As expected, there were no fireworks at President Anastasiades’ press conference last week. Mistakes were admitted to, apologies were offered, pledges were made and a general sense of “siga siga” seemed to prevail.
On the other hand, playing up to populist demand, Nicos Anastasiades even shot a salvo at “big business” employers, almost in similar tune to his anti-business predecessor who had used his communist rhetoric in the previous five years to trash any enterprising sector, from banking and services to hotels, retail and manufacturing.
This time round President Anastasiades shot himself in the foot, saying that should any employer violate the new labour laws and the relaxed work hours, he would recall the regulation “at once”. Yes, commandante! Now, we are convinced!
From the guy who was supposed to bring in a sense of liberalism, he is dragging his feet on privatisations. Instead of encouraging entrepreneurship, red tape seems to rule the day. Meritocracy seems to be a dream in the far distance, while trade unions still seem to be getting away with it.
There is no doubt that our services-dominated economy needs to recover very fast, with some sectors even seeing a turnaround by the end of this year. For others, 2014 is a flick of the coin: will they or won’t they survive to see the next year?
The public inquiries into the fate of the banking sector is taking too long and the restructuring of Bank of Cyprus even longer. These delays are simply fuelling rumours, with all commercial and cooperative banks being targeted every week. Same rumour, different name.
Ironically, it was the “evil” rating agency Moody’s the following day that set the record straight: delays in public sector reforms, cost cutting and restructuring of the banking sector is causing greater harm to the economy than anything else. Reading between the lines, Moody’s suggests that shrinking the banking sector would be wrong for the viability of our economy.
We knew all that, but coming just 24 hours after a press conference where grand declarations were absent, Moody’s simply pulled the carpet from under the president. Let’s hope we can be more convincing with the Troika inspectors this week.
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