Sometimes deputies behave as if we are living in a socialist state with a command economy in which the pursuit of profit by businesses is morally unacceptable even though it is permitted by law. This is why politicians constantly rail against alleged ‘profiteering’ by businesses and have been demanding the imposition of price controls or tax cuts as a way of fighting inflation.

It is in this context that deputies considered they had an obligation to attack the banks for the lack of ATMs, especially in rural areas, during a House commerce committee meeting called to discuss the matter. There were not enough ATMs and the elderly had great difficulty in securing cash from their bank account was the general consensus at the committee, the chairman of which, Kyriakos Hadjiyiannis of Disy, said the “banks were devoid of social responsibility.”

Hadjiyiannis said he had been in contact with banks to ask them to set up more ATMs, but “we received a negative response from them” and they “told us they are not interested”. Their priorities were the implementation of new technologies such as cashback, he said. He then played the ‘profit is bad’ card. “I am sorry because at the end of the day our banks only take, they absorb profit from people without returning anything at all.”

Akel’s deputy Costas Costa made the issue even more dramatic. The bankers did not live in the real world, “they don’t want to know what’s happening in the countryside and in the villages where pensioners are suffering,” he said. There are also many villages without supermarkets, which means pensioners have to drive somewhere to do their shopping, but deputies do not demand that a grocery store that would be unviable open in remote villages.

As the banks have explained repeatedly, the operation of ATMs is costly, and their plans are to reduce them rather than increase them. As businesses they have every right to do so if this improves their profitability. An economy needs profitable businesses in order to grow and prosper. Without them there would be no new jobs created and fewer opportunities for growth. In short, a dynamic economy needs profitable banks, even though socialist-thinking politicians consider profits to be a bad thing.

Costa, who described the banks’ response as “offensive, provocative and unacceptable”, added that the problem was made worse “by the scandalous closure of the cooperative bank”. It did not occur to him that the cooperative bank and the cooperative branches operating all over the country went bankrupt because they were not interested in making profits but in acting in a socially responsible way. In the end, they went bust for their mistaken priorities, but it was the taxpayer that picked up the bill for this mismanagement.