You may wonder dear readers, who is Jimmy Hoffa. This man was the Chairman of the Truckers Union in the USA, who was accused and jailed for a period for bribery, Mafia links etc. This was the result of an investigation that was carried out by the then Government of J.F. Kennedy with the chief investigator being Bob Kennedy.
During the investigation Hoffa called a national strike which almost brought the USA economy to its knees.
One of the many problems that the Cyprus Government has, is the behavior of some unions who behave in a rather similar, blackmailing manner, so that at the end the free economy of the country cannot function. With reference to Civil Servants, it is noticeable their inefficiency, indifference and the never-ending demands which cause damage against the Cyprus economy (all of us).
We will report certain recent examples that we have experienced, but there are hundreds of others.
• Town Planning – We have been asked by a foreign investor who wished to acquire a large building plot in Nicosia to investigate the development parameters of a planning zone that the plot fell in, that of the local commercial center (TEK). We wrote to the Planning Office submitting our own enquiries on the subject and after 2 months of no answer, despite our reminders and having then applied to the Planning Director (he called us promptly) we have arranged an interview with the District Planning Department. We had a meeting, but the local Planning Office reported to us that it needs to refer the matter to H.Q. for advice. After 40 days of waiting and our reminders, we got a call from the District Planning Office, asking us that we should submit a written request (again) for preliminary planning views. So, after waiting 4 months and bearing in mind that preliminary planning views can take anything 2-3 months or so, we came back to square one. We informed our foreign investor accordingly who gave up waiting 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, he waited for 2 years to be informed what the lease rental would have been. No reply, with the Lands Office excuse that It had too much work and could not cope. End result the project was abandoned much at the loss of the mountain resorts.
• The long awaited Verengaria Hotel sale at Prodromos village, got stuck again at the Civil Service bureaucracy and the long patience of the foreign (Chinese) investor pulled out from the sale notwithstanding the fact that he had paid a down payment (see the announcement of the local representative of the investor Mr. A. Pieris). So, his offer was withdrawn and cancelled much at the loss, again, of the mountain resorts.
These and tens of other cases are examples of results having untouchable unions whose members cannot be fired from their job.
We now come back to examine the differences that we have experienced when work usually carried out by the Civil Service, now is undertaken by private practice such as:
• Airports – You may remember the almost daily strikes that the airports suffered with the most memorable one being by the luggage porters complaining that the luggage were very heavy for them to unload from the planes. A strike followed which gained them added income and suddenly the weight was not an issue (they became somehow lighter). No strikes since the privatization of the airports.
• Ports – A similar situation and since privatization of the ports, be it that there are problems at this initial stage of privatization, these are solved within a short period of time.
• Court Bailiffs – Court Bailiffs were taking their time to deliver the documents to the various litigants which had resulted in backhanding. Now that this service has been privatized, the delivery happens within a very short period and no cash under the table.
• Land Surveys – An exclusive work by Civil Servants/Lands Office is at the top of our list in corruption and which took months for execution. Now that this survey work is done by private surveyors, the time and cost is much reduced (minimal) and it is all the best.
• Building Permits – A never ending problem, be it that the Government although it tried to pass on the work to private architects, the latter are not up to it preferring to play it safe (lack of knowledge being one of the reasons).
• A good percentage of local Authorities manage their business as it is their own ownership (a result of the Ottoman Empire). The local Mayors and other “chiefs” have as their priority to find “jobs for the boys” (their own voters) and they show little care about the well-being of the areas 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 despite his warnings to the local Municipality, he received no reply. Now the C.T.O.- Ministry is taking some sort of action, but we are also told that it doubts its effectiveness.
• The previous Minister of Education “dared” to correct the operation of our education system and the unions called a strike and demonstrated with approximately 10.000 educationalists. The Government pulled back and the Minister was “demoted”!!
So here we are, we are not so much governed by the elected Government, but by the unions and the other “mob” that we have become accustomed. We remember during such happenings in the U.K., Mrs M. Thatcher demolished the coal miners’ unions and since then everything is peaceful. Lovely, but then do we have the guts such as Mrs Thatcher to do it in Cyprus?
Another “mob” style behaviour is that if one union strikes, then other unions who have nothing to do with the strike, call their members to strike in “support”. So, we have a problem with the Civil Service and others (see recent announcement by the Chairman of the Civil Servants that “if the Government dares to reduce their salaries/benefits, they will shut down the economy).
Although we do not suggest that the local unions are anything like Mr Hoffa’s wrong doings, it brings up another important matter that of the shutdown of public services, such as electricity, telecommunication, hospitals etc. There was a proposal for these essential services to be provided a certain procedure prior to a strike, but this was not followed.
In ending (although we have many other examples) is it not odd dear readers that the country which is the most affluent and most capitalist state in the world (the U.S.A.), is the one which has introduced 8 working hours per day and other measures and no other so called socialist states dare to adopt?