Daily News Review - 14/01/2019

ΠΟΛΙΤΗΣ NEWS Δημοσιεύθηκε 14.1.2019
Daily News Review  - 14/01/2019
The Environmental Authority approved the creation of a theme park in Akamas, which will include lakes, playgrounds, an amphitheatre, green areas

In the press last weekend and today:

IN Business Awards 2018: Awards Ceremony on 17 January

The IN Business Awards 2018 ceremony will take place on Thursday 17 January, during which the winners in 11 categories will be presented. There will be another two honorary awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Cypriot Businessman / Businessman Excelling Abroad Award, as well as the Editor’s Choice Award, which is given each year by the IN Business editorial team. The ceremony is presented by European University Cyprus and is supported by MTN, TFI Markets, Glenfiddich and Sklavenitis. Wargaming.net is nominated in the “Best Workplace” category.

Red loans down by €5.6m due to Co-op sale

The number of non-performing loans dropped significantly in September, according to data released by the Central Bank (CBC) that include the absorption of the Co-op by Hellenic Bank. NPLs dropped to €11b from €16.6b in June and €19.9b in March. By the end of September 2018, NPLs had dropped by €5,613m (or 33.7%) compared with June 2018. Total advances dropped by €6,629m (or 16.1%) from €41,281m at end-June to €34,652m at end-September. As a result, the NPL-to-total-advances ratio receded to 31.8% (from 40.3% in June). The CBC noted that from 31 December 2014 up until 30 September 2018, NPLs dropped overall by €16.3b, or 59.7%. The coverage ratio reached 51.9% at end-September, from 48.3% in June. The CBC said that the decline in NPLs was mainly due to the removal of the Cyprus Co-operative Bank’s loan portfolio from the banking system, the securitisation of bad loans, the reclassification of loans as debt instruments held for sale, loan restructurings, debt write-offs, debt repayment and debt-to-property swaps.

Second mobile unit

There has been a lot of activity lately at Hellenic Bank in its effort to serve former Co-op customers who live in various districts and are unable to visit a bank. According to Phileleftheros’ sources, as of Monday 21 January, the bank will start operating its second mobile bank union, which will provide a service to 15 communities in the Larnaca, Famagusta and Limassol districts. Hellenic Bank’s George Karagiorgis said: “We highlight the positive results of the 1st mobile bank unit that started operating on 12 November 2018, as well as how it was positively welcomed by our customers. As Hellenic Bank, we are really pleased to be able to serve customers who for various reasons find it difficult to visit our branches, but who are able to carry out their transactions at the mobile bank unit fast and easy.”

Digital transactions have surpassed 70%

Over 70% of transactions carried out by the end of September 2018 were carried out digitally at Bank of Cyprus. According to data presented by the Cyprus News Agency, 71.1% of total transactions were carried out digitally, compared with 58% four years earlier. The percentage is even higher when it comes to natural persons, reaching 80.2% of total transactions (68.8% in September 2015).

Want to become a businessman? Apply to IDEA now

SUMMARY: Non-profit organisation for start-ups IDEA is urging young, ambitious businesspeople with ideas for an innovative business to apply to centre, which will start accepting applications as of 17 February. IDEA is part of the Bank of Cyprus’ Corporate Social Responsibility programme and is aimed at creating successful start-ups in Cyprus and contributing to the culture of developing innovation and entrepreneurship.

Passports reduced NPLs

The permits and tax as well as town-planning incentives that were given to land development companies are slowly changing developers’ financial situations and reducing the sector’s NPLs. According to the Central Bank, in the first nine months of 2018 there were €1,578b NPLs in the construction sector, which is 28% of total loans. There was a marginal increase compared with the first six months of 2018, by €296m. Phileleftheros writes that despite the controversial incentives that have been given, the specific sector still has the most problematic debtors in the system.

Government seeks funds for CSE advisors

The government is going ahead with its plans for state-owned assets that were not marked or cut by MPs when passing the 2019 state budget. Among the plans that escaped the cut were the development of Larnaca port and marina, the Cyprus Stock Exchange and the island’s water supply services. The Finance Ministry has sent letters to the House Finance Committee asking for the funds for the CSE and water supply services to be released. They will be discussed at the Committee’s session on Monday.

