Have the political parties run out of issues to feed their populist rhetoric and at the same time attack the government and so decided to bring back the collapse of the Cyprus Co-op Bank? There is no other reason for discussing the findings of the investigation committee at the House watchdog committee two years after the release of the report. Have the deputies not discussed the matter enough over the years, so they feel obliged to resume their grandstanding now?
Funnily enough, the chairman of the three-member investigative committee, retired judge Giorgos Aresti, told the committee on Thursday that the House should have shown an interest in the findings earlier than now, especially after the belittling comments made about them by President Anastasiades. Aresti repeated the findings, which everyone was aware of – former finance minister Harris Georgiades was politically responsible for everything that went wrong, the CEO Nicolas Hadjiyiannis was out of his depth, corporate governance was very weak and the bank was sold off at a very low price.
Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides also appeared before the committee to inform it the Co-op Bank had been sold “in a big rush and for peanuts,” as if there was anyone that would have been prepared to pay a cent more for a bank that was in effect bankrupt. The suggestion, by Aresti and Michaelides, that the bank was some thriving business that could have been sold off for a much higher price is disingenuous, but it suits the opposition parties because this will provide fodder to attack the government and back the myth that the collapse was the result of mismanagement after 2013.
The criminal mismanagement of the co-ops in the preceding decades, when they were run by the appointees of the political parties and loans were given to anyone who asked, regardless of their ability to repay and by grossly over-valuing the security provided, had nothing to do with the collapse. The government did make mistakes, the biggest being the belief that it could save the co-ops and wasting billions of euros on something everyone knew could not be done. The CEO, was unfit, but the situation was not salvageable, regardless of what the opposition politicians were saying.
The co-ops were driven into the ground long before 2013 by the incompetent appointees of the political parties that were giving loans that would never be repaid, based on political criteria. The co-ops were “banking with a human face” as Akel politicians were constantly telling us before the collapse, but these populists pretend not to know that this was the cause of the collapse of the Co-op Bank. Why wouldn’t they when the Aresti committee found that only Harris Georgiades had political responsibility for the collapse? We will hear this many times until the parliamentary elections.