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Accountability is missing

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When economies are struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, especially Cyprus, overwhelmingly relies on services, tourism and exports, hiking tariffs at the Limassol port monopoly is plain stupid.

The alternative port of Larnaca has started the transition process of upgrading and developing the marina under its new management, so the port operators in Limassol hold the entire economy hostage.

It’s bad enough that work grinds to a halt at the island’s main trade facility every time that disgruntled truckers or port hands raise pay demands.

We have the three operators in Limassol, with a 25-year concession, unilaterally hiking tariffs by a hefty 16%. If this is not greedy, then what is?

For the past three years, the Chamber of Commerce, where all stakeholders are members, has been calling for a review of the tariff calculation method, flawed from the beginning.

The people in charge of drafting the concession agreements thought it wise to offer the entire business on a silver plate, with little regard if Limassol port is becoming less and less viable, effectively killing exports and making imports more expensive.

Until the matter is resolved, the Chamber has rightly called for the government to abstain from its 62% share of the fees to make the cost burden on traders less painful, which will hardly dent the state coffers.

And this, especially as the government already receives hefty annual royalties from the concession agreements.

The formula that determines the tariff increase or decrease is based on a flawed system, whereby not all parameters are included in its calculation.

It says a lot about those who devised these formulas and where, perhaps, these persons are employed after the privatisation of the port services.

There is no sense of accountability among public servants in key positions because they know that no one will probe the details of past contracts, as this could take ages to complete and conclude, let alone point the finger of blame.

Perhaps the opposition Akel party was right to scream about unfair aspects in the port concession agreements but were shot down because they were perceived to support only port workers’ rights, not the entire economy.

The current administration was elected on a pro-business platform nearly a decade ago and disappointed thousands with its interpretation of ‘business’ and who should benefit.

It used every tactic in the past to deflect public opinion away from the details of the concession agreements that remain state secrets, perhaps protecting high profile individuals.

A handful has benefitted, thousands have suffered, and those who penned the agreements will never be held accountable for making the Cyprus economy less competitive.

The conclusion is that as long as some people get their juicy pensions and no one can touch them, who cares?

If the long-overdue bill on the protection of whistleblowers could have a practical and swift implementation, perhaps then financial and political corruption could cease, or at least decline.