THE AIR of disappointment and rage on Ledra Street yesterday morning was almost tangible with groups of middle-aged men gathering to express their disbelief and fury about the haircut on deposits.
Social websites and phones were awash with debate and complaints about where this island is headed, whose fault it was and where do we go from here?
As the Cyprus Mail approached several men gathered by a bench, another passed by and could audibly be heard saying ‘take it all out, even the provident fund’.
“They shouldn’t touch the deposits. They’re just killing the people,” 58-year-old Miltiades Papamiltiades, an unemployed former construction worker, said. “They should use our natural gas to pay off our debt, they shouldn’t tax the people, they have to let the people spend money to help the country develop not take their money away,” he added.
Asked to describe how he felt when he heard the news yesterday morning he replied “I feel indignant, like they have decapitated me,” Papamiltiades said. “No-one will ever deposit money again into the banks on the island. It is the end of our economy,” he added.
Seventy-year-old Nicos Adamou, a jewellery store owner has lived through World War II and the Turkish invasion. “All of the lies that the politicians have fed us over the years are coming back to harm us now,” he said. “Their lies are radioactive,” he added. “How do I feel?” he asked, “I feel bitter and disappointed because our finance minister stated there would be no haircut but here we are,” he added.
It is not only Cypriots who have been affected or will be affected by the proposed measures, and Christos Sarianoglu, a 43-year-old Costa Coffee employee from Greece, who left his home country because of the extreme austerity measures taken there. It would appear that he was not well informed on the latest news though. After explaining the situation to him, the 43-year-old went straight to an ATM to withdraw as much money as he could. “This is truly unacceptable, I came from Greece because I’d had enough of having money taken from here and there and now they’re doing it in Cyprus,” he said. “I’m fed up of this whole situation,” he added.
Amongst the outrage though there was not much talk of a counter-solution about what the president could have done differently until the Mail reached Barrett Costanian, a 39-year-old entrepreneur. “If they wanted to do the haircut they should have set a minimum amount, leaving any deposits less than €30,000 or €40,000 untouched, and taking only from those who have more,” he said. Costanian believed the move by is illogical and that they should have found another solution, as opposed to taking the people’s money. “If they wanted to tax people then tax the millionaires, not the pensioners or those who haven’t got that much saved up,” he added. Costanian believed the real problem is not the haircut in itself as much as the affects it will have on the economy. “Anyone who can move their money will, and that will completely destroy the economy so you can expect things to get much worse from now on,” he said. “I can’t believe they have gone this far and I am angry and disappointed but so is everyone right now and it’s understandable,” he added.
A 23-year-old data analyst, Steve Johnson, was queuing up at an ATM and expressed his shock at the developments. “I have more than €100,000 in savings in various banks on the island and I plan to move it because all of this time I thought I was working for myself not so the government could come and take it away in one move,” he said. Johnson explained that his uncle has saved money up to send his children to study at university and now that money would be taken. “This was not a good option, I believe the government should have found another way,” Johnson said. “It’s a very rough decision by the authorities and one that is difficult to swallow,” he added.
One point of view was that the media must share some of the blame.
“They should have known about it before it happened to let people know, so we wouldn’t look like fools now,” 25-year-old economist, Kristy said. “They took our money while we were sleeping and there is nothing we can do about it,” she added. She felt that although the president was warned not to follow Greece’s example, he has not learned from Greece’s mistakes. “The only thing Anastasiades has managed is to make young people want to get up and leave the country,” she said. “The only word that can describe how I feel, how people I have spoken to feel, is betrayed,” she added.
The only person the Mail managed to speak to that was not full of indignation was Andreas, a 27-year-old physiotherapist who felt that it is those with a lot of money who have most to lose. “I really don’t know what else could have been done,” he said. “At the end of the day those who have the most money have the most to lose,” he added. “Personally I don’t have much money saved away so I don’t really have much to lose,” he concluded.