Former first lady, Elsi Christofia, joins Cypriot redundancy queue after losing job with her husband’s political party

 

The former first lady of Cyprus has become the latest victim of the nation’s economic crisis, joining the ranks of the 78,000 unemployed after losing her job with her husband’s political party.

Elsi Christofia has put her name down for state redundancy pay after the left-wing AKEL party was forced to lay people off, the Cyprus Mail newspaper reported.

Many Cypriots blame Demetris Christofias, president from 2008 to 2013, for the economic meltdown on the Mediterranean island, which led to a bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund in March.

The crisis erupted when massive bank losses from investments in Greece brought Cyprus to brink of insolvency. Mr Christofias has been accused of not keeping a tighter rein on public spending and delaying a bailout request for fear of hurting his chances at elections in February

But he says the bankers are to blame, and has become so exasperated with accusations that he ignored the looming economic catastrophe that last week he stormed out of a hearing by a committee tasked with investigating the crisis.

“I feel like I am the accused here, as the president who didn’t do his job properly,” he told the inquiry.

President Nicos Anastasiades, who won the February election, told the inquiry this week that blame did not lie with Greece, but on “the Cypriot side”.

“I would say that on 1 March, I was handed a time-bomb and the choices before me were two: either I let it blow with devastating effects on the whole country, or carry out a controlled explosion,” Mr Anastasiades said.

Since the crisis, unemployment has been steadily rising, hitting 17.3 per cent in June, up from 11.7 per cent a year earlier. The economy shrunk by 1.4 per cent in the second quarter of this year, one of the worst rates in the EU. Economists predict it will be years because Cyprus returns to growth.

About 12,000 people are currently waiting for the government to find the cash to make their redundancy payments – and it is their ranks which Mrs Christofia joins. She had been on the AKEL steering committee, and family accounts released last year showed her 2012 earnings at €149,677 (£130,000).

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