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Why are we so unhappy?

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Since the World Happiness Report was published ten years ago, Cyprus has been lingering in the “partly miserable, mainly unhappy” range, ranking 46 in the latest report, with some reasons similar to worldwide trends, while others are mainly local.

The past decade was marked by several events that cultivated and maintained a general sense of dissatisfaction, frustration, and growing mistrust.

Starting with the financial meltdown, caused by the greed of some bankers and the stupidity of politicians that brought the Cyprus economy to its knees, the after-effects are still felt in society – growing and unpaid debts, increasing rate of corruption and unchecked anger.

The Mari disaster of 2011 should have acted as a wake-up call for the overhaul (or at least discovery) of the nation’s energy and green policy, which has much to be desired.

New equipment was installed, which should have introduced natural gas for power production.

Yet, governments continue to import carbon-emitting diesel, with consumers burdened with emission fines of about €100-120 mln a year.

And all this appears on the electricity bills, becoming a shocker for every consumer.

The unresolved Cyprus problem is also deteriorating, with the previous administration leaving it on the back burner and the incumbents not keen to kickstart a new round.

As a result, refugees of nearly 50 years feel betrayed not by the invaders but by their leaders.

Housing estates are crumbling, and the state is not showing the necessary humanity to take care of these people, many old and vulnerable.

Adding insult to injury, the selective and corrupt way Turkish Cypriot properties are rented out, mainly to ineligible people, is just another nail in the coffin.

There is a general lack of trust in the justice system, and the formerly middle class, now the bulk of low-income earners, have given up, even abstaining from elections, saying, “I am not heard” or worse, “nothing will ever change”.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have also impacted every household, every small and large business, yet civil servants remained undeterred and their wages intact.

In the private sector, abusive employers take advantage of unemployment levels to squeeze every cent out of their employees, reward them unjustly and oblige staff to work longer hours, never recognising the reward for loyalty.

The wage and benefit inequalities between the privileged bank staff, employees of semi-government utilities and public institutions on the one hand, and private sector workers on the other create a wider rift of “them and us”, with no hope of closing that gap.

Cyprus claims to be a tourist destination, with once-famous hospitality as the main charm to attract holidaymakers.

The island’s captains aspire to transform the economy into a financial and services hub.

This policy has failed miserably, thanks to the greed of a handful and tolerance of the many.

A country’s success should be judged by the happiness of its people. And this should be the aim of the ‘new’ government.

Five months into the current administration, the moaning continues, often with the conclusion that “nothing has changed”.

The World Happiness Report concludes that income, health, having someone to count on, a sense of freedom to make key life decisions, generosity, and the absence of corruption all play strong roles in supporting life evaluations.

If we get this right, perhaps we can make Cyprus great again.