CYPRUS — When discussing poverty, the island of Cyprus is very interesting especially in relation to the nation’s governance. About half of the island is governed by the Republic of Cyprus (southern part of the island, also known as just Cyprus) and the other half by the self-declared state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (northern part of the island).
As a result, the island has been incredibly divided since the Turkish military take-over in 1974, and a U.N. peacekeeping force has been trying to ease the tensions ever since.
As both governing bodies are very different, whether it be by religion (Islam in the North, Eastern Orthodox in the south), GDP ($15,000 per person in the North, $23,000 per person in the South) or the stance the governments have towards the European Union (Cyprus is in the EU, Northern Cyprus is not), the causes of poverty in Cyprus must be analyzed for each country individually.
Picture of Poverty
In Cyprus, poverty is not recorded at all. Although it would clearly aid the poor in being recognized, the Cypriot government does not consider poverty to be a major issue in the country.
Many Greek Cypriots (those in the south) have strong familial relationships with extended family. This means that if one family member does happen to suffer from poverty (such as the loss of a spouse), there generally is someone in the family willing to help. For this reason, the poor people of Cyprus are mainly immigrants, single mothers and rural retired elderly, who have no family members to fall back on.
This fact was especially difficult for them during the Eurozone crisis in 2012-2013, when the GDP of the country fell from $27 billion to a mere $19 billion.
In Northern Cyprus, the picture of poverty is more obscure. The problem with gathering statistics about the “country” is that it is only recognized by one other U.N. member state (Turkey), and because of this, statistics are not regularly collected. The only statistics available are related to the GDP, such as the contributions made by the different service sectors.
However, just like with Cyprus, we can infer certain bits of information: poverty seems to have increased, while 80 percent of the private sector receives less than the $520 — which has unofficially been deemed the national poverty line. This lack of money is due to Northern Cyprus not being part of the EU: it doesn’t get EU benefits, such as stimulus packages, or economic development funds.
Additionally, because Northern Cypriots work closely together with Greek Cypriots, the Eurozone crisis damaged the Northern Cypriot country. Note also that Northern Cyprus, due to its economic ties to Turkey, has its own economic crises, such as one in 2001.
Overall (and in each individual country), the GDP of the island is rising. Yet, a reunification between the two countries is necessary for real economic development that would eradicate the most significant causes of poverty in Cyprus — economic crises. Although it seems that reunification can happen any day now, it is anyone’s guess when this important action will actually occur.
However, it seems that talks that have the potential to make history are concluding soon, and will hopefully bring prosperity to the country.
– Michal Burgunder