Hefty fine coming from the Commission

The political parties ignored instructions by the Finance Ministry to immediately pass a bill governing credit-agreements for consumers over real estate that is to be used to build a residence, once again postponing the relevant House Plenum vote on Friday. The postponement was requested by social-democrat EDEK president Marinos Sizopoulos, who said the Central Bank has not responded yet to his question on whether there is a conflict of interests when it comes to companies that are not credit institutions, due to their connection with the banks. The rest of the parties consented to the postponement, with Phileleftheros commenting that this could get Cyprus into trouble with the EU, as it has not fully harmonised its law with the relevant EU directive. The deadline for incorporating the law was on 18 January 2017, so Cyprus is facing a hefty fine from the European Commission.

Civil responsibility for CBC Governor and Auditor-general

The Citizens Alliance party submitted three law proposals to the House Plenum on Friday, aimed at making independent state officials – such as the Auditor-general, Central Bank governor and members of the Public Service Commission’s board – face civil responsibility when they make decisions that are damaging to the Republic or third parties.

Investment funds skyrocket in Cyprus

The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission’s report for the third quarter of 2018 has shown a sharp increase in the number of investment funds in Cyprus since 2013. This increase, said CySEC, is down to the adoption and enrichment of the institutional and legislative framework, combined with the attractive tax framework. It said that the number of Undertakings for Collective Investments in Transferable Securities (UCITS) under the CySEC’s supervision increased from 13 in December 2014 to 172 by end-September 2018, managing total assets of €5.7b.

Cyprus a barren line for hedge fund profits

American, Russian, European and to a lesser extent Cypriot capital comprise the share structure of the two systemic banks, Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank, as they anticipate to see profits from their investments, Phileleftheros reports. The investment refinancing the hedge funds and foreign agencies were looking for after the 2013 banking crisis has so far turned out to be a hole of losses. The hedge funds invested in the banks’ recapitalisation to support the Cypriot banking system, but they have lost a large part of their initial investment. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that shareholders are not entitled to dividends, which have been ‘frozen’ by the Single Supervisory Mechanism until further notice. The funds’ investments in the banks are further burdened by the NPL problem and strategic defaulters, which continue to blight the banks. The anticipation is that by curbing NPLs, introducing the Estia scheme for vulnerable borrowers and the gradual sale of their assets will lead to solid profitability. For the time being, only Hellenic is profitable and this is down to the goodwill that stemmed from acquiring the Cyprus Co-operative Bank. Bank of Cyprus is also stepping up its efforts to sell packages of problematic loans, while it also hopes that the Estia scheme will help its balance sheet recover. Despite the share and accounting profit Hellenic has recorded since acquiring the Co-op, its main shareholders are losing up to 70% of the money they have invested over the past few years. The value of the investments made so far by Wargaming, Third Point, Demetra Investment and EBRD has reached €150m. The existing shareholders will get the chance to moderate their losses by participating in the share capital increase in March. With the price of the new issue at €0.70 and the current value at €0.75, the existing shareholders are hoping to regain part of their significant losses. Bank of Cyprus’ shareholders have suffered similar losses.

We will just about make it

Politis article authored by George Georgiou, who says the banks are suffering because of NPLs and reduced profitability, with their shareholders getting tired of losing money and the European supervisors ready to pounce. And it appears that strikes will put the final nail in the coffin. The banks know this, as do the unions and their members. Yet this did not stop Hellenic Bank’s management from creating labour upset, nor did it stop ETYK’s members from authorising the union to “proceed with all the necessary actions, including strikes”. The author says he spoke to bank executives a few months ago, who admitted that if there was a strike, their institutions would start counting the days until their final closure. Perhaps the successful absorption of part of the Co-op by HB turned those days into weeks; but he wonders, will both sides take the issue as far as it will go?

Red loans drop €5.6m because of Co-op

The number of non-performing loans dropped significantly in September, according to data released by the Central Bank (CBC) that include the absorption of the Co-op by Hellenic Bank. NPLs dropped to €11b from €16.6b in June and €19.9b in March. By the end of September 2018, NPLs had dropped by €5,613m (or 33.7%) compared with June 2018. Total advances dropped by €6,629m (or 16.1%) from €41,281m at end-June to €34,652m at end-September. As a result, the NPL-to-total-advances ratio receded to 31.8% (from 40.3% in June). The CBC noted that from 31 December 2014 up until 30 September 2018, NPLs dropped overall by €16.3b, or 59.7%. The coverage ratio reached 51.9% at end-September, from 48.3% in June. The CBC said that the decline in NPLs was mainly due to the removal of the Cyprus Co-operative Bank’s loan portfolio from the banking system, the securitisation of bad loans, the reclassification of loans as debt instruments held for sale, loan restructurings, debt write-offs, debt repayment and debt-to-property swaps.

