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Tales from the Coffeeshop: Presidents gratitude in short supply

Back in the days when Nicos Anastasiades pretended to listen to Christopher Pissarides

YOU COULD not help but feel some sympathy for our Nobel laureate, Professor Christoforos Pissarides for the horribly shabby way he was treated by Prez Nik. It was a classic case of the arrogantly brash Limassolian displaying his contempt for a courteous and civilised man once he had used him and no longer needed him.

Immediately after his election, Nik established a national economy council with Pissarides  – who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2010 – as chairman to advise him on economic matters and exchange views with the Troika regarding the assistance programme. By 2014 the meetings of the council had become few and far between and when Cyprus exited the assistance programme two years later, “the council died a natural death,” Pissarides told the Cyprus Mail.

Last Wednesday, the council of ministers decided to set up an eight-member Economy and Competitiveness Council that will be chaired by a former finance minister, Takis Clerides, and will have the responsibility of “proposing concrete policy measures” which the Prez can then ignore, just as he did the proposals of the national economy council.

Speaking to the Mail after the announcement of the cabinet decision, Pissarides said it was the first he had heard of it. “You would think there would be a ‘thank-you and goodbye’, but not to my knowledge.” Behaving in a polite and civilised way to people he does not need is not part of our Prez’s repertoire and neither is gratitude.

He had a Nobel Prize winner, offering his services for free to the government and enhancing its image, but Nik could not even be bothered to send him a ‘thank-you’ note. Pissarides also publicly supported Nik’s presidential candidacy in 2013. He may have been thanked for that.


THERE is an explanation for the shabby treatment of the professor and it is not because Nik passionately disagrees with Pissarides’ equilibrium unemployment theory; nor is it because he was knighted by the queen.

The professor committed the cardinal sin of publicly questioning our prez’s ‘get-rich-quick schemes’ through the sale of passports. Of course not everyone is getting rich quick through this scheme, just few law offices, including the prez’s, auditing firms and a handful of developers including the prez’s son-in-law.

Speaking at a panel discussion in Nicosia last September Pissarides had said that although public finances were in better shape, he feared this was linked to the citizenship for investment scheme and the tourism bonanza and was not sustainable. He also spoke about the economy’s lack of competitiveness, the poor education system and the failure to reform the public sector, which caused big distortions in the economy.

Nik will not have forgiven him for such criticism during his re-election campaign which focused on the economic success story of his first term. He could not have the winner of a Nobel prize for economics debunking the success story narrative as he could not be easily dismissed as a liar, which is the usual fate of others who dare challenge presidential myths.

Instead he treated Pissarides with contempt for being an honest, educated, polite and modest man that tried to help his country without asking for anything in exchange. Nik only seems to have respect for Dikheads that demand payback for ‘serving their country’.


Architect’s impression of the completed casino

NIK’S VISION for Kyproulla took another big step towards realisation last weekend when he laid the foundation stone for the casino resort, using a golden shovel. With the high-rises and its massive casino resort his home town will be turned into the Dubai/Vegas of the Mediterranean, drowning in cash from gamblers and passport buyers.

Speaking at the ceremony, the prez said “today is an historic day, which marks a landmark for Cyprus.” It showed what his values are. Nobody objects to the opening of the casino but to describe it as “landmark” and the laying of the foundation stone as an “historic day”, seems a bit far-fetched whichever way you look at it. Why not declare June 9 a national holiday to mark this historic day.

If he opened a state-of-the-art hospital it may have been a historic day, if he signed the agreement for the partition of the island it would be a landmark, if we sold 100,000 passports it would be a landmark, but opening a casino? For our prez, anything that is expected to bring easy money to the country is a landmark.

The name of the casino resort will be City of Dreams Mediterranean. Nik’s dreams perhaps, but I do not see many people brimming with national pride because Limassol has a casino. Will our foreign ministry now issue a directive to immigration officers at the airport to deport gamblers heading to the pseudo casinos?


