender for this purpose. But the government under Tassos Papadopoulos was unable to complete it as it soon left office amid allegations over wrongdoings in the press.

That failure to bring natural gas proved costly to the economy as back then, and also today, it keeps Cyprus exposed to the fluctuations of oil prices and their subsequent impact on electricity cost.

That first humiliating experience apparently did not deter Demetris Christofias, Papadopoulos’s successor, from subjecting the island’s economy to the same process of finding a natural gas supplier twice. The first tender procedure was terminated soon after a winner had emerged and a year before Christofias left office after his government was encouraged by the all-mighty energy guru Solon Kassinis who convinced them that it was wiser for Cyprus to seek a short-term solution in supplying its power plants with natural gas before utilising its recently-discovered own reserves.

Since then, the government failed twice to find a supplier willing to sell Cyprus natural gas for a short period of time, leaving the island’s economy exposed to the oil market’s volatility. While the oil price is currently at the lowest level since 2004, it is not a secret how quickly it can increase again and what this will mean to the economy which is held hostage by the state as it bars private power producers from operating in the energy market.

In the meantime, until 2022, i.e. 20 years after the initial decision was taken for the Electricity Authority of Cyprus to switch to natural gas for its combined cycle gas turbines, the state-owned power producer -which is to remain state owned thanks to its powerful unions and the government’s lack of resolve- will continue burning heavy fuel oil and diesel, effectively preventing any private investment in power generation.

And just like Nadelmann who tried to convince onlookers that his initial mishap was an intentional demonstration of his ability to keep damage under control after falling from the loge, so we have the Cypriot authorities trying to convince citizens that by terminating they procedure with Vitol -they initiated themselves- they actually protected the economy’s interests from the ‘greedy’ gas suppliers who sought to sell us more gas than we needed, when in fact consumers and businesses are paying a much higher price for the much worse service they now get.

One may call Nadelmann stupid but in the case of Cyprus a comparison to a clown who is unsuccessful when trying to prove his acrobatic abilities is more appropriate.

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