Published on 27 Mar 2013

The anguish of Cyprus in the words of its people

I’ve been here for most of the past fortnight watching this island turn into a dramatic laboratory for financial collapse.

The impact on people has been rather heart-wrenching. People keep on coming up to me and the Channel 4 News team at parades, protests, on the Green Line, wherever, with their stories.

I wanted to share longer versions than is possible on our news programme. Please watch.

Stella, a mum, and a worker at the Bank of Cyprus who I met inside the HQ at a rally against interference from the Central Bank:

Rebecca, mum of three, a teacher from Larnaca, at the Greek Independence Day parade, whose daughter was on the parade, who felt that it should have been cancelled, on her fears for the future of her children:

Christina, Helen and Andrea, high school kids, protesting on a 3,000 strong march of Cyprus’s young, who left classes at 11am yesterday on a Twitter/ Facebook organised demo at the Presidential Palace:

32 reader comments

  1. Laiki client says:

    Faisal, you might be interested in the fact that electronic transactions (purchases) for Cypriot cards were never limited (at least for Laiki bank).

    So, with a bit of creativity and a friend with business Paypal account one could move around $10K per day out of Laiki account just using classic card. 10 days of “bank holidays” – $100K out of the country. Gold/Platinum card would be even better.

    With more than 3% losses of course – but still better than losing all of it. :)

    Says a lot about Cypriot bankers efficiency, doesn’t it?

    1. Also Laiki Client says:

      Indeed you could and I am reliably informed that some firms have indeed made over 1 million Euro of this transactions. The question remain on the accounts without cards to them … like additional accounts or the multi-currency

  2. Jim taylor says:

    The future is rosy

  3. Donnaa Damzelle says:

    I’m so sorry for the Cypriot people, this is very wrong, the troika are thieves stealing from the middle class and the poor, and this will happen again and again! if we don t let our banks fail.
    Iceland did.
    Default next time “Cyprus” get the germans of your backs, start your own currency again, and start to give your young its future back!

  4. Cliff says:

    Money should be there to serve people, after all it is an abstract/artifical construct that does not exist outside of humanities need to barter and trade: as a world we seem to have become enslaved to our creation granting it rights over and above those of people, and giving it the power to enslave and cause misery. The world needs to wake up and do something before the enslavement condems all of us and, more importantly depletes the world’s resources. Rabbi Burns was right when he said man himeself’s the gold – we need to get back to that before its all too late.

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      Thanks, Cliff. Agree wholeheartedly. Best.

    2. Robin says:

      Nicely put Cliff. In a world that significantly values footballers, ‘schziophrenics’ (or actors to you and me) and pop ‘stars’ over those who save and risk life everyday, we are tolling our own death knell!

  5. Teh CSiang says:

    Everyone from the top to the very bottom of society should know that there is no such thing as free lunch…. Other peoples’ money is NOT your own… everyone in this world have to work diligently to earn the money… & save in somewhere safe for rainy days, ……and the ‘rainy days’ which happens to be now in Cyprus…

  6. Michael Bowden says:

    Surely this proves that the Euro is the new German Mark, based on the strong efficient German economy which lesser nations are unable to keep up with. Without a common fiscal policy, the Euro is surely doomed. If common currencies were desirable would not Singapore and Malaysia adopted one or Hong Kong & China or even Canada and the United States. A common currency is not that necessary for close political co-operation. The Euro in my opinion like the proverbial committee which designed the camel.

    1. Téo says:

      Michael,
      the real wages of workers employed in Germany have fallen for over 20 years of more then 20%, – in the same period, corporate profits rose by more than 20%. It is a play with fire …
      The same workers who have agreed 2003 to a wage reduction / freeze are today for tough austerity measures in other countries, rather than to call for the redemption of the promise the of the large company to pay back and increase wages when their financial situation is better. This means that industry and their representatives have broken the civil rights agreement which is the basis of any democratic legal system…

  7. R E Jackson says:

    This is just the beginning of the world order to come. No man will be able to buy or sell unless they accept the rules of the bullies in Brussels. Our money is not our own. It can be taken from our bank accounts. Cyprus has set a president for us all. God help us all.

  8. Andrew shaw says:

    Faisal Islam is the best commentator on economics on tv UK today. Good for channel 4/hopefully Faisal too!

    1. benf says:

      Totally agree. More power to you Faisal. You haven’t forgotten the UK youth either!

      More power to you…

  9. Sarah Nicola says:

    Absolutely disgusting surely it cannot be legal for the EU to steal the peoples money.? Such sad times for my Greek family it really is criminal what is happening to the wonderful island and it’s people. The EU are employing nothing but bullying tactics.

    1. Philip says:

      The EU hasn’t stolen anyone’s money. The Cypriot government & banks were effectively bankrupt due to policies which they’ve been pursuing through the “good years” when they benefited from EU membership. If you owe large amounts of money & can’t pay, the only way you can get out of it is by tightening your belt and paying off your debts. The Cypriot Government appears to wish to remain in the Euro (as do the Greeks, Irish, Spanish, etc), so, if it wished to do so, it had to take appropriate measures to deal with its massive debt overhang. Brits keep telling all these countries to leave the Euro – but for some reason they seem to prefer to make very large sacrifices to remain in. That may be a political rather than an economic decision – but I guess they know better what they’re doing than we do….especially when most UK advice is political dressed up as economic.

