You may wonder, who is Jimmy Hoffa? He was the US boss of the Truckers Union, accused and jailed for bribery, Mafia links, investments in casinos and lavish lifestyle, and subsequently murdered.
This resulted from an investigation by the then Government of J.F. Kennedy with the chief investigator Bobby Kennedy.
Hoffa called a national strike during the investigation, almost bringing the US economy to its knees.
One of the many problems that the Cyprus Government has is some unions that behave in a similar, blackmailing manner so that the free economy of the country cannot function.
Concerning Civil Servants and public service bodies (EAC, Port Authorities, Water Boards), their inefficiency is noticeable, as is their indifference and the never-ending demands which cause damage to the Cyprus economy.
I will refer to certain recent examples that we have experienced, but hundreds of others exist.
- Town Planning – We were asked by a foreign investor who wished to acquire a large plot in Nicosia to investigate the development parameters of a planning zone the plot fell in, that of a local commercial centre. After several reminders and a meeting, nothing came out of it, while the District Planning Office asked that we submit a written request (again) for preliminary planning views. So, after waiting four months, we informed our foreign investor accordingly, who gave up and abandoned the project.
- We now come to the unfortunate foreign investor who proposed to develop in Troodos an Adventure Park. Although his application was approved initially by the Council of Ministers, he waited for two years to be informed of the lease rental. As a result, the project was abandoned due to the loss of the mountain resorts.
- The much-published (and quite successful) scheme to attract highly paid foreign employees seems to have run into trouble before it started because applications requiring months to secure an appointment cannot be processed timely!
These and tens of other cases result from untouchable unions whose members cannot be fired, despite their incompetence.
We now come back to examine the differences that we had experienced when work, usually carried out by the Civil Service, is now undertaken by private practice.
- Airports – You may remember the almost daily strikes that the airports suffered, with the most memorable one being the luggage handlers complaining that the luggage was too heavy for them to unload from the planes—no serious strikes since the privatisation of the airports.
- Ports – A similar situation, and since the privatisation of the ports, be it that there are problems at this initial stage, these are solved quickly.
- Court Bailiffs – Court Bailiffs were taking their time to deliver the documents to the various litigants, resulting in backhanding. Now that this service has been outsourced, the delivery happens quickly, and no cash under the table.
- Land Surveys – An exclusive work by Civil Servants/Lands Office was at the top of our list in corruption and which took months for execution. Although private surveyors do this work, the time and cost are much reduced (minimal), and it is all the best.
- A good percentage of local Authorities manage their business as it is their ownership (a result of the Ottoman Empire). The local mayors and other “chiefs” have as their priority to find “jobs for the boys” (their voters), and they show little care about the well-being of the area’s administration. So, in one case, the local mayor allowed one of the “local boys” to build a kiosk for selling newspapers and juices within the protection zone (strictly prohibited) which became a grill bar. The District Officer protested and received no reply despite his warnings to the local municipality.
- Let’s look at this month’s strike threats by the Electricity Authority Unions (one of the highest-paid employees in Cyprus), who, under the pretext of outdated generators causing pollution, declared their intention to strike. However, the unions require pay raises and around 300 new positions (presumably, more will become managers at the top pay scale).
We are not so much governed by the elected Government but by the unions and the other “mobs” to that we have become accustomed.
We remember during such happenings in the UK, Mrs M. Thatcher demolished the coal miners’ unions, and since then, everything has been peaceful.
Lovely, but do we have the guts, such as Mrs Thatcher, to do it in Cyprus?
By Antonis Loizou FRICS – Antonis Loizou & Associates EPE – Real Estate Valuers, Property Consultants & Estate Agents