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Tales from the Coffeeshop:  Getting into the Amalthia groove

un secretary general antonio guterres speaks to the media, after visiting the rafah border crossing between egypt and the gaza strip, at al arish airport
Antonio Guterres has to deal with the tantrums of two inconsequential leaders bickering, like a couple of mukhtars about who has authority over a couple of kilometres of wasteland

WISDOM does not always feature prominently in the decisions taken by our judges. In fact, there are times when decisions could be described as completely lacking in wisdom – this is a respectful way of putting it – as in the case of the Laiki depositor who sued the government and Central Bank for losing his money when the bank was placed into administration in 2013.

The plaintiff was awarded €800,000 compensation because the Limassol district court judge, ruled that “the diminution of his deposits was owed to the negligent actions of the Republic of Cyprus and the serious negligence of the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) and not to reasons related to the rules of the market.”

Taking the role of an economics analyst, the judge, explained his reasoning: “The economic crisis that hit Cyprus in 2009 was not faced as it should have been by the government as the responsible institution for the planning, development and protection of the economy nor by the CBC as the institutional organ – supervisor that was the guardian of the banking system and the correct operation of the banks.”

If only the president at the time, comrade Tof, had known there was a district court judge with expertise in running an economy, I am certain he would have picked up the phone and asked for his advice on how to deal with the economic crisis.

 

THE LOSS of the depositor’s money was not because of the rules of the market claimed the judge. If the rules of the market were operating, Laiki Bank would have been placed into administration a year earlier because it was bankrupt by early 2012 and survived until March 2013, because €1.8bn of the taxpayer’s money was used to keep it afloat.

Banks go bankrupt all the time because of decisions their boards and executives take and not because the government was negligent or the central bank’s supervision failed. In countries in which the rules of the market operate, like in the US, many banks fail (five this year alone). And when banks fail, depositors lose their money, apart from an amount guaranteed by the state.

The judge also blamed Prez Nik I for pledging that he would not allow the haircut of deposits, something that “justifiably contributed to the plaintiff not withdrawing his deposits at an earlier stage.” According to the judge’s reasoning, Nik I should have told people, ‘if you have any money in the bank withdraw it now because I might fail to avert the haircut of deposits,’ and then he would watch people being crushed to death in the stampedes outside bank branches.

 

THIS WAS not the court decision most lacking in wisdom, to put it respectfully. No decision could better the one which ruled that a public employee’s salary was his private property that could not be tampered with by the state. That was the apogee of stupidity, to put it respectfully, and it is now a precedent.

Meanwhile, I read that the judge with the economics expertise was moved to the court of appeal, before issuing the decision awarding compensation to the Laiki depositor on the grounds of government and CBC negligence. It was probably a promotion, which, hopefully, he was given at the expense of the judge who designated the salary private property.

 

france hosts international humanitarian conference for people of gaza
Prez Nik II in Paris

PREZ NIK II enjoyed his finest hour so far, doing his sales pitch for the humanitarian sea corridor, which he christened Amalthia, at the International Humanitarian Conference in Paris.

Amalthia got a lot of media coverage, a personal success of the prez, but whether she would amount to anything more than a presidential fantasy remains to be seen.

Being a top salesman, he underlined that “apart from its proximity (to Gaza), the excellent relations throughout the years Cyprus maintains with states of the region, but also its trustworthiness as a member state of the EU, strengthen and shield even more the implementation and success of the initiative.”

Then he transformed into an advertising man explaining the choice of Amalthia for the name of the humanitarian initiative. Amalthia was the nurturing goddess in Greek mythology who, as a goat suckled the infant Zeus in a cave. Her milk was also used to make PDO halloumi.

 

GREECE’S prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, unintentionally, poured cold water on Amalthia while “warmly supporting” her at the Paris conference.

Greece would provide ships to take humanitarian aid to Gaza, but the “most difficult aspect was to identify a suitable landing zone in southern Gaza, to create the necessary port infrastructure and of course, to ensure the security of the route, something that would require the cooperation of all the parties.”

