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Opinion Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Three cheers for the incendiary Michaelides

Odysseas Michaelides

THREE cheers for auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides who has pissed off big-time the smug education establishment from the minister down to the last teacher with his reports, leaks to the media and public statements about the unlawful method in which state school teachers, the most underworked teachers in the EU, have their teaching hours reduced.
And the great thing is that Odysseas has not restricted his assault to this but has also spoken about under-performing students and the lamentable failure of the education ministry to do anything about it. He also used the odd stat to expose the education ministry-sanctioned laziness of the teaching profession.
On average, he said, secondary state school teachers have 500 teaching periods a school year, compared to the EU average of 700. By what logic, he asked on a radio show a couple of weeks ago, were the teaching periods reduced after a teacher completed a certain number of years of service. Why had the education ministry decided that teachers should spend less time doing what they had been hired to do?
I think we all know the answer to Odysseas’ question. Education ministers and top ministry officials always obey the commands of teaching union bosses in the name of consensus – a euphemism for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

EDUCATION ministers might be chosen by the Archbishop for their correct national views, but despite their brave patriotic posturing when faced with the teaching union rottweilers they open their desk drawer and take out the white flag.
Current minister Costas Kadis is no exception. He is even afraid of the ridiculous association of secondary students Psem and invites the teenagers to his office to consult and brief them about educational matters. He is the guy who tried to negotiate the scrapping of the educationally criminal, waiting-list appointment system, but agreed to keep it in place for another 10 years in order to please the unions.
His cry-baby, self-pitying reaction to the Odysseas onslaught, whinging verbally and in writing about his insulting and intimidating behaviour was a joy to behold. The prim and proper Kadis took great offence at the auditor-general’s shabby behaviour and failure to follow correct procedure.
Kadis had turned a blind eye to an unlawful ministry policy but still took the moral high ground, pontificating about correct procedures. This is the guy who is such a stickler for correct procedure that he said nothing about the teacher that was seconded to his office and drawing a salary while she was living with her hubby in Brussels, until his ministry, following all correct rusfeti procedures, gave her a job there.

THE PRIM and proper procedure protector protested that it was “unacceptable for the media to publish a letter of which I am the recipient before it has been delivered to me.” Odysseas had leaked the letter telling him the ministry could not change working conditions of public employees – reducing teaching hours – without passing relevant legislation.
Kadis felt insulted and belittled by Odysseas using the media to put pressure on him and the ministry and “creating suspicions and doubts about the role of public officials.” He told the CyBC, he had his “honour, reputation and standing that no Odysseas Michaelides could stigmatise in this way.”
After all the illegality at the ministry existed for 15 years (avoiding responsibility is also correct procedure for public officials) and had been included in the auditor-general’s report every year, Kadis said. But he had been education minister for the last three years and had completely ignored the auditor-general’s report, until this month, when Odysseas started his insulting and belittling behaviour.
Being insulting and using the press to pressure a minister obviously works. As Kadis said on Thursday, he had consulted the attorney-general about the problem and would commission a study by experts on how to resolve the issue. He had done nothing last year or the year before and would have done nothing this year if Odysseas did not behave like this. He should do it more often.

ONE OF the unacceptable violations of procedure reported by Kadis was Odysseas’ reproduction of excerpts from a letter sent by the minister and marked ‘confidential’. He had to respect the ‘confidential’ classification, Kadis said, while Odysseas said there was nothing in the letter that was not already public knowledge.
Speaking to the CyBC on Thursday Kadis explained why he had marked the letter ‘confidential’. It dealt with the terms of employment (privileges) of thousands of people (teachers) whom he did not want to upset. These were issues “that need very delicate management and handling”. The letter “caused huge upset to the teaching world,” said Kadis citing a host of angry articles on social media. One article said changes could lead to a “mass strike of teachers.”
Upsetting teachers by discussing their privileges is the biggest violation of education ministry procedure.

FORMER Governor of the Central Bank Athanasios Orphanides was in town this week for the

Athanasios Orphanides
Athanasios Orphanides

presentation of a book he had edited jointly with Imperial College academic Alexander Michaelides. The book was published by the Tassos Papadopoulos Centre for Studies which also organised Thursday night’s presentation.
Orphanides, now a professor at MIT, repeated his familiar theories about the 2013 bailout and the conspiracy by which ‘bust’ Bank of Piraeus took the assets of Laiki Bank and Bank of Cyprus in Greece at a cut-rate (half a billion euro) in order to re-capitalise and survive. He was referring to the sale of the Cypriot banks’ branches and business in Greece.
He was asked if he had concrete proof to support this and said ‘no’. His gut feeling may be correct, but you would expect a little more academic rigour from a Professor of the Practice of Global Economics at MIT, even when he addresses a DIKO audience that thrives on foreign conspiracies against Cyprus.

