28 Temmuz 2011 Perşembe

Cypriots left jobless due to Greek turmoil

Gökhan Kurtaran
The worsening economic outlook in Greek Cyprus has reduced the hopes for Turkish Cypriot workers who used to cross the border daily
This file photo shows people waiting at the Lokmacı (Ledra) border crossing between Turkish and Greek Cyprus. AA photo

This file photo shows people waiting at the Lokmacı (Ledra) border crossing between Turkish and Greek Cyprus. AA photo
The debt crisis that has been ravaging Greece is also having an impact on the economy of Greek Cyprus, which many Turkish Cypriots have typically relied on for jobs. These days, though, the number of Turkish Cypriots crossing the border daily for work has reportedly plummeted due to the worsening economic outlook in the southern part of the island.

“The number of Turkish workers passing through the Lokmacı [Ledra] gate in Nicosia has decreased sharply from 8,000 per day to 2,000,” Cafer Gürcafer, the president of the territory’s Civil Engineering Contractors Association of Cyprus, told the Hürriyet Daily News over the phone.

Due to the crisis in Greece, many firms in Greek Cyprus have had to fire Turkish Cypriot workers, who had sought higher wages. Greek Cypriot businesses have started to hire Polish and Sri Lankan immigrants.
“Most Turks crossing the border were employed in construction, which has been heavily hit by the Greek crisis,” he said, adding that the real-estate market on both sides of the divided island was suffering.

Greek Cyprus is posting healthier economic figures than Greece, such as a budget deficit of 5.3 percent of gross domestic product and government debt that stands at 60.8 percent of GDP. The figures are 32.4 and 96.2 percent for Greece, respectively. However, its banking sector remains largely dependent on Greek banks, which have heavy exposure to government debt.

According to Gürcafer, another reason for the decline in border crossings is the rising nationalism in the south. “Turkish Cypriots have been working there for many years,” he said. “But recently, Greek Cypriot nationalists have started to complain about them. As the crisis started to bite, Turks became the first ones to be fired.”
“In order to stimulate investments, a solution [to the Cyprus problem] has to be found,” Gürcafer said. He also claimed Turkey is planning to bring the Housing Development Administration to Turkish Cyprus for mega projects. “Such an attempt would destroy the construction sector of Turkish Cyprus,” he said.

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