THE PROBLEMS faced by the Limassol port since its operation was taken over by the private firms last Sunday have been widely reported. There are queues of trucks 2-3km-long waiting to enter and take delivery of containers; there is endless bureaucracy; only 100 containers were being processed per day compared to 600 under the old regime; a ship had been waiting for days to unload its cargo and so forth.
There were bound to be teething problems after the changeover which took place last Sunday. The new operators had to start everything from scratch – get software systems running, start updating data-bases, put new procedures in place etc. Running a port is a major operation and any new operator would encounter difficulties in the first few months before everything ran smoothly and efficiently; it could take even longer than a few months.
Yet the campaigners against privatisation of Akel did not give the companies running the port even a week to smooth things out. Two days after the operation the party and its mouthpiece were gloating about the difficulties faced by the port, claiming that they were right to oppose privatisation. “Nothing is working satisfactorily,” declared the Akel parliamentary spokesman Giorgos Loucaides on Wednesday and added:
“Despite the assurances that with privatisation things would be better the exact opposite is happening, as bureaucracy has multiplied and the inconvenience of port users has increased as of course would the costs that will be paid by the consumers.” It would be wrong for anyone to cite the transitional period he said, as the companies had many months to prepare the smooth operation of the port.
Are Loucaides and his comrades under the impression that running a port is as easy as running a neighbourhood kiosk or are they exploiting the inevitable teething problems at the port in order to score a few points against privatisation? This is the type of cheap politicking that we have become accustomed to from the communist party. If it were really concerned about the public wealth, which is how it describes all state-owned companies, it should have said something about Cyta that is seeing its market share decreasing every year. Its projected net profit for 2016 will be €59 million, continuing on its downward path.
Akel and the other opposition parties, in collaboration with the Cyta unions, prevented government attempts to privatise the authority or at least bring in a strategic investor, knowing full well that its prospects are not good now that there is competition and it is steadily losing market share. Selling it now would bring a much higher price than it would in four years’ time when it stops making a profit. This is what Akel and the rest of the opponents of privatisation should be worried about and not about the teething problems of Limassol port, three days after the changeover.