SPEAKING of our patriotic foreign ministry you have to mention their latest idiocy, sending a note verbale to all embassies informing them about the “illegal use of monuments and archaeological sites in the occupied areas.” The note verbale, which is an unsigned diplomatic rebuke, suggested that ambassadors should not attend any events at the archaeological sites.

Once the circular was made public, the Dalai Lama announced that he would take the initiative to resolve the very problem he must have himself created. Of course he claimed that he knew nothing about it. This is the kind of patriotic initiative undertaken by his wife, as the assistant director of the president’s diplomatic office, but perhaps she had forgotten to inform him about it.

The official version of events was that the note was sent by some ministry official – perhaps it was the person in charge of the photocopying machine – who had attached a letter by the head of the Antiquities Department, Dr Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou, reminding foreign embassies that only her department had authority over monuments and sites in the north as the competent authority of the Republic.

Dr Solomidou-Ieronymidou indulges in her patriotic power-trip, sending out these letters, whenever there is an event at a site in the north attended by foreign ambassadors. Someone should perhaps inform her that she has as much authority over the monuments in the north as our immigration officers have at Tymbou airport.


HOW FUNNY that after the meeting of the foreign ministers of Greece and Russia in Moscow about the agreement reached between Greece and Macedonia over the latter’s name, Sergei Lavrov spoke about the need to find a settlement to the Cyprob.

“We exchanged views about the Cyprus problem,” said Lavrov. “Russia and Greece call for the solution of this long-standing problem based on the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the agreements that would be reached by the two communities.”

Because Lavrov did not want to give Moscow’s view about the Athens-Skopje deal over its name he decided to talk about the Cyprob. Kotzias went to Mother Russia to secure Moscow’s backing for the deal, but Lavrov was not even prepared out of diplomatic courtesy to say Russia welcomed the agreement during their joint news conference, so instead he spoke about Moscow’s desire to see a Cyprus settlement. Kotzias was happy to play along.

Russia does not want this idiotic, 27-year feud between Greece and Macedonia ended because it would open the way for the latter’s entry into Nato, which Athens had vetoed over the name dispute. It is not only on the Cyprob that Moscow takes a principled position.


THERE IS no greater self-serving, self-centred group of workers than the state school teachers. They make the rest of the public parasites look like volunteers for the Red Cross.

After the fatal accident at a Larnaca primary school, the education ministry and the primary teachers’ union Poed decided to enter discussions on how to make schools safer. There was not very much to discuss because public primary schools are pretty safe, but eventually Poed found a threat to children’s safety – no air conditioning units in classrooms.

And they resumed a campaign started last year, demanding AC units in all classrooms of public schools. The head of Poed Philios Phylaktou said the issue of ACs was part of the wider chapter of health and safety and the problem had to be addressed because for five months of the school year it was difficult for anyone to work.

Improving health and safety is now being used to satisfy teachers’ demand for ACs in classrooms to ensure there are no more tragic accidents at schools.


THERE HAS been a spate of arson attacks in a certain part of Strovolos, which are believed to be connected to a protection racket. Of course none of the victims are willing to say so in public for fear that worse things would be done to them and their properties by the gangsters.

I’ve been thinking that given how successful these criminals are, making money without ever being caught by the cops, they should be approached by the banks and hired for bad debt collection. Rather than wait for our politicians to get around to approving the amendments – if they ever do – that would make the foreclosures law more effective, the banks could recruit protection racketeers who would cut the number of strategic defaults in half overnight.

And they would also work on a success fee, all hours of the day without any union trying to dictate terms.


ANOTHER Turkish provocation was reported by Phil on Thursday. “A Turkish Boeing 737-800 plane belonging to the Pegasus airline, that was carrying out an illegal flight from the illegal airport of Tymbou, with Smyrna as its destination, flew over the free areas for about two minutes. This was recorded at about 18.15 on Thursday and was owed to bad weather.”

I am disappointed the paper said the illegal plane “flew over the free areas”, instead of the more accurate “violated the Republic’s airspace”. What is our world coming to when even Phil fails to use the correct phraseology?

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