A year ago, Nicos Anastasiades was introducing a series of “initiatives for the economy” he had first declared when he launched his election campaign last summer. A lot of people believed in him and some even voted for him for the sake of change as the outgoing communist government was clearly anti-business.
But throughout the campaigning it seemed to be all talk and nothing of substance.
Although the demise of the economy and the downfall of the prized banking sector was not (all) of his own doing, Anastasiades is already carrying the heavy burden inherited from the worst administration in 50 years. And that, because of the cautious approach the then-opposition DISY party had adopted when it came to criticising the Christofias administration, for fear of a boomerang if the DISY candidate faltered once in office.
Since then, it has been a turbulent six months, with our own Central Bank singlehandedly bringing the economy to its knees, scandals popping up left and centre, public inquiries making a mockery of the justice system and senior public servants continuing to abuse their position for personal gain, simply because they can get away with it.
The worst-hit segment of the economy have been the small and medium sized enterprises, many of which employ less than 20 people and yet account for the majority of economic activity.
These companies have been suffering, some for more than a year, as credit had been getting tighter and tighter until stupid controls kicked in, ultimately the nail in the coffin for many SMEs.
The government was quick to react. Or at least it seemed to be. Upon taking office, incentives and subsidies were declared to lure unemployed young graduates into the labour market, albeit for six months. Other grants were offered to the tourist sector, only to realise that the uptake was low and the money was directed to other programmes.
Now, there is talk of a special scheme to help rescue SMEs, or at least try to keep afloat the ones that have survived. Just like the EIB programmes that demand more collateral than SMEs can afford, let’s hope the new programmes will truly help SMEs and not become yet another reason for our EU partners to pat us on the back, saying “well done!”
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