On Tuesday, August 28, over 10,000 educators gathered outside the Presidential Palace to protest a Cabinet decision (July 4) regarding a bundle of downsizing measures in public education.
It was the first time since the Mari tragedy in 2011 that so many thousands of people gathered outside the Presidential Palace. Back then, the discontented masses were protesting the pigheadedness of President Demetris Christofias who, in order not to displease the so called friendly countries, insisted on keeping the seized containers with explosives at the military base instead of ordering their proper disposal. When the bombs exploded in his hands and left 13 dead at his feet, he disappeared from the face of earth for three whole days.
He then surrendered his political mojo without a fight to Nicos Anastasiades before he could even make good on his promise to solidify the “yes” vote on Cyprus reunification. Anastasiades, who understood that Christofias had just taken a mortgage out on the Left that would essentially run in perpetuity, took liberties in imposing his own politics.
And so, the partying with the banks, audit houses, and attorney firms with the Russian-speaking oligarchs and the brazen money-laundering that came to an abrupt end, with the taxpayer footing the bill through a haircut, was replaced with something more “palatable.” So the partying got moved over to the golden passports, through which all of the above continue to benefit by enlarging their personal and company fortunes.
In his first five-year term, due to the haircut, bailout, salary and social welfare cuts, unemployment and a relative poverty, Anastasiades’ aim had been to avoid any clash with trade unions because he wanted to get to a second term in office. This explains why pay raises and promotions for Pasydy union came towards the end of the first term.
It’s a private club that has denigrated politics, turned institutions into tools, and abolished meritocracy, while abhoring equal rights and equal access
During his second five-year term the President moved towards what will solidify his agenda, that being state control and the like as well as the “no” vote as a prerequisite. And the basic element of the statism we now experience is wickedness.
Such wickedness that shows off, provokes, and mainly remains indifferent to its obviously corrupt face. This has to do with a regime that views itself as a godsend, a conclave, untouched by the rule of law, which uses justice as its own personal tool. Everyone, on the Right and the Left, the Blues and the Greens, are all here to serve in accordance with the level of compensation. It’s a private club that has denigrated politics, turned institutions into tools, and abolished meritocracy, while abhoring equal rights and equal access and fighting income redistribution.
I want to insert a reminder here that Cyprus is a country where the President – post 1963 – can be one and the same with the state, depending on his or her education and democratic values. This is so because there are no checks and balances where someone could potentially impeach him. This is why he believes he can make ridicule of over 10,000 educators who gathered outside the Presidential Palace by reheating a leftover proposal (23 August 2019).
And all this, after an enormous weigh down worth €6 billion from the Cyprus Cooperative Bank where it looks like the taxpayer is getting the short end of the stick, because the Cabinet decision (4 July 2018) was essentially the first attempt by the President to have a hand in union affairs, a ploy rather to draw attention away from the credit unions.
So without any particular difficulty, following the first meeting with union representatives (since education minister Costas Hambiaouris made a big mess), the president came down from 52 million, the money that would have been saved by reducing exempted hours for teachers, to a mere 7 and then even 5 million euros.
Therefore, when it comes to the saving money argument, nothing could be further from the truth. And it’s not like there would be dialogue on a full range of issues, which is what educators and six political parties have been calling for all along. That’s because what is at stake, in other words state control, I s not quality in schools but rather turning them into private (see Averof Neophytou, Disy party chairman).
So, what’s the next front? That’s health reform and the NHS healthcare plan, which the government administration had placed front and centre during the election campaign but now keeps on the back burner by way of relevant interests.
Up next is the Social Security Fund, bled dry under all administrations with a reserve running on empty instead of having €7.5 billion. So this is how we remain hostages of governments, one after the other, suddenly without pensions where we will be forced to work until we drop dead. And then? Well, we will be dead.
Published on Kathimerini Cyprus website (2 September 2018)