THE data released by JCC, the company administering credit card payments, was very revealing as it put into context the angry statements of the last week about the use of Ercan/Tymbou airport by Greek Cypriots. Citing the large number of passengers that used Ercan in 2015 (between 3.5 and 4 million) some parties had called for sanctions against Greek Cypriots that used the airport and the airlines that flew to it; they also claimed that this led to the upgrading of the illegal regime.
For the period covering January to July, JCC reported that €1.07m had been spent by Greek Cypriots on airline tickets in the north, which is not a very big sum, when we consider that many non-Cypriot nationals also use local credit cards. There are obviously Greek Cypriots who go for holidays to Turkey, while some go to the north, neither of which is a criminal offence. Some €2.09m was spent in hotels in the north which was understandable, considering the lower prices compared to the south. Hotels with no vacancies in the Republic could lead to a surge in spending in the north this month.
This should not worry our super-patriots, some of whom want to close the checkpoints, because we gain more from free movement. In the above-mentioned period, JCC reported that Turkish Cypriots spent more than three times as much in the south as Greek Cypriots in the north – €14m and €4.28, respectively – which is remarkable given the significant difference in populations. Turkish Cypriots spent €3.3m in supermarkets, €2.8m in clothes shops and €1.67m in DIY/household stores.
Despite the restrictions, practical and ideological, the free market is in operation and some people are taking rational economic decisions. Turkish Cypriot shop for consumer goods on our side because there is more variety and, we suspect, lower prices. Greek Cypriots might stay in hotels on the other side because rates are more competitive and fly to Turkey via Ercan because it is much cheaper and much quicker than flying there from Larnaca airport.
Regardless of the rhetoric of the super-patriots of DIKO, EDEK and the rest, these transactions are a good thing and the only complaint is that they are not on a bigger scale. Going to the other side and spending money there is one way of normalising relations between people of the two communities. And the super-patriots should not worry that Greek Cypriots were propping up the economy of the north by spending a paltry €4.28m there over the last months. They should consider that in the same period they spent €790m abroad for a little perspective.