  10. Steven says:

    I feel sorry for these people. At least they are blaming the right people. The criminal banksters and criminal polticians.

  11. Chester Weikel says:

    It is truly heartwrenching to see the impact on the people of Cyprus, I’m afraid its just the beginning of even greater hardships. Such a feeling of helplessness! Thank you for sharing these stories that are really lacking on the majority of news sites . We pray for our friends and family in Cyprus.

  12. Alan says:

    The Euro must be allowed to die gracefully. Only when that defunct currency is finally dead and buried will any sign of sanity begin to return to the international financial marketplace.

  13. maurizia ferrari says:

    there is a way to wake up from mass hypnotism: mass frustration.

  14. Philip Edwards says:

    Faisal,

    Get used to it. That’s the way it’s going to be.

    It’s the future, and it doesn’t work.

    At least, not for innocent decent people.

    So all that time you spent reading economics just boils down to recognising a system that runs on organised theft and usury…………………….

    Quelle surprise.

  15. Tony Brown says:

    For many of us born before the outbreak of the 2nd WW, the philosophical concept of the European Union as a means of unifying European nations was entirely rational, even brilliant. However, in the sixty years or so from 1949 the project has been marred by the involvement of politicians everywhere all well short of the category of statesmen. In more recent years two major weaknesses have arisen: the enlargement of the Community to 25 nations, many of whom are ill-disciplined and wholly committed to reaping the financial benefits without accepting associated responsibilities; the second weakness has been the launching of a common currency without agreeing any basic rules of membership. The current Cyprus situation has grown from from both of these weaknesses. By any reasonable yardstick Cyprus was not ready for accession to the EU , nor were most of the other applicants at the time. From the first President in 1960, Cyprus encouraged Russian involvement in her economy. In the years since Cypriot banks have been encouraged (by the Cypriot government) to offer ‘mafia’ money-laundering and speculative investments at unstainable high interest levels) and low tax rates…

  16. Philippines John says:

    courtesy of “hydroxyl”

    The EU and its banks had nothing to do with this – the Cypriots dug their own hole and jumped right in.

    It was the Cypriots who chose to become the Cayman Islands of Europe.

    It was the Cypriots who chose to use low tax rates and a look-the-other-way policy to attract dodgy money from Russian oligarchs and Greek tycoons dodging the tax-man (and in the process bringing their own country to ruin).

    It was the Cypriot banks who chose to “invest” their savers’ money in Greek bonds – the dodgiest bonds in Europe.

    And it was the Cypriot government who chose to exercise no regulation over their banking sector even when it grew larger than their whole GDP!

    Did the man crying in the street say who he voted for in the last election on Cyprus, or how politically active he was to bring to power a more sensible government? In democracies the citizens including all of us deserve the governments we get.

  17. Helen Black says:

    Faisal, thank you for your insight in this human catestrophy that is happening in front of our eyes.Normal hard working Cypriots are now going to suffer .
    .In life it is always about timing, and unfortunately for Cyprus, and this is not better illustrated than the fact that their bankers bought Greeks sovereign debt at the wrong time, their politicians delayed negotiating with the troika for a year, until a new government was in place.However,, this did not help their cause with a German election in September, which resulted in this supposed “rescue” of Cyprus.

    gas reserves will be in on tap within the next few years,which could overcome their economic problems , and maybe pave the way to a solution to the Reunification of Cyprus.

  18. Some Guy says:

    Faisal,

    Regarding “opening” banks – it did not really happen, at least in Laiki.

    1) All e-banking operations are disabled (see https://www.laiki.com/EN/eBanking/Pages/eBankingFunctionality.aspx)
    2) Today Laiki blocked card operations, no purchases go through, withdrawal seems to be capped at 100 euro.

    Given that Laiki had significant non-resident client base (yours truly included), the bank is effectively not working for anyone abroad.

    P.S. It’s worth noting that Laiki management never communicated to clients that there were any restrictions or that cards are blocked now.

  19. rebecca says:

    Maybe those you are mentioning bad government policies are right. But the fact remains : Innocent people are going to pay for the mistakes of their useless politicians and corrupted bank boards in search of easy profit , as well as the German harshness. Is Germany the leading force in the EU ? Are the rest of its members its humble servants? These are some of the questions the Europeans have to ask themselves as Cypriot people once again have been betrayed by all. And by the way, some of us did vote for the right people. Cyprus would be better off if it didn’t have any political parties at all. Politics and corruption are two sides of the same coin. I am also thanking those of you who are showing their kind support to us.

  20. Ex Laiki Client says:

    Good morning
    Here is a simple fact. Today we had to fire all our Cyprus staff. All 30 of them. Why? because we can not pay them. Goverment Stole over 600 000 Euro from our Laiki Account. That money was Wages, Rent, Lease, Expenses.
    Russian Oligarchs you say ? Well excuse me is our staff including My self are now Jobless! we have no income. In fact we are in dept because we can not pay our bills.

    Our Branches in Uk will soon close to. Thank you.

    Let this be lesson for all Europe and its EURO.

  21. Uncle Jo says:

    Ireland’s AIB Banks next!! Better move that Cashh

  22. Alan says:

    The EC’s bureaucrats, now bankrupt of constructive ideas, have resorted to theft of depositors’ cash from legally held bank accounts to prop up a bankrupt ideology.
    Depositors everywhere in the Eurozone beware, your funds could also be at risk of seizure by legalized thieves!

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