Speech by Eleni Mavrou, member of the Political Bureau of AKEL, MP and Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on Internal Affairs in the debate on the 2020 State Budget
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 10th December 2019, Nicosia
Years ago, when decay and scandals in Italy were at their peak, Umberto Eco wrote, in his well-known sarcastic style, an article that reminded me of what we are going through. I paraphrase a small excerpt from that article:
“What demands do we have from a government? We demand that it should reflect the tendencies, views, desires of each member of society. And aren’t – I ask – the speculators, corrupters of public services, canvassers of votes and violators of tax/town planning/immigration rules a part of society? It is therefore quite natural that they are represented by corrupt and profiteering renegades!”
The International Observatory on Organized Crime and Corruption (OCCRP) released a report this summer on the Troika Laundromat scandal involving the Cypriot government.
What was the reaction of the government ruling forces?
In the beginning, they were indifferent. They subsequently tried to blur the issue. When that didn’t work either, they employed intimidation against the few local media outlets that dared publicize the accusations made.
What was the reaction of the government ruling forces when the scandal broke out over the passports granted to the Malaysian fugitive and leading officials of the authoritarian Cambodian regime?
“Unfortunately, these messages being conveyed from Cyprus, will have consequences for the Cypriot economy,” said the DISY President.
This is yet another attempt to divert attention away from the substance. Because, I do not believe anyone, including DISY President Averof Neofytou, that only the opposition in Cyprus is concerned about these issues.
What was the government’s response when Cyprus was blacklisted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), when a European Commission Report and when a European Parliament report was pointing to Cyprus for money laundering and facilitating tax evasion, due to the “golden passports” scheme»?
- Anastasiades, when he wasn’t trying to mislead (the people) by claiming that “Cyprus has the strictest criteria for the granting of European citizenship”, referred to “libel” and “fiction” or attempted to mislead by denouncing…the targeting of Cyprus. The Minister of Finance assured us (as early as February 2019) that “The controls are strict. That’s the reason why, to this day, no problem WHATSOEVER has arisen with any naturalization case.” And Averof Neofytou confined himself to an admission all humility that “mistakes were made, no one is perfect”.
The investment for passports scheme is not under criticism. What is the subject of criticism is the non-transparency, abuse and involvement of the President of the Republic and his family. The criticism exercised is that the government ruling forces have turned an investment program into a “get rich quick” scheme from which specific big audit and law firms and developers are getting rich from. It is the arrogance with which you bypass any criticism, colleagues.
And, well, the international vilification of Cyprus doesn’t bother you. Don’t you even reflect about the danger when the new ‘bubble’ will burst taking (again) with it the economy and society?
And don’t rush to say that “the opposition is again scaremongering”.
It is the Central Bank itself that pointed out in its report the “accelerated rise” in property prices in Limassol which has already led to a “sharp increase in rents”, noting that this is “largely related to the government’s scheme for granting by exception passports to investors.” It is the Fiscal Council that warns that the ‘golden passports’ scheme leads to rising property prices and that “the dependence of economic growth on the specific scheme harbors dangers”.
This means nothing for the government ruling forces. We only hear verbal declarations about the government safeguarding affordable housing for citizens.
We have even reached the point, after decades, of people sleeping on benches – even here, in the park behind the House of Representatives. In February, people living in shells in a basement were at risk from a fire in an apartment building in Limassol. A lonely and helpless woman died in April on the roof of an apartment building in Nicosia. A homeless man was found dead in an abandoned building in Limassol last August. At the end of September, the remains of another homeless man were found in an abandoned house in the centre of Limassol.
After 6 years of inactivity and since you were responding to us that “the state is not a real estate agent”, you have brought back – as a result of pressure exerted – some housing programs that are to a large degree focused on… granting additional town-planning incentives to land and business developers.
The government ruling forces talk of “strong investment interest” – the excuse for applying untargeted tax reliefs, loosening of land, the selling-off of state land. Such incentives merely serve a handful of speculators, such as town planning incentives that have contributed to the property “bubble”.
