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COVID19: MPs watch on as silent assassin kills the economy

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6 mins read

While the government has done a better-than-expected job to keep coronavirus from the door the political establishment hasn’t quite got to grips with throwing a cash lifeline to the economy.

There is an endless production line of economic predictions that have nothing but bad news for the Cyprus economy which is expected to partially implode under the repercussions of lockdown.

Nobody can say they don’t know what’s coming because it’s going to be a biblical storm of unpleasantness wrapped in job losses, company closures and bankruptcy.

Even under the best-case scenario, somebody is going to lose, if it’s not you, it might be your neighbour or the guy who fixes your car.

A perfect storm is brewing that will wash away our financial stability, making the future a more uncertain place to live.

Although the government has tried to make all the right moves in shutting the lid on coronavirus, then hesitantly lifting it slowly back up again, the political parties have got away with having to do nothing at all.

The Opposition isn’t exactly holding the government to account when it does make the wrong move or asking difficult questions about strategy like the rather muddled message for reopening schools.

Even if Cyprus can be considered a COVID-19 success story, we are not out of the woods yet.

There are questions that still need to be asked about how we get out of lockdown to manage a battered society.

Have the hospitals done everything to handle the crisis, what is the ripple effect on patients who need surgery in a COVID-19 landscape?

Are cancer patients being short-changed or forgotten during the pandemic, is the nation’s mental health in a bad place where the alarm signals are being missed.

Of course, Cypriots are desperate to go back to near normal and get out of the house, but coronavirus is still lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to spread as we embrace the outside world.

With minds focused on beating the silent assassin, the side effects are being overlooked while the economy will start showing the symptoms of neglect fairly soon.

Consumers are hesitant to go out and spend when they are worried about their jobs or being able to pay the rent.

Businesses need cash flow to help them reboot and acclimatise to the new normal of working from home, online connectivity, and social distancing.

Adapting takes, time, money, and technology – three things the Cyprus economy is in short supply of.

Although party politicians have somehow remained in the shadows without contributing much to the government effort, they shielded themselves away from public scrutiny.

They’ve literally taken the call to stay home and pull the blinds down to heart.

Businesses coming out of lockdown need answers, they need financial support to survive the pandemic while preparing for the upturn.

Europe’s economy has already produced some depressing figures for the first quarter with Germany’s GDP shrinking along with the rest of the EU.

What have politicians got to say about that? They are still squabbling with the government over a loan guarantee scheme for businesses in need of cheap finance as revenues have dried up during the coronavirus crisis.

Wish list

This issue should have been done and dusted weeks ago, but the parties don’t want to encourage firms to borrow who can’t pay it back, leaving the government liable for a large whack.

Ironically, the banks have plenty of cash to spare, giving to businesses is way out with the government as guarantor.

Evidently, Cyprus doesn’t want to create a secondary debt mountain to match the one the 2013 bailout left behind.

But not helping businesses to survive an unprecedented health emergency seems a rather crude ploy to try and get concessions from the government, so the parties come out smelling of roses.

Blocking the loan guarantees scheme to write a Christmas wish list of government spending gifts for your voters is a rather callous way to go about things even for this shambles.

How does the COVID-19 slogan go “we are all in this together” – it doesn’t fit the behaviour of the politicians who are only in it to win it for themselves.

Of course, they will argue otherwise, as the gatekeepers of public finances they must hold the government to account but if Cypriot society displayed their brand of unity the Corona death toll would be unpalatable.

They have stood down not to be counted while the economy is gasping for air.

The political system didn’t save us in 2013, no reason to believe our MPs will transform into Florence Nightingale to nurse the sick economy.