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OpinionTales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: How not to become a regional energy hub

Energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis who gets everything wrong about gas

ANOTHER attempt to buy gas for the Electricity Authority’s power stations flopped spectacularly, as the government cancelled the tender for an interim gas supplier last Sunday. It was the third tender procedure in five years that was not concluded, giving our Natural Gas Public Company DEFA a perfect hundred per cent failure record.

DEFA was set up eight years ago as Kyproulla’s natural gas monopoly. A decree by the Council of Ministers appointed it the sole importer and distributor of natural gas on the island. It is probably the only absolute monopoly in the world that has failed so miserably to exploit its monopolistic power that is protected by the law.

After eight years of existence, it has not even come close to fulfilling its ‘mission’, which the state-owned company’s website described as follows: “DEFA’s mission during the initial phases of it operation will be: To secure sufficient quantities of natural gas supplies, at the lowest possible prices, to cover the needs of Electricity Power Generation (Phase ‘A’) and subsequently to supply Industries, Hotels and Households.”

It would also “develop the necessary Gas Network Infrastructure,” which would seem a bit pointless given it is not even capable of buying gas and fulfilling its ‘scope of work’ as per the articles of association of the company which includes “Buying, Importing, Holding, Using, Distributing, Selling, Supplying Natural Gas in any Form” (their underlining).

DEFA has consistently chosen natural gas of the non-existent Form, which, it has to be said is the most economical option.

 

THE REASON for this abject failure is because the great brains in our government instruct DEFA to ask for the supply of gas over a period of time that is not long enough for any supplier to recoup the big investment needed to set up the supply operation.

The government has always referred to the purchase of natural gas as the “interim solution” because the plan is to eventually take gas from the Aphrodite block, even though nobody really knows when the well will start pumping gas and whether supplying a tiny market like ours would be viable for the companies managing it.

The earliest it would allegedly start production, according to blundering energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, who gets everything wrong about gas, would be 2020, but some say 2022. Matters are not helped by the current very low price of oil, which would not make the use of gas more economical than the heavy fuel oil currently used, the government said.

The potential supplier VITOL had reportedly wanted increase the quantity to be sold by 25 per cent so the deal would be viable, but the government said ‘no’, because this would have violated the specs of the tenders’ procedure and paved the way for legal action by other companies bidding for the contract.

The specs were drafted by DEFA, which seems as terrified of agreeing a solution as DIKO and EDEK, even if it is of the interim type and would not involve the demise of the Republic.

 

NO INTERIM solution, means even less work for DEFA’s employees, who have not exactly had very much to do in the last seven-and-a-half years other than draft tenders specs and reject offers made by oil and gas companies. Now they will not even have that to do because there will be no new tender procedures.

Even if there were, I doubt there would be any company wasting time and money on preparing an offer that would be rejected by the jokers of DEFA. So will the taxpayer carry on paying DEFA staff to do absolutely nothing until 2020, ’22 or ‘30? If the government keeps it going, I will most certainly apply for a job, because I have always been very good at doing nothing.

 

THE PRACTICE of inviting tenders and never awarding a contract will not advance our grand ambition to become a regional energy centre, as nobody can take us seriously. This ambition was dealt another blow by last Monday’s decision by the Larnaca municipal council to turn down the request for a six-month extension to the use of Larnaca port by two big oil companies – ENI and Total.

This was another illustration of the weakness of democracy, allowing a bunch of upstart, provincial councillors – kidding themselves that Larnaca would become the Monte Carlo of the eastern Med if they got rid of the oil companies – to overturn a government decision.

What was even more ridiculous was that the government said it would respect the decision of the Larnaca hicks, which was guaranteed to frighten off any company considering bringing its operations to Kyproulla. With our loony actions and dysfunctional democracy we are writing the manual of how not to become a regional energy hub.

 

IT GETS better. Employees working for the oil companies were up in arms after the council’s decision, justifiably fearing they would lose their jobs. Their unions organised a protest taking the workers to the Larnaca town hall and then to the ministry of communications in Nicosia which had nothing to do with the decision.

One of the unions leading the workers was PEO, the AKEL union. Speaking on behalf of the union’s Larnaca branch a certain Nadia Kyritsis (do not know if she is the mother, wife, sister, cousin or daughter of PEO’s big boss Bambis) said workers should be protected, but she did not blame the neo-liberal policies of the right wing government for threatening the jobs.

How could she, it was the votes of AKEL’s Larnaca councillors which defeated the proposal for the extension of the use of the port and put the jobs at risk. But the union did not take the protesting workers to AKEL’s offices to protest when it brought them to Nicosia, because as Ms Kyritsis said, she was sure the position the party took was for good reasons.

And there can be no better reason than adding another 100 labourers to the ranks of the unemployed.

 

NEXT TIME Prez Nik goes to the legislature to brief the deputies about the peace talks he should get his flunkeys to install some powerful floodlights inside the building so the opposition leaders would not be able to claim that he left them in the dark.