And don’t tell us, as the Minister of Finance did, that these Plans create income and jobs. The former Finance Minister himself acknowledged that from the $7.2 billion estimated to be the total inflow from the sales of high-cost property (the well-known construction of luxury towers and skyscrapers), just 1.2 billion is reflected in the GDP. A large part, that is, ends up in the pockets of the privileged few.
It is indicative that, while in the period 2008-2012, Working People and Profits were respectfully sharing 39% of the total income of the economy, in 2018, approximately 300 million have moved from working people to businesses and in doing so raising the share of Profits from the total income to 41.4%. When AKEL says that “the government takes from the many and gives to the few” it isn’t destructive opposition. It’s simple mathematics!
When will we at long last realize in this country that rational and sustainable development is one thing and ‘get-rich-quick’ policies is something else!
The greed of a tiny group has led to an anarchic system in which everyone builds what and wherever they want without any studies conducted and without any planning. Towers are sprouting up. The natural environment is being destroyed. Infrastructure problems are being created. Traffic congestion is increasing, citizens’ amenities are being threatened and our cultural heritage is being destroyed. There has been no preparation for fire safety issues. Management and maintenance issues for common buildings have not been resolved. And, of course, the matter of contributory charges that could have been used to improve the environment and the city at large have never been brought to the table.
In practice, you have completely undermined the town planning system. But if the development of our city’s space is not rational and prudent, if it does not respect people and their history, if it is not based on a plan for sustainable development this can only produce serious economic and thus social consequences.
The governing DISY party accuses us of engaging in destructive criticism. They forget our proposals on the General Health Scheme, the modernization of social welfare services and reform of local government.
They issue appeals for “unity”, but what they mean is that we should not talk.
“For the sake of unity”, no one (according to the government ruling forces) should be complaining about the fact that the President of the Republic is violating long-standing decisions of the National Council when he opens up agreed-upon issues such as the proposal for decentralized federation (at a time when the issue of federal competences were agreed), or when the President of the Republic all of a sudden “discovered” the parliamentary system, even though the presidential system had already been agreed.
Neither should anyone – according to the government ruling forces – complain about the President’s statement that (Turkey) “must limit itself to whatever the proportion is that belongs to the said illegal entity” – even if this statement annuls our position that the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus is one and indivisible and extends throughout the maritime area, in both free and occupied areas.
According to the government ruling forces no one should complain about the sell-off of the Cooperative Bank or about the government’s insistence on selling off profitable semi-governmental organizations despite N. Anastasiades’ (written) pledge to the contrary.
No one should complain about the statements about “borrowed votes” and “zeros”, about women who “do finally think”, about the apology he made “regardless of whether the victims were immigrant women”…
Mr. Anastasiades accuses AKEL of being a supporter of any solution and that we are apologists of Turkey. (BLUNTLY Mr. Averof Neofytou). Who is saying so? The only President of the Republic of Cyprus who flirts openly with the idea of confederation and a two states solution. And you have the audacity to talk to us about “unity” and deliver lessons on responsibility and patriotism?
DISY and its government have a strange perception of unity and democracy! The degeneration of the political discourse, the abolition of any notion of political ethos and any assumption of political responsibility are your own choices. The slide backwards is the choice of the President of the Republic himself.
As a Member of Parliament for Kyrenia (district in the occupied areas), I don’t have to assert funding from the budget for roads, schools, hospitals…
I am asserting a homeland!
I am asserting the hope for a free and reunited Cyprus.
You have replaced the slogan “Our borders are in Kyrenia” with the slogan “Our borders are in Cambodia, Malaysia, Vanuatu…” (Note: reference to the government’s investment-for-passports scheme)
Nikos Anastasiades’ regressions, contradictions and tactical games have allowed two and a half precious years to be lost during which Turkey escalated its aggressive rhetoric, provoked and is provoking in our EEZ and in Famagusta too.
Perhaps some forces and circles are trying to underestimate developments by suggesting that it’s nothing serious, others may confine themselves to stating the usual and meaningless narrative about “yet another expansionist expression of the occupation”. They may still resort to bravado statements about the EEZ in the hope that they will disorientate and distract the people, but time is running out.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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