Economy

Our Country In Ruins - Young People In Cyprus Start To Panic

Queues at ATMs in Cyprus. Many are withdrawing the maximum 500 euros each day
Queues at ATMs in Cyprus. Many are withdrawing the maximum 500 euros each day
Vanessa Steinmetz

NICOSIA - Cyprus is in a state of shock. The banks have been closed for days and somehow, the country has to raise 5.8 billion euros to qualify for the bailout package proposed by euro zone finance ministers.

The initial rejection by the Cypriot parliament to the controversial bank account levy plan, has left this small Mediterranean island wading in the deepest economic uncertainty in memory. What does it mean for its around one million residents? More pointedly, it's younger generation is facing the hardest questions: Should we up and leave? Hoard our money? Or just hang in there and stay optimistic?

Suddeutsche Zeitung spoke to four young Cypriots:

Nick, 29, Architect
I have been so stressed these past few days that I couldn’t even concentrate on my work because I’m so worried about the future. Until last Friday, I’d always thought that everything would turn out okay, just give it a couple of years – but now everything’s a lot worse. It didn’t make much difference to me whether the parliament voted for or against the EU’s plans. Either way, Cyprus’s economy has been destroyed.

I became self-employed three years ago. I’m now assuming that all my clients will put their projects on hold and I will have to give up my company. So, I’ve decided to emigrate and maybe go to London where I lived for a couple of years. A lot of my friends are also thinking of leaving Cyprus because they’re going to be out of jobs soon, too. My father’s employer told him not to come to work anymore because at the end of this week he wouldn’t be able to pay him. My parents are as worried as I am, but they can’t just pack up and leave.

What's happened has destroyed our financial sector. Politicians in Northern Europe did that on purpose. They want investors to place their money in other countries like Malta, for example, or Germany. I think Germany would like to see a lot of that money. That’s why I feel betrayed by the EU. If you have a friend and he asks for your help you don’t stab him in the back.

Marianna, 30, Ministry of Education employee
What’s happened here in the past few days has shocked me and made me worried. Many people here are panicking. Every day we go to the ATMs and withdraw money – we can take out up to 500 euros per day daily from our accounts; anything over that amount is frozen. We keep the cash at home. I am so worried about my savings and my family’s investments. I’m a little less worried about my job because I have a permanent contract. But my sister, for example, lost her job two months ago and still hasn’t found a new one. It’s like that for so many people.

We’re all waiting to see what happens and nobody knows if some kind of account levy will be introduced or not. The whole country is in a state of anxiety about this. Along with tourism, our financial sector is the most important part of our economy and it’s being destroyed. I don’t see how we can have a healthy economy in the future. The only choices seem to be enormous damage or total catastrophe.

In my opinion this is all down to political games; partially against the Russian investors and partially thanks to Angela Merkel strategically positioning herself for the German federal elections later this year. We feel we’re being dealt with unfairly.

Konstantinos, Music Producer
I lived abroad for nine years and made a lot of concessions in order to be able to return to Cyprus. My family and I have been back here for a year and during this time, the place has collapsed.

As a music producer I’m self-employed and depend on getting my own projects. Though I do still have work, I’m earning a quarter of what I was a few months ago. From that standpoint, the latest developments haven’t hit me all that much: the economy was already going down the tubes.

Still, the whole thing makes me unhappy. Not because I’m scared for my savings but because so many people don’t want to really acknowledge what’s going on here. Nobody’s actively trying to find a solution. Instead they’re looking for scapegoats to blame everything on.

Cyprus is ruined. Not because any particular decision was made, but because the banks speculated with our money – I think they should lock up the people responsible for that.

Konstantinos, 27, Entrepreneur
We’ve been feeling the crisis here for a while now and you can see it in the stores -- there’a not a lot left to buy. Now, people are paying a lot more attention to how they spend their money. I own a small office supply company and demand has been dwindling -- in fact for the past three days there hasn’t been any at all.

I'm not overly worried about my savings, but I do wonder about Cyprus’s future and how the economy can be stabilized. I don’t have any answers – that’s why I didn’t go into politics. I trust our politicians and their decisions. We voted for them and have a right to expect that they’ll act in our interest. The EU’s decisions, on the other hand, aren’t necessarily in the interest of people here.

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The Olympic torch is lit at the Archaeological site of Olympia in Greece.