He drove his fans ‘wild’

Beautiful People magazine features a pictorial of a concert by popular Greek singer Stan, which took place at the Winter Fairyland. Hellenic Bank was the Gold Sponsor.

With one touch on your mobile phone, you can access your accounts in Cyprus and England!

Bank of Cyprus’ 1Bank service is leading the way by offering access to its customers’ accounts abroad, through the new updated mobile banking app.

New batch of documents for the Co-op

The Committee of Inquiry into the Co-op’s collapse has requested a number of very important documents from a number of parties involved. According to Simerini’s sources, these parties include the Cypriot asset management company (KEDIPES), the Central Bank and the House of Representatives. A well-placed source tells the paper that the Committee is hoping to fill in some gaps that have emerged during its examination of the bulky material it has selected so far. It has already received some of the documents, while the rest are expected within the next few days. The Committee has already gathered over 800 pages of witness material.

The banks’ priorities for 2019

Kathimerini features an article by Michalis Kammas, general director of the Association of Cyprus Banks, who says that following a year filled with a lot of pressure and changes, the association is approaching 2019 as yet another year of challenges and necessary adjustments, with the aim of further stabilising the economy and the banking sector. But it is also looking forward to a year of positive results on every level. The banks’ activity will focus on three basic elements, says Kammas: core banking; new investments and launching of new technologies/digital solutions and services; and securing and implementing the revised and stricter reference standards, compliance and alignment with each supervisory, regulatory and legislative demand.

Housing policy for the financially disadvantaged

The Interior Ministry is almost ready to promote the package of measures governing the state’s new housing policy, which is aimed at helping the middle and small to mid-class acquire a house/apartment (whether it is to purchase or rent). The aforementioned classes are currently unable to acquire an owned property – or even rent a house or apartment – as there is a very limited number of regular houses/flats on the market, but also because prices have skyrocketed. This market distortion in the purchase/rental of flats/houses, says Politis, is down to a variety of reasons, such as the changes in the banking system and stricter regulations to acquire a loan, the dramatic drop in private sector workers’ wages, and a numbing of the construction market, which since the economic crisis has focused on the investment market (towers, hotels etc.) rather than building regular houses/flats.

Cyprus gives black money the boot

The new assessment by the Council of Europe’s Moneyval on the progress Cyprus has made to combat money-laundering is expected to take place by the end of this year. Moneyval’s draft report is expected to arrive by the end of May, or early June, and any amendments agreed between Cyprus and the Council of Europe will be incorporated to make way for the final report in September 2019. Cyprus has already sent the first part of the questionnaire to Brussels. The report is considered vastly important as it will provide a response to international media reports that depict Cyprus as a money-laundering hub.

10,000 properties will change ownership in 2019

There was a record number of property sales in 2018, with Simerini citing experts to say the trend is set to continue in 2019. There was a 6% annual increase in property sales last year (compared with a 23.7% increase in 2017). According to Land Registry Office data, a total of 9,242 sales deeds were submitted in 2018, compared with 8,734 in 2017. The biggest increase was observed in January 2018 with 70%, followed by February with 45% and March with 35%. Nicosia led the 2018 sales, with 1,606 sales deeds in 2018 (from 1,464 in 2017 – up 10%), followed by Limassol with 3,411 deeds (3,167 in 2017 – up 8%). The head of the property surveyors’ association, Polys Kourousides, tells the paper that property sales have been following an upward trend since 2013, and that the new year is expected to follow suit. The big question is whether the 10,000 record will be broken, he said, adding that this mainly depended on external demand.

War drums at Limassol port

Article by Athos Eleftheriou, general secretary of SEGDAMELIN-PEO, who says that during the dockers’ 24-hour work stoppage on 22 December over the collective agreement, the workers decided not to announce any further measures in order to grant time for dialogue to commence. But instead of dialogue from the employers and the government, war drums were sounded, he says. DP World and Eurogate decided to report the dockers for going on strike to the Port Council, which in turn referred them to the Disciplinary Board. The Transport Minister went on to immediately implement the Board’s decision to appoint an Arbitration Court. But he wonders, what about the rest of the decisions that have been pending since 2017 regarding the operations at the jetty, the appointment of an employer for the dockers, among other? SEGDAMELIN-PEO has from the start refused to accept such decisions and regulations; instead insisting on its position that the two sides should engage in dialogue, within the framework of the Industrial Relations Code and the labour practices in Cyprus. But the other side refuses to do that, says Eleftheriou. He wonders why the matter has been sent to Arbitration; to decide whether there will be pay rises or accept the scores of reductions the employers are seeking?

