CLOUD CUCKOO LAND
DON’T you just love a good fairy tale? You do? OK, here goes: “Once upon a time, in the land of Cloud Cuckoo, there lived a remote community of mystics, who were convinced that far, far away, in the garden of the great King, there existed a magic money tree, rooted in a bottomless pit, from which His Majesty could freely distribute the mystical fruit of subsidised life, on demand. One dark, terrible day, along came a virulent plague. It swept the land of imagined plenty and the King’s wicked Vizier proclaimed the money tree had died and the fruit had gone off. The mystics refused to believe it and chaos swept the land.”
Now, how’s that for a good yarn? Such a tale would do justice to the latest Disney cartoon epic, wouldn’t it? The battle between good and evil, incarnate. Sadly, the real world is a bit more complicated than that. It is dominated by reality, even if some people cannot see it. The money tree isn’t dead, it NEVER existed. Perhaps someone should tell the TRNC’s public sector trade unions. If ever any group of people were liable to believe in mythical, endless supplies of money, it is them. The private sector, more economically decimated than the public sector, know better.
Let’s be honest. The world, never mind the TRNC, has been socially and economically devastated by the Covid pandemic. Even if the virus is eventually controlled, efforts to achieve full economic recovery will far outlast it. That is the stark, inescapable reality. Do the TRNC unions blame the pandemic for economic disaster? Certainly not. It is “the government’s handling of the economy” during it! The mind boggles. What did they expect the government to do? Nothing? Let the virus rip?
So, what was the public sector unions’ recent remedy for dealing with a TRNC economy that has been brought to a virtual, pandemic inflicted halt? Shut the country down with a one-day national strike! Clever, eh? Just what the country needs, another day of shutdown! If, by the time you read this, the strike has actually taken place, the logic of it is beyond my comprehension. If it thankfully hasn’t happened, then the fact the unions even threatened it is also beyond me.
Either way, it all begs serious questions. Since when has getting a country back to work involved keeping people away from it? Did it not cross the minds of the union leaders that state-operated services shutting down inflict further unnecessary harm on the wealth-creating private sector? If any sector holds the seeds of recovery, so necessary for creating anything remotely like a mythical money tree, it is those wealth creators, not public handouts by a government that doesn’t possess them. Welcome to Cloud Cuckoo Land.
What other great sin has the TRNC government committed? Their April 1 announcement of freezing the public sector staff “cost of living allowance increases” (not “cuts” you notice) for four months, has riled the public sector unions. The fact is some people are personally more able to deal with the economic consequences of the pandemic than others. Like public sector workers with state-financed salaries to enjoy and state-financed pensions to look forward to, for instance. Not so those struggling to keep their shops, restaurants, bars and hotels alive, along with the jobs their private sector efforts have provided in the past, and will do so again, if they manage to survive.
There lies a great irony, one apparently lost on the unions. If private sector wealth and job creators fail, the government ends up with less revenue to fund the public sector staff. By what miraculous circumstance are the private sector assisted by the withdrawal of vital public services, even for a day? (Answers will probably fit on a postage stamp if my reader has the urge to list them.) Do such thoughts ever cross the minds of public sector union leaders? It would appear not. The government have to at least TRY to balance the books. Why shouldn’t the public sector share some of the burdens faced by everybody else? What’s wrong with a bit of national interest instead of a sectional one?
One union leader came out with a statement that falls far short of answering that particular question: “We will not tolerate the government putting its hand in the pockets of ordinary workers,” he said. Fine, apart from one thing: all governments, the world over, have their hand in everybody’s pockets, “ordinary workers” (whoever they are) or not. From rich to poor, from individual cafe owner to multi-national corporation executives, they all have to cough up, to different degrees. Governments have NO MONEY of their own to pay anybody, including public sector workers. They only have taxpayers’ money. In other words, OUR MONEY, whoever we are, apart from that which they borrow, in OUR name, which WE, or our children, will eventually have to pay back. Got that?
I repeat – there is NO MONEY TREE. Nor is there a bottomless pit in which its roots are firmly fixed. If the TRNC has ever possessed anything remotely resembling such a wondrous plant, it comes in the shape of Turkey, and let’s face it, they have one or two economic problems of their own to solve at the moment, despite their continued generosity. As the public sector benefits greatly from such largess, isn’t it about time they started counting their blessings, in a time of almost unprecedented crisis?
Last week, I read in amazement the words of another union leader, who proudly announced that: “We will abruptly stop the flights or go on strike in other essential places. . . We will make our own April Fool’s Day joke.” He was right. Even seriously contemplating such a strike is a joke and a rather bad one at that.
I have thought for some time that the unions here need some lessons in reality. For a start, I’ve checked the garden centres. They don’t stock money trees.