It was a bit boring hearing all the negativity salesmen make the same criticism of poor old Nik, moaning that they heard “nothing new” and were “none the wiser” because he had given no details about what was going on at the negotiations.

It was a bit rich of the EDEK spokesman Costis Efstathiou complaining, considering his party boss, Botox pioneer Marinos Sizopoulos knew exactly what was happening in the talks. Had Costis not heard the radio advert inviting people to attend a meeting at the Holiday Inn on Monday evening at which “EDEK briefs people about what is being discussed in the Cyprus talks. Come and find out the things they are not telling you; speaker Marinos Sizopoulos.”

I hear he will reveal, among other things how often Mustafa has Botox treatment and Nik’s favourite brand of hair dye.

 

ETHNARCH Junior used the lack of information from Nik to introduce his latest crazy idea. In a heart-rending performance on a Friday radio show he said demanded the whole population to participate in the negotiations, because it was unacceptable “in the 21st century, in a European country, in 2016 to have a president telling us they would give us ready-made constitution they would prepare behind closed doors.”

He angrily asked on a radio show: “Will the people not participate in this procedure? Should we not have a say about the constitution that will shape our future? I do not trust Nicos Anastasiades (NA) because in 2004 he accepted the Annan plan and would like to participate in the procedure for shaping the constitution.”

The anguish of the sensitive and compassionate Junior was primarily for the refugees. “NA will prepare a plan behind closed doors by which hundreds of thousands will lose their homes. Should the refugees not know how they will lose their homes?” It was outrageous that “NA will decide behind closed doors, with his parea (coterie) issues affecting hundreds of thousands of our countrymen and they tell us we must not participate in the shaping of this proposal?”

 

SO HOW should Nik satisfy Junior? Ask the UN to keep the doors open at its headquarters at Nicosia airport when Nik and Mustafa met and invite the hundreds of thousands of our countrymen to participate in the talks so they could have a say in the shaping of the constitution?

As space is limited and there is not enough room at the airport for sandwich vans to park, perhaps the venue of the talks should be moved to Nicosia’s GSP stadium, even though it cannot take more than 30,000 people. Big screens and powerful loudspeakers could be installed outside the stadium so everyone could listen to what was being decided.

Giving a say to the hundreds of thousands of our countrymen participating in the constitution talks might prove problematic, but Junior’s other proposal could offer an answer. “The fact that the president does not want to discuss these things (constitution, property) with us, but only with the Turkish side, behind closed doors,” was wrong he said.

Nik could start parallel negotiations about the new constitution with the Greek side, with Junior acting as the representative of the hundreds of thousands of refugees. All that remains is to write to Ban Ki-moon and ask him to send another special envoy to mediate.

 

LAST September we had written about the Central Bank employee who managed to land the job as the finance ministry’s representative at the European Commission in Brussels.

We had also mentioned how his wife, a primary school teacher, but more significantly, a member of the DISY political bureau, had used her connections to get a job at Kyproulla’s permanent representation in Brussels so she could be with her hubby.

The post is only going to be vacated now, but we have been informed that the well-connected, teacher Despo Sergiou has been in Brussels since December 1st of last year when she received a secondment to the office of education minister Costas Kadis. According to our education ministry mole, Mrs Sergiou has not been showing up for work at the minister’s office since her secondment, because she is in Brussels with her other half, presumably still receiving her state salary because technically she is working for Kadis.

She reportedly made an appearance at the ministry this week because there is a week’s holiday at the Brussels school her daughter is attending. The minister, for reasons only he can explain, has not thought it necessary to report his absent employee, let alone ask why she had not been showing up for work. After all she is member of the DISY political bureau and can go to work whenever she likes.

 

OUR MOLE at the ministry claims that the post that Mrs Sergiou has been eyeing at the permanent representation office is soon to be vacated by the current education ministry representative, but has not been advertised. The reason – it could be claimed that the post was vacated “unexpectedly” and an appointment would have to be made “urgently”. There would be no time to advertise the vacancy which would be filled by Mrs Sergiou.

This is the sort of scam Auditor-general Odysseas should be investigating. If interior minister Hasikos was involved Odysseas would be on all the TV shows and in all the newspapers talking about the scandal, but it would appear he is on good terms with Kadis.

 

TOTALLY committed to its mission to poison the positive climate and prevent a settlement, the mouthpiece of Kyproulla’s deep state, Phil, has found another compelling reason to oppose and agreement with the expansionist, intransigent Turks. For two days running its lead story was the cost of a settlement.

“Cost of a settlement a Golgotha” lamented its banner headline last Sunday, while the next day it climbed down from Golgotha, declaring “The cost unspecified”. Despite contradicting itself a bit its new message was clear – we cannot afford a settlement. We should accept partition because it’s cheaper. But have they asked Junior whether he would agree for hundreds of thousands to lose their homes?

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