Friday, 19 April 2013

It's Grim in t'Eastern Mediterranean Island of Cyprus

Well, here we are, members of the Xorg Collective, on a fact-finding tour examining the economic gloom in Cyprus. Everyone remains restricted to withdrawing a maximum of 300 euros per day, and those fortunate enough to have more than 100,000 euros in the bank can't get at it and aren't quite sure whether they will ever be able to and if so, how much of it will be left. The Laiki bank, which is to be closed, can't advise yet on how accounts will be transferred to the Bank of Cyprus, and most traders are only accepting cash. The big supermarkets and international petrol companies, however, still take credit cards. So there's a generalised air of uncertainty, added to a feeling of despondency and not a little anger that the Government and the banks have got them into this mess.There's empty property everywhere and overall unemployment stands at 25%.
El Presidente's cousin's husband Luka retired last year and invested his retirement lump sum in a bond with the Cooperative Bank but this has been frozen, and he has no idea whether he'll get it back. Cousin Spyro, the carpenter, has had no work for six months and now finds that he is not eligible for welfare; he was self-employed and benefits are not being paid to the self-employed. Mixalakhi, El Prez's first cousin once removed's brother in law, has been laid off and has been told no benefits are being paid for the first two months of unemployment. Aki, who rents the shop on the ground floor here, complains that he's going broke and can't get at his money in the bank, so he's refusing to pay his rent - now three months in arrears. Mr Dikaios, the esteemed architect, tells us he has no work at all and that he has had to lay off his long-serving assistant. He too can't access his savings so he's wondering how he's going to pay for his kids' college education.
We're doing our bit to revitalise the economy, though, having shelled out 1,350 euros on fixing the hole in the backyard, 60 euros on clearing the drains, and reducing by 8.5% the rent that The Old Foghorn downstairs pays (i.e. she now gets 12 months for the price of 11).
There is a glimpse of optimism for the future, however, as there are reserves of natural gas in Cyprus' offshore waters and once exploitation gets going, jobs and tax revenues should materialise. But this is four or five years away and the current desperation of the Cyprus government makes it vulnerable to being ripped off by the multi-nationals.
And meanwhile, it's raining today!

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