Βudget for public transport contracts doubled

The House Transport Committee last week examined the draft plan for public transport contracts that will come into effect on 5 July 2020, which will see the budget for new contracts double, even though this does not safeguard existing employees, despite an increase to the kilometres that they will have to cover in their routes, Haravgi reports. MP Costas Costa called for the new contracts to undergo legal vetting soon so as to avoid a similar outcome to what happened with the public tenders for Limassol port. He also said the relevant budget will increase from €44m to €85m.

Extending anxiety over Larnaca port-marina

Larnaca will have to wait another two months for any news on the joint development of the town’s port and marina. While the initial procedure had provided for the assessment of the only bid to have already taken place and the relevant contracts to be signed in mid-January, the government has been given a two-month extension to the deadline. The new deadline for completing examination of Ampa Ltd & Israel Shipyards Ltd’s final bid is 18 March. The extension was deemed necessary and requested by the Transport Minister in a memo to the Cabinet, due to the big volume of the tender’s file, the complexity of the project and the need for clarifications between the Tender Authority and candidate investor. Haravgi’s sources say that bar any unforeseen developments, the assessment is expected to have a positive outcome and the concession agreement will be signed so the project can get underway.

Cyprus Shipping Association

The Cyprus Shipping Association (CSA) announces job vacancies for individuals whose duties and responsivities will cover a wide range of services relating to the association’s actvities in the ports and shipping sector, as well as services of its members.

Celestyal Cruises awarded again at the Cruise Critic UK Editors’ Picks Awards 2018

Celestyal Cruises won the “Best Service” award at the Cruise Critic UK Editors’ Picks Awards 2018.

Banking sector has shrunk significantly

For the first time ever, the value of the banks’ assets has dropped to below €60b and this is mainly due to the removal from the system of the former Cyprus Co-operative Banks’ assets that were not transferred to Hellenic Bank. The banks’ assets were limited to €59.4b in September, compared with €6.5b in June, and the significant decrease was due to loans, as they dropped from €37b to €31b. On the other hand, debt issues increased by €2.3b, reflecting the state bonds that were issued in favour of Hellenic Bank as part of the transaction with the Co-op. Meanwhile, the liabilities were limited to €55.3b in September, from €60.4b the previous month. The decrease was mainly down to a drop in deposits, from €58.8b to €53.8b. Again, because of the Co-op deal, capital in the banking system dropped by almost €1b to €4.1b. The banking system has now shrunk significantly, as its size in proportion to the GDP has reached around 30.3%, compared with 631% in 2012 or 428% in 2013 after the bail-in. And it is expected to shrink further in the near future, what with new loan packages expected to be sold. Phileleftheros’ sources said Bank of Cyprus plans to sell a new package of NPLs totalling €2b in the coming months, while HB is preparing to sell a large package of NPLs worth €1b. RCB Bank has also announced a reduction of its size.

The parties have woken up

Two days after a letter by lawyer Nicos Clerides accusing Supreme Court judges of having vested interests with the Chryssafinis & Polyviou LLC law firm was made public, the opposition parties have demanded immediate action so the judges in question respond to the accusations. Main opposition AKEL MP Aristos Damianou wondered what Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou was doing about it. Damianou said that the Clerides letter raises very serious questions over the unbiased delivery of justice, and this is at a time when society’s faith in the institutions is at an all-time low. The fact that Chryssafinis & Polyviou LLC firm represents Bank of Cyprus has raised suspicions over the outcome of cases that have to do with the banking scandals, said Damianou. He said the institutions in question must respond immediately, and called on the President and Justice Minister to also give their position. The Green Party also called for the accusations to be investigated, as it said they indicate that members of the public may have been treated unfairly, while friends and relatives were treated favourably at the expense of others. The Solidarity Movement and ELAM also called on the government to intervene.

NPLs on a downward trend in Europe

The European Banking Authority (EBA) has published its Risk Dashboard, which summarises the main risks and vulnerabilities in the EU banking sector using quantitative risk indicators. Together with the Risk Dashboard, the EBA published the results of its Risk Assessment Questionnaire, which includes the opinions of banks and market analysts on the risk outlook collected in autumn 2018. In the third quarter of 2018, the Dashboard confirms improvements in both asset quality and capital ratios, while profitability remains subdued. European Banks’ capital ratios remain high with a modest increase since Q2 2018. The CET1 ratio on a transitional basis increased from 14.5% in the last quarter to 14.7% in Q3 2018 as the result of both an increase in CET1 capital and a decrease in total risk exposures. Banks representing 99.6% of total assets have a CET1 ratio above 11%. The fully loaded CET1 ratio increased to 14.5% in Q3 2018. The quality of the EU banks' loan portfolio has improved further. In Q3 2018, the ratio of NPLs to total loans kept the downward trend and stood at 3.4%, its lowest level since the NPL definition was harmonised across EU countries in 2014. The declining trend is due to the growth of total loans as well as due to the continuous decline of NPLs, which now stand at €714.3b.

