The signs of the “winter of discontent” spilling onto the streets of Lefkoşa

I look at the unrest which is coursing around the coast of North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean and with one hand applaud the courage of the people who are brave enough to go onto the streets and defy vastly superior forces to state their point of view. I am never-the-less disquieted by the repercussions that the deposing of despots and dictators may bring with it. We have all seen the crass removal of Saddam Hussein and the resulting débâcle. We await with hope the transition to a democratic Tunisia. We sit on the edge of our chairs waiting for an outcome in Egypt. Then we look at North Cyprus.

Is the Government here any different to those in Egypt or in Tunisia or Syria or Jordan?

I was looking at some statistics the other day and thought, if every man woman and child in TRNC had been given an equal portion of the money “donated” to the economy, then maybe the place would be better off.

Let’s look at the sums; Turkey donates 1,200,000,000 Turkish Lira a year to support the North Cypriot Economy. Let’s, for comparisons sake, call this 600,000,000 Euros. The EU also gave 253,000,000 Euros for Infrastructure projects. Let’s assume that as a package over 5 years. The total government income from outside sources amounts to a staggering 850,000,000 Euros a year. Leaving the incumbent Military out of the population equation we have an estimated population of 200,000 people This gives an easy sum to do. Per Capita it amounts to 4,250 Euros. The average wage is (quoted in Cyprus Today not long ago) 1,800 TL / month (equivalent to 900 Euros). Multiply this by twelve and one has an income around € 10,800. That the average worker is clever enough to work out this very basic arithmetic, is in my mind beyond doubt. Even the thickest can see that the outgoings exceeds the Turkeys financial support and that this leads to dissatisfaction is clear.

Amazingly, for a country strapped for cash is the fact that the ministers all have the newest of Mercedes, they all enjoy perks way beyond the means of the country including donations to support them. Even in Basildon the councillors have to use their own cars to go to council and committee meetings. The councillors are unpaid to a large extent and can only claim limited expenses. In other words, they’re doing it for the public good. I’ll leave you to judge if that is the case here.

What happens next?

We’ve seen the signs of the “winter of discontent” spilling onto the streets of Lefkoşa. The unions (mainly public sector) bleating about injustice under pay and dissatisfaction about austerity measures. As an impartial outsider you surely have to say that this sector has more than it’s fair share of the cake. It’s just that the other worker groups don’t seem to be as organised. I don’t see a Hotel workers’ union or a Shop workers’ union, let alone a waiters’ union, one for the poor souls who work 16 hours a day for next to nothing plus accommodation (if you can call it that).

So where is this leading? Another Tunisia? Another Egypt? Another Sudan? What is different to these countries and TRNC? In my mind just one overriding thing. They have an alternative to what they have got. In North Cyprus the founding idea has been diluted by greed, nepotism and disregard for others. The national motto could read, “I’m al-right jack, pull the ladder up”. The realisation that the funding is all external and that this may stop altogether just hasn’t dawned on the party in power; any of them. I hear from friends who collected for the flood victims in Güzelyurt, “why should we donate?” The relief supplies will be coming from Turkey in a matter of days.” Did the TRNC donate to the earthquake relief in Turkey in 1999? Methinks not.

Are we to see tanks on the streets, buildings being burnt, looting and all that we see in the news about Egypt and the other affected countries? I think not. The motivation here is definitely different. The driving force here, appears to be personal gain and greed. What are they going to put in place of the current regime? The next bunch of Free-loaders?

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