November 21, 2006

Stravaraland Memories - Part 5

The 1998 – 2003 presidency was arguably the most important one since independence. Random and planned events took place that the people of Stravaraland were unable to understand, assess rationally, or take advantage of, and thus managed to miss the biggest opportunity to work towards a better future (rather than getting stuck in the past) - an opportunity that might not arise for another generation. Let’s go back in time…

Clerides was re-elected in 1998 on the back of S-300 rhetoric (somewhat similar to the veto-logy, currently used by TeePee). Commissions from the purchase of the missiles were paid out in both Stravaraland and Greece, and in the face of possible extreme Turkish reaction, and public finances in Greece unable to handle any warm summers back in 1998, given how close the country was to joining the eurozone (even on fake statistics), the missiles were packed off to Crete. We were all assured that they would be ready for action if anything were to happen.

The Lazaros Mavroses of the land were (and still are) livid. Greece entered the eurozone though - a far more important long-term benefit than the deployment of S-300s. At around the same time, Ocalan was captured on the way to the Greek Embassy in Nairobi, while his passport stated his name as our very own Lazaros Mavros, the living conscience of the EOKA (and in recent years the Kurdish) struggle. Nationalists in both Stravaraland and Greece were beginning to think that they could not vote for their respective incumbents again. The cracks in the wall began to show as nationalists of both Stravaralands were getting ready to strike.

So, given that the S-300 adventure was over (re-election accomplished), Glafcos focused on what was coming next; it was clear that the EU would offer a deal. This would be a tough sell to the Greek Cypriots who had grown up with the slogans of the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s. A federal, bizonal plan (the official, stated aim since 1977) for Stravaraland and simultaneous entry to the EU or else both sides would remain out of that club forever.

Being rational and forward-looking, Glafcos and Vassiliou went along with this, after all, there was nothing to lose given the status quo. Thanks to pseudo-northern intransigence, our boys were held in high esteem by their European colleagues and were winning the argument against being punished for the green line running through Rauf’s head. Simitis also helped with newly gained, albeit fleeting, respect Greece had managed to gain.

But then the summer of 1999 arrived. Mostly due to loopholes in the legal system and the unprofessionalism, incompetence and corruption within the authorities, a stock market bubble developed and burst in 8 months. Sufficient time to destroy a substantial number of gambling Stravaraland men (almost all men on the island are either hunters or gamblers or football fanatics, or any combination of the three). The authorities sat back and let the stock market index go from 81 in January 1999 to around 850 in November 1999, taking advantage of the numerous private offers handed out to them like koufettoues. Splits and private placements were the new buzzwords, stockbrokers appeared like mushrooms and gold fever spread like a summer fire. When The Economist published an article in October 1999 talking about the bubble (something about Mediterranean froth), the usual attack was made, even on the Lazaros Mavros daily prayer-ritual-show: foreigners jealous of our success are trying to undermine us, they don’t understand that Stravaraland is simply different.

The bubble burst but it left a really bad taste in the mouths of our gambling addicts. And, as always, the fault, when things go wrong on the island of the consummate gambler, fell with the government. Trust on all things official, on all local institutions, evaporated. I wonder to this day whether things might have developed differently had the summer of 1999 never happened. Trust, once lost, for whatever random reason, is almost impossible to regain.

Some good did, however, come of the whole state of affairs towards 2000. There was more freedom in the air as evidenced by the scandals that were being pointed out daily. Politis made its appearance in February 1999 and challenged the 'official' paper of the Establishment. The new newspaper was responsible, of course, for the daily scandals that were making the news, and was considered to be anti-government back then, as it is considered now, in 2006. The economy, despite the mess of the stock market, managed not to nosedive and continued its slow progress. But the slowdown in growth was there for everyone to witness.

In the midst of all this, the President coined an unfortunate term. He called the country a Banana Republic. A very insightful comment that was met with wide popular approval. Yet, if the country were a Banana Republic, what did that make its President?

The beginning of the end was just over the horizon...

originally posted by Apodimos Kypreos


Blogger drakouna said...

"Yet, if the country were a Banana Republic, what did that make its President?"


22 November, 2006 08:30  
Anonymous Loxias said...

almost all men on the island are either hunters or gamblers or football fanatics, or any combination of the three

I'm sorry, but this is exactly the kind of observation people go all the way to my blog to read.

I will sue you for unlawful competition.


22 November, 2006 14:07  

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