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Asham!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Pyongyang test fires a suspected submarine-launched missile, Colin Powell is remembered, Poland-EU tensions rise, and yay (or yeesh): it's officially Ye. Meanwhile, our latest edition of Work → In Progress takes the pulse of the new professional demands in a recovering economy.

[*Oromo - Ethiopia and Kenya]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• North Korea fires missile off Japan coast: South Korea military reports that North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the waters off the coast of Japan. The rocket, thought to have been launched from a submarine, is the latest test in a series of provocations in recent weeks.

• Poland/EU tensions: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused the EU of "blackmail" and said the European Union is overstepping its powers, in a heated debate with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the rule of law. The escalation comes in the wake of a controversial ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal that puts national laws over EU principles.

• Colin Powell remembered: Tributes are pouring for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after his death yesterday at age 84. Although fully vaccinated, Powell died from complications from COVID-19 as he was battling blood cancer. A trailblazing soldier, he then helped shape U.S. foreign policy, as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and served as the nation's top diplomat for George W. Bush. Powell's legacy is, by his own admission, "blotted" by his faulty claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify the U.S. war in Iraq.

• Russia to suspend NATO diplomatic mission amid tension: Russia is suspending its diplomatic mission to NATO and closing the alliance's offices in Moscow as relations with the Western military block have plunged to a new low. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the move after NATO expelled eight diplomats from Russia's mission for alleged spying. Relations between NATO and Russia have been strained since Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

• Ecuador state of emergency to battle drug crime: President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency amid Ecuador's surge in drug-related violence. He announced the mobilization of police and the military to patrol the streets, provide security, and confront drug trafficking and other crimes.

• Taliban agrees to house-to-house polio vaccine drive: The WHO and Unicef campaign will resume nationwide polio vaccinations after more than three years, as the new Taliban government agreed to support the campaign and to allow women to participate as frontline health workers. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the last countries in the world with endemic polio, an incurable and infectious disease

• Kanye West officially changes name: Some say yay, some say yeesh, but it's official: The-artist-formerly-known-as-Kanye-West has legally changed his name to Ye, citing "personal reasons."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

The Washington Post pays tribute to Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, who died at 84 years old from complications from COVID-19.


💬  LEXICON

Jashn-e Riwaaz

Indian retailer Fabindia's naming its new collection Jashn-e Riwaaz, an Urdu term meaning "celebration of tradition," has been met with severe backlash and calls for boycott from right-wing Hindu groups. They are accusing the brand of false appropriation by promoting a collection of clothes designed for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, but giving it a name in Urdu, a language spoken by many Muslims.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Work → In Progress: Where have all the workers gone?

After the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are taking advantage of loosened lockdowns and progress on the vaccine front to ramp up operations and make up for lost productivity. But the frenetic spurts of the recovery are getting serious pushback. This edition of Work → In Progress looks not only at the coming changes in our post-COVID economy, but also the ways our world is re-evaluating professional obligations.

🗓️ Hail the 4-day week Across the planet, the shorter work week trend is spreading like wildfire. Four is the new five. Spain began experimenting with the concept earlier this year. New Zealand launched a similar trial run in 2020. And in Iceland, efforts to curb working hours date all the way back to 2015, with significant results: 86% of the country's workforce gained the right to reduce work hours with no change in pay.

🚚 Empty seats In the United States, meanwhile, a severe lack of truck drivers has the country's transportation industry looking to hire from abroad. The only problem is … the shortage is happening worldwide, in part because of the e-commerce boom in the wake of worldwide quarantines. The Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano reports that companies will be scrambling to fill the jobs of 17,000 truck drivers in the next two years. The article blames low wages and the dangerous nature of the job, stating that Italian companies are making moves to employ foreign workers.

💼 Key help wanted It's all well and good to question current working conditions. But what about 20 years from now? Will we be working at all? A recent article in the French daily Les Echos posed just that question, and posits that by 2041 — and with the exception of a few select jobs — automation and digitalization will decimate employment. The piece refers to the lucky few as "essential workers," a concept that originated with COVID lockdowns when almost all labor halted and only a minority of workers capable of performing society's most crucial in-person tasks were allowed to carry on.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

I'm worried for my Afghan sisters.

— Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai Nobel Prize tells the BBC that despite the Taliban's announcement that they would soon lift the ban on girls' education in Afghanistan, she worries it "might last for years."

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more yay or yeesh about the artist currently known as Ye? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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