By Kyriacos Kiliaris
Shopkeepers in the town of Famagusta are up in arms as they are not being able to make ends meet, due to what they say is the neglect of the area, coupled with tough economic times.
Speaking to Turkish Cypriot newspaper Yeniduzen, shopkeepers say the region’s economy is going from bad to worse with every passing day, and that the region’s market only has the nearby university to thank for its sustainability.
The onus is now on the city officials to resolve the problems as soon as possible.
The shopkeepers are joined by Famagusta residents in their complaint about the absence of an action plan for the future of the town.
They say they are not only unable to set up a new business in the region, but also equally unable to keep their current businesses and shops afloat. They add that they are unsure of the future, and thus afraid to venture into new initiatives.
“Cash payments are a thing of the past,” claimed one local shopkeeper, with others claiming that locals have lost their buying power and are unable to make payments on the spot.
Local shopkeeper Elif Yilmaz told reporters that her business is being kept alive by the university’s students, who are mostly foreigners.
“All of our business comes from the students. We were severely affected by the exchange crisis. Nobody has cash anymore.”
Other shopkeepers have also concurred that the area is being kept on life support by the nearby university.
“You should see the town when schools are out… it’s like a ghost town,” added another shopkeeper. “Locals only come down to the market for the essentials.”
Yilmaz also complained of the high taxes imposed on small shopkeepers, saying that: “I cannot raise my prices when a tax increase occurs. If I do so, I will lose customers.
“The administration must find a solution to this as soon as possible.”
And as if the harsh economic times were not enough, the market has also been closed off to traffic, making accessibility an additional struggle.
“Nowhere in the world will you see the main centre streets being closed off to traffic,” said another shopkeeper, who added that he feared the market area was in danger of perishing.
Locals are also complaining about vital public services, banks and other institutions leaving the area, taking with them significant business.
Others, like Engin Eserer, believe a solution to the Cyprus problem would go a long way to resolving their problems.
“There needs to be an agreement between the two sides that will bring peace. We are currently using Turkish money and are exposed to the fluctuations in the currency exchange rate.”
And it appears that the problems are now having a knock-on effect on the friendly environment of the area, according to one veteran resident.
A Famagusta local touched on a societal problem that has emerged over the past years.
“I have been here since 1968… Famagusta’s community has changed in recent times,” said Hudaverdi Hudakan, who has been observing the changes of the last decade.
“Nowadays, it’s like there is no respect and love for the person next to you. Self-interest has taken a front seat.”