By Alexander Apostolides on August 21, 2012

Things that are cheaper than the Laiki Bailout: No.8 Sending a rover to Mars

Ok we do not have the exact cost of the curiosity rover (somewhere from 1.6 to 2 billion euros) but it pretty amazing that what we will give to 1 bank in Cyprus is more or less enough to employ hundreds of scientists for years.

This video shows how amazing a technological feat is the curiosity rover more correctly known as the Mars Science Laboratory. It is a work that will defy our generation in terms of space exploration and has led to scientific discoveries and amazing leaps in science and technology, employing thousands of people. They developed a sci-fi sky crane to land it- how cool is that!

So would you prefer that the rover was Cypriot - broadcasting "Ta riallia Riallia Riallia" to Mars rocks rather than bail out bankers wealthier than us?

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Dom Mintoff 1919-2012

For a while back in the 1960s and 70s Malta and Cyprus were less recognisable as geographical places but as the birthplaces of 2 "larger than life" personalities: Dom Mintoff and Makarios.

Mintoff was a force of nature; The times of Malta was right to suggest that he was born in the right time for a citizen of Malta to be propelled in such heights of global recognition, but his quest for change and political skills can not be underestimated. The general secretary of the Malta Labour party at the age of 19 (?!!), Mintoff oversaw the huge reconstruction effort in terms of public works that was needed in Malta from his position as Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works and Reconstruction in 1947.

What stood out was his desire to play hardball with the British: the archipelago was effectively a dependency of the British forces, yet Mintoff realised the winds of change that decolonization was effecting. He had no problem in making U-turns in order to achieve what he saw as his main goal - rapidly increasing and equitable increase in standards of living within his generation and the transformation of what he saw as the "backward" societal norms of Malta.

After overthrowing the cautious Malta labour party leadership he ruled with an iron grip within the party, turning toward more radical demands: If Britain wanted Malta, it would have to integrate it within the UK; The UK would not use the Maltese base "on the cheap" - it should first ensure that the welfare state and society of the island would change the same way as the areas around bases in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK where benefiting. Although this sounds as pro-British policy it was actually a threat posed by Mintoff: If such demands were not met, Mintoff made it incredibly clear that independence was the only way forward, and for true independence to be achieved the military presence of the UK and the west had to be expunged. Like Makarios he played the hand of the East against the West in the cold war to get things done (a dangerous and complicated game that involved also the non-aligned movement and friendliness to dictators like Gadaffi), yet Mintoff was firmly attached to the west- his vision of Malta was of an industrialised nation of egalitarian principles and of redistribution of wealth.
Without Mintoff it is very unlikely that independence would have been achieved at the time it did, not that Malta's strategic role in the military world order would end.

Economically he presided over period of strong economic catch up growth that was redistributed quite evenly across society; yet he was set towards socialist type of industrialization projects that had no place in island societies- like Cyprus Malta is littered with bad idea manufacturing projects that began life under his reign.

He was also not koy in using any means to his disposal including electoral gerrymandering and even violence; He was supremely confident about his abilities and would dismiss even valid opposition out of hand. I am not so sure all would agree if he was a net positive for Malta, but he certainly was a huge shaper and mover of its modern history.

By Alexander Apostolides on August 09, 2012

Bill Clinton Speech in the EUC: A great example of good oratory and common sense policies

I loved the Clinton speech in Cyprus in my university. It showed the attitude of "do it don't just talk about it" Which is missing in Cyprus- the island seems to be in the zone of "talk about it but don't do it".

My highlights were the three excellent questions of three of my students, George Tofa, Marios Papanicolaou and Nadira Slamova, which I felt that Clinton did not answer Nadira's question in order not to damage Obama.
Other highlights of the speech included his deep understanding of the interdependence of nations, a matter very dear to my heart after working in the Economic interdependence of all Cyprus.
Clinton highlighted the risks of greater interdependence (which he sees as a highly positive force)as environmental, unequal spreading of income and unequal spreading of risks. Very interesting was his innate understanding of rates of return - he suggested to get some unemployment down by painting roofs white in the summer and the rate of return in lower electricity bills will be almost immediate.

By Alexander Apostolides on August 08, 2012

Great Sources Unused in Cypriot Historiography No.2: The Cyprus Agricultural Journal

Thanks to fellow twitterers I remembered that I was supposed to make a series of Great Unused sources of Cyprus History. After a very long delay, I decided to restart this series.

The Cyprus Agricultural Journal is one of the first periodicals published in Cyprus. Introduced by a very forward thinking person,an Athenian educated Cypriot who came back in the start of the 20th century to bring some improvement to the miserable life of the Cypriot farmer. It was continued and expanded by the British Colonial Administration and was the main source of Farming information for the island.

It contains amazing information on many fields. Firstly it contains an overview of the farming situation in Cyprus per quarter. It then talks about the issues that could help farmers such as how to help combat pests. Most interestingly for me it describes costs and processes of Cypriot farms: It is amazing what it refers to - from the processes of making halloumi to the amount of milk per type of sheep. It is pretty amazing.

The best part it is that is has been mostly digitised by the Ministry of Agriculture and you can request it for research purposes in pdf format. The picture shows the huge amount data you could collect - it was pivotal for my research on Cypriot GDP.