By Stelios Oprhanides
Cypriot politicians have apparently lost their moral compass – a large number of them at least. With their vote on Thursday, they proved they are not serving the national interest, even as they pay lip service to it.
Their decision to pass a law “in order to protect citizens from foreclosures” suspending another one they passed in September that was a precondition for Cyprus getting another tranche of bailout money, which it desperately needs – let’s not forget, the government has to find the funds to refinance more than 2 billion euros in maturing debt next year – was not a harmless bit of theatre for domestic consumption.
They should know – and in fact they do know better than any other citizen – that banks are far from ready to engage in “mass foreclosures” for several reasons. The relevant regulations are not ready yet, the banks still lack the administrative capacity to do so and the economy is still not strong enough, just to name a few.
But this is not the point. With their vote the parties damaged the state’s credibility and the country’s interests. The agreement between Cyprus and the international lenders is not an internal affair, some sort of agreement between the Cypriot government and parliament.
It is an agreement between the Cypriot government and European bodies and the IMF. This agreement allows Cyprus to receive funds provided by other euro area countries, including those with a much lower standard of living like Slovakia and Estonia, as well funds from non-EU countries with an even lower income per capita, to pay salaries and pensions.
The best way to thank a taxpayer in Asia, Africa or South America and elsewhere for contributing to Cyprus’s bailout would be for Cyprus to honour this agreement, stick to its terms and make sure it will it pay back.
Instead, some Cypriot politicians proved they will not hesitate to cheat in order “to send a message”.
What kind of message that was and to whom it was sent is irrelevant because the message the lenders received was that “an agreement with Cypriots is not worth the paper it is written on”.
Let’s us not forget. It was the same political parties, which in order to protect the interests of developers, ten years ago also turned down the settlement plan for the Cyprus problem they earlier accepted by engaging in the negotiation process. And it is the developers they want to help once more – developers who exploited the gaps in the legislation, irresponsible politicians knowingly maintained, in order to finance their business with depositors’ money they cannot or do not want to repay.
And one has to have a look to what is going on in Paphos in order to understand how developers and the construction sector have been calling the shots for years, if not decades.
As it was these dishonourable and dishonest politicians who put us in to this mess in the first place, it would be naïve to expect them to get us out of it. The reason is clear. If a country wants to be trustworthy and regarded as such, then its political leaders have to be honest and respect their state’s agreements with third parties.