NOW that the over-rated Anastasiades-Eroglu coffee afternoon has come and gone, perhaps it is time we returned to some state of normalcy and took a serious look at core issues that have dogged our society, the economy and the perception that Cyprus has in other people’s minds.
Of course, the biggest thorn is the Title Deeds fiasco, that, despite promises from all Interior ministers and Attorney Generals, remains unresolved. Our Risk Watch columnist Alan Waring raised the issue in an appropriately timed article last week. Even the dreaded Troikans attempted to have a go at the issue, but will probably fall flat on their faces as they, too, couldn’t care less about the home buyers who have been duped by crooks, both in the property sector and within the banks.
Here, we have to make a clear definition of ‘home buyer’ rather than ‘property buyer’ for two reasons:
- the right to a home is enshrined in EU law, whereas the right to a property is not, and
- we are talking primarily here about people who stand to lose the homes they live in – few are property investors in the commercial sense.
With all the name calling regarding major property developers (Aristo, Leptos, Shacolas) piling up unsecured loans and creating a black hole within Bank of Cyprus of about €1 billion euros, perhaps it is time we also started to name and shame the head honchos at Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus, USB and possibly ex-Laiki Popular, who, logically, must be the accountable persons at the bank who have dished out the now non-performing loans or have knowingly allowed developers to get away with murder.
But as with all else in Cyprus, nothing will happen unless President Anastasiades grasps the importance of this problem, which his predecessors had ignored.
There is a whole issue about how we tend to use impersonal language as if ‘the banks’, ‘the government’ etc. are amorphous, inanimate monoliths. There are flesh-and-blood monsters – sociopaths probably – who do all these appalling things and it is time we should start using the names of those ultimately responsible and accountable, even if they personally did not ‘pull the trigger’.
There is the general point about anonymity masking accountability and the specific issue of these banks rapaciously going after innocent home buyers who were never party to their developer’s mortgages or the latter’s defaults. Even if they personally did not mastermind and operate these ‘white collar terrorist activities’, the past chairmen and general managers of the above-mentioned banks must have been aware of them and no doubt had to authorise them, while the present executive leadership cannot claim ignorance.
Quite apart from the moral degeneracy, there is the short, medium and long-term damage this fiasco will do to the Cyprus property sector and the overall economy. After this, who will ever trust a Cyprus bank again? Foreign investors in all sectors are now much more aware of what is going on here – and they do not like it.