PROFESSOR Orphanides has made many speeches, given interviews and written articles about the collapse of the Kyproulla economy and banking sector but we are still waiting for him to concede that maybe once, in his five years as governor of the CBC, he may have committed one teensy-weensy mistake.
His claim to infallibility – perhaps it is related to his Akelite family background – remained intact during Thursday night’s speech. Everything was the fault of the comrade Tof, the Eurogroup, Cypriot officials, Piraeus Bank and professor Panicos. The governor who had stepped down in April 2012, when Laiki was already insolvent had done nothing wrong.
Andreas Vgenopoulos was pillaging the assets of Laiki – Marfin Popular for years – on Orph’s watch, but the infallible governor and his lieutenants at the supervisory authority, who did nothing as he drove it to bankruptcy, were blameless. Should we also mention Orph’s sanctioning of the BoC’s insane 300 million euro investment in a bank in Russia? Was Comrade Tof or the Euogroup to blame for that?
The 10 billion dollar question is “how it was possible for the banking sector to collapse just a few months after an infallible governor who touched perfection in the performance of his supervisory duties stepped down?” This could be the subject of Orph’s speech at the Tassos Papdopoulos Centre for Studies next summer.

Interest in the third licensing round
Interest in the third licensing round

THE TITANS, giants and colossi of the energy industry submitted expressions of interest in the third licensing round to the joy of our media and relief of our government. Total, ENI and Exxon Mobil all submitted documentation as did some Israeli, a Scottish and a Qatari company.
There was no interest from mother Russia even though Ambassador Osadchiy had been giving assurances in interviews earlier in the year that this time there would be interest from Russian companies. Our newspapers were still awe-struck by the interest shown by the US giant Exxon Mobil who put in a joint bid for Block 10 with Qatar Petroleum.
What nobody mentioned was that Qatar Petroleum is owned by the state which is one of Turkey’s closest allies. So close that there is a Turkish military presence in Qatar. Surely a Turk-loving, American-Qatari consortium in control of our hydrocarbons would be a deadly risk to our national interests. I am disappointed to report that none of our bash-patriots has spotted this threat yet.

MEANWHILE Prez Nik’s visit to Israel last Sunday did not yield the desired results either. The message from our prospective strategic ally against Turkey was to get on with the Cyprus talks and reach a settlement ASAP so the pipeline that would take natural gas from Israel to Turkey through our EEZ could be built.
In the joint statement issued by Nik and his buddy Bibi there was reference to the need to “resolve outstanding issues between Cyprus and Turkey,” as this “would greatly facilitate the pace of development of future projects.” It was disgraceful that Nik agreed to the Turkish occupation, being referred to as “outstanding issues between Cyprus and Turkey.”
Even on the unitisation agreement which has been negotiated inconclusively for five years and would allow us to sell the gas in the Aphrodite plot, our strategic ally was non-committal. The energy ministers of the two countries “will seek to finalise these discussions” by September. But if they failed I doubt Bibi would lose any sleep over it.

Prez Nik in Israel last weekend
Prez Nik in Israel last weekend

THE NAMES of the 3,000 full-time National Guardsmen were announced on Friday, but self-declared “expert on issues of defence and strategy” and AKEL placeman Aristos Aristotelous was not convinced by the defence minister’s measure.
He wrote an article in Tuesday’s Politis arguing that the men hired would not cover the shortfall caused by the cutting of military service to 14 months and many more would have to be recruited to maintain the numbers. He concluded that the “absence of modernising reforms in the National Guard rendered the Republic’s armed forces less reliable and capable to complete their mission.”
But he never informed us what the mission is. What sort of expert on issues of defence and strategy forgets to define the mission that he claims the armed forces would not be able to complete? The mission of participating in the October 1 parade will not be affected so he should stop causing alarm to the three people that take his expert analysis seriously.

THE CHEMTRAILS being left by British aircraft in our atmosphere in order to destroy our climate and crops, according Giorgos Perdikis and farmers leader Panicos Hambas, did not exist, a study commissioned by the agriculture ministry found. What they observed were normal vapour trails left by aircraft.
Hambas and one of Perdikis’ flunkeys insisted that the ministry study was a whitewash, “carried out in the office,” over too short a period and that samples were taken from ground-based sensors. Hambas, like Perdikis, is an expert on how studies on chemtrails should be conducted. He might even write a newspaper article as an “expert on issues of chemtrails.”

NOT CONTENT with the damage they are causing us with the chemtrails, the dastardly Brits also attempted to store asbestos removed from bases buildings in our country. Although they eventually decided not to, one Phil hack could still not contain his outrage. He wrote:
“The British bases, which want to bury dangerous and toxic asbestos material in Troodos, are the same British bases that uproot trees so that villagers would be unable to place lime-sticks on them and catch poor little birds. The British bases which want to put in the depths of Troodos material that could deal a massive blow to the flora and fauna of our mountain range are the same British bases that are now seeking ‘fox hunters’ for ‘their territory in Episkopi and Akrotiri. The environmental sensitivities of British military brass could for once be unbiased, even-handed and honest instead of brimming with dishonesty and hypocrisy…’
British hypocrisy is truly shocking, but not as shocking as Phil’s whose English-language version – the Cyprus Weekly – devotes a page or two every week to heart-warming articles about all the wonderful things the bases are doing.

I know this is a sensitive issue, but who came up with this surreal idea of giving honorary certificates to the relatives of citizens that had been missing since the Turkish invasion? What is the point of this certificate? Can it be used to open a bank account, presented at a job interview or help teachers spend less time teaching?
Do people whose loved ones have been missing since the invasion need a state certificate handed out at a ceremony at the presidential palace as proof that they had not seen their relatives for 42 years? It was a morbid idea, but it appears prez Nik will do anything in his noble pursuit of re-election.

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