If and when Israel allows humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, the Palestinians would not be in a position to wait for port infrastructure that does not exist to be created (it may take a few weeks or months) so the aid can come through the Amalthia corridor.

Greece had already sent aid cargo, by air to the El Arish airport in Egypt, said the PM. “Given Greece’s proximity to Sinai we would be ready to play a significant role at this newly-created airport that could provide aid very quickly, so this aid could enter Gaza from the south,” said Mitsotakis.

Prez Nik should perhaps propose a humanitarian air corridor in case the sea corridor does not materialise. He can call it Icarus.

 

LAST Monday Ersin Tatar had a telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to complain that Greek Cypriots had violated the understanding on Pyla, with regard to the Pyla-Arsos road; they also discussed the appointment of a special envoy, which the Turks are refusing to consent to.

On Saturday, Prez Nik, said he had requested a telephone chat with Guterres and would speak to him on Monday. He would talk about the Turkish side’s backtracking on the Pyla (mis)understanding, the special envoy and, of course, dear old Amalthia.

You have to feel some sympathy for the hapless Guterres. There is a war raging in the Middle East, a humanitarian crisis, a risk of the war spreading, everyone accusing him of bias and he has to deal with the tantrums of two inconsequential leaders bickering, like a couple of mukhtars about who has authority over a couple of kilometres of wasteland.  If I were Guterres, I would not pick up the phone.

 

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The members of the Soviet-titled, Secretariat of Coordination and Support of Government Work and Points of Contact of Ministries

PERM SEC to president and government overlord, Irene Piki, proudly tweeted the first training seminar she gave to the public parasites she had picked as her enforcers. They are the ones who will monitor ministers’ work and report them to Piki if they display signs of laziness or lack of enthusiasm for the government’s policies.

The members of the Soviet-titled, Secretariat of Coordination and Support of Government Work and Points of Contact of Ministries, were sat at round tables in a big auditorium and half the big screen being used featured the picture of the government’s great leader. It was all very Soviet, including the shoes Piki was wearing.

 

ANOTHER team of advisors is about to be set up by the Prez. At a House committee meeting it was reported that he intends to set up an ‘informal advisory team of youths’ that will express views and suggestions on youth affairs. Some deputies feared that this would downgrade the role of the Cyprus Youth Organisation (Onek), a body that has no reason for existence apart from wasting taxpayer’s money.

I bet the informal advisory team will consist of churchgoing youths whose idea of fun is attending speeches given by the bishop of Morphou. I doubt they are the type of youths that would advise the prez to legalise marijuana.

 

UNIONS comply with the industrial relations code only when it suits them, but this does not stop them taking the moral high ground and sermonising about the code if an employer is deemed to be in violation.

On Monday, the bank employees’ union Etyk staged a three-hour strike at Hellenic Bank that was a gross violation of the industrial relations code, because the labour ministry was mediating in the dispute and had not declared a deadlock. In Etyk’s view, only the bank management is obliged to observe the code, but that is not all.

Etyk boss Costis Hadjicostis also sent his henchmen into the bank’s HQ to force workers that carried on working to join the strike. They did not use physical force or shout, but their mere presence in the offices persuaded people to join the strike against their will.

Intimidation of strike-breakers, I am informed, is permitted by the industrial relations code.

 

MINISTER of Labour, Yiannis Panayiotou, also known as Red John for his unconcealed pro-union bias, said nothing about the unjustified strike at Hellenic in order not to annoy Hadjicostis.

But I hear that he does not like the ‘Red John’ moniker he has acquired and has decided to make openings to big employers. Former Diko deputy, Polyvios Kolokos, who has been in political obscurity for the last 20 years, has been recruited by Red John to fix meetings for him with employers.

Kolokos, once a protégé of Spy Kyp, has contacts in the business community and has been making calls to his friends, in charge of companies with a big workforces, asking if they would see Red John. After nine months in the job, the minister may have realised that he cannot only please the union bosses, without at least pretending to listen to employers as well.

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