For the overwhelming majority of Cypriots, the Christofias presidency spelled disaster for the economy, emphatic proof that Akel could not be trusted to run the economy with even basic competence. Although the deep problems facing the banks were not of the Christofias government’s doing, the state on the brink of bankruptcy was, as was the president’s refusal to do anything about it before he left office.
A long-term consequence of this is that very few people would now trust Akel on the economy, and the party’s rhetoric about championing the interests of the working people is viewed as a promise of reckless spending rather than an assurance of sound management of public finances. This reputation for incompetence in the management of the economy has stuck, even though seven years have passed since Christofias was in office.
The First Forum on Economic Policy, organised last week, was an attempt to rebuild the party’s reputation and regain public trust by showing that Akel has sound proposals on economic matters. There are parliamentary elections next year, after which it will also have to start making plans for the presidential elections. Presumably the Forum on Economic Policy will become an annual fixture aimed at the party restoring some credibility.
The main theme of the forum was “Building the economy of the next decade”, but reading through the speech of Akel leader Andros Kyprianou, the general view that the party was weak on economic thinking was reinforced rather than dispelled. All Kyprianou had to offer was platitudes about “freeing the creative forces of the country” and “encouraging innovative initiatives”, without giving us practical examples of what the party would actually do to achieve the social cohesion it dreams of.
There were also hypocritical statements about the government “sweeping under the carpet the structural problems of the Cyprus economy, undermining its future”. This coming from the party that consistently and without fail has voted against all the government’s proposals for structural reform in the legislature. Reform must “truly serve society and not any expediency”, said Kyprianou, as if to justify his party’s negative stance on all proposals for reform or change.
The head of the Akel’s Office for Economic Studies, Haris Polykarpou, was no more enlightening than his leader, offering even more platitudes, such as the “need for an alternative development model that has at its centre people and their needs, offering working people and businesses security and dignity.” Polykarpou wants a “multi-faceted and balanced model of economic and social development, that creates infrastructure and opportunities”.
It is quite astonishing that the party believes it can persuade anyone it knows what it is talking about with regard to the economy by uttering this nebulous nonsense. Akel will have to try much harder if it is to convince anyone it could be trusted with the economy.