20° Nicosia,
20 March, 2019

#PoliticsBlog End of an era and Harris’ bitter chalice

Party is over as the long history on cooperative banking is summed up with a few words



Journalists often abuse the term “end of an era” but in the case of the Cyprus Cooperative Bank, these words totally fit the bill.

Cooperative banking, which has been an integral part in the lives and battles of nearly all Cypriots, has just been disconnected from life support and the only thing remaining now is the burial rituals.

One would be hard-pressed to find a family that didn’t have something to do with a loan from one of the Cooperative’s credit unions. However, sweet memories from the Co-Op have been mixed lately with anger and revelations of extravagant spending and endless partying by political groups and local elite.

What goes around...

It’s the Cypriot equivalent of another expression that describes the situation perfectly, after going viral in Greece: “there’s plenty of blame to go around.”

The never-ending greed of political parties and local authorities has come to an abrupt and dishonorable end, with cooperative banking as an institution footing the bill.

As soon as it was game over, some people started whining and pretending they had no idea, just like in 2013 with the peak of the financial crisis.

With a slight delay notwithstanding, AKEL (communist party) is now running to Costakis (Attorney General Costas Clerides) to coax him into ordering an official investigation based on the reports and positions of Chuck Norris (Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides), saying an autopsy is in order. The truth is that as soon as a dead body starts to smell, everyone tries to make the stench go away…

A serious economic analyst was telling me the other day that “a lot of folks will have to be audited” in connection with the demise of Cooperative banking. First of all, some political establishment groups treading party lines, and then some local authorities at the community level.

The expert noted: “In this recent saga, Harris (Finance Minister Harris Georgiades) as well as the government would also be looked at for not bringing a foreign Hourican-type banker (former CEO at Bank of Cyprus) to protect the bank and even put a global shield over it.”

The analyst, who appeared to be mumbling to himself, carried on: “Of course, if they were to bring some foreign banker, then Harris would be looked at regarding the banker’s €2 million salary…”

“It is true that there is a huge distance between the (government’s) statement that the Co-Op would be handed back to its depositors and what is actually happening today, these free gifts and the end of an era,” he said.

Make a long story short

“The history of the Co-Op may not need a historical analysis but rather a sociopolitical one, as it is a microcosm reflecting the social and political life of this country.

A long story condensed into a short phrase: We had a good ride (all together) and feasted on our extravagance, and now it is time to pay the bill. Just like Thatcher once said that there was no free meal, someone in the end always has to pay.”

Truth be told, besides going through hell with the Co-Op recently, Harris will also have to face what’s coming at him which could be worse.

That is none other than the probe that Akel is pushing (to wash away its own sins according to one point of view) with Costakis and Odysseas.

This could very well be the biggest test in his entire career as Harris, who was asked to stay in his post for a second term, would face the big question:

“Was my gut instinct right when I didn’t want to take another sip from the bitter cup of the Finance Ministry?”

Cyprus  |  politics  |  Co-Op  |  bank  |  Hellenic  |  Georgiades  |  Michaelides  |  Akel  |  Clerides  |  Hourican  |  crisis

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