Six per cent of Cypriots’ spending goes on entertainment and culture

In 2017, 8.5% (or €710b) of EU households’ spending went on entertainment and culture, making up 4.6% of GDP (or €1,400 per EU resident), said Eurostat. In Cyprus in 2017, 6% of households’ expenditure went towards entertainment and culture (6.6% in 2007).

The G/C side did not convince over Denia

The government has welcomed the given renewal of UNFICYP’s mandate, as suggested in the draft report by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that was delivered to the UN Security Council last Friday. In his report, Guterres calls on the Greek Cypriot side to work towards increasing contacts with the Turkish Cypriots, stressing that the current status quo is not viable. He adds that his good offices will focus on getting the two sides to agree on a common course of action. In his review of the past season, Guterres refers to the tension that arose after provocative intrusions in the bufferzone, with Politis newspaper saying this is a direct reference to the harassment of Greek Cypriot farmers in Denia.

Port workers to strike on 16/01/2019 and protest outside the Presidential Palace

In continuation of the decisions made during the General Meeting of port workers – dockers last week, it has been decided that they will hold a 24-hour work stoppage at Limassol port on Wednesday, 16 January 2019, which is when the next Council of Ministers session will be taking place, union SEGDAMELIN-PEO announced. During the strike, the workers-dockers will embark on a protest outside the Presidential Palace in Nicosia. At 11am a letter will be handed to the President of the Republic and members of the Council of Ministers, in which the workers will explain why they disagree with the appointment of an Arbitration Court to deal with the renewal of their Collective Agreement. The port workers-dockers said they are expressing their avid dedication to defending the Industrial Relations Code and the labour practices that have been followed up until the present, for the renewal of their Collective Agreement as well as other labour disputes that have arisen ever since Limassol port’s operations were taken over by Eurogate Container Terminal Limassol Limited and DP World Limassol. The union said the employers have full responsibility for the labour upset, forcing workers to go on strike because of their decisions. The only way to bring back normalcy will be to withdraw these decisions, end the violations of the Collective Agreement and immediately join negotiations to resolve all the pending issues, it said.

Theme park in Akamas approved

The Environmental Authority approved the creation of a theme park in Akamas, which will include lakes, playgrounds, an amphitheatre, green areas, boat safari, water sports, a train and many more. The Environmental Authority gave its positive opinion for the creation of the park within the Neo Chorio community’s borders in Paphos, only 280 metres away from the Natura Network and Akamas. The information about the proposed project were submitted to the Environmental Department with a relevant letter, an environmental study and more information by the Director of the Town-Planning department. Subsequently, the Environmental Authority examined the study and deemed a consultation with the competent state departments as necessary due to their expertise in such projects as well as with regards to any consequences.

We should become a destination of culture

Savvas Perdios said that it would be a mistake to believe that everything is going well with tourism, in his first interview since taking up duties as deputy minister of Tourism. He added that there is potential to improve the tourism sector. He says that the most important factor is the expansion of the tourism season, the regulation of Airbnb accommodation and the upgrade of aesthetic and level of services. The Ministry’s big wager is to make Cyprus a destination of culture, while in this framework the ministry is also promoting local gastronomy and the Cypriot breakfast in more hotels. He also added that in the next few years there will be a focus on cultural elements rather than the quantitative elements of tourism. The government will focus on attractive high-income visitors and impose certain measures such as increased connectivity, upgrading the offered tourist product with the creation of marinas, casinos, ports and golf courses.

Highest-spending tourists are Belgian and Swiss

Revenue from tourism recorded an increase of 6% in October, compared to October 2017 according to the results of the Passenger Survey, published on Monday by the Statistical Service. Between January – October 2018 revenue from tourism stood at €2.562,3m compared with €2.493,8m in the corresponding period of 2017, recording an increase of 2,7%, said Cystat. Expenditure per person reached €677,60 in October from €681,05 in the corresponding month of the previous year, a decrease of 0,5%. Expenditure per person/per day in October of 2018 compared to the same period of 2017 recorded an increase of 4,0% (from €73,23 to €76,13). The average length of stay decreased by 4,3%, from 9,3 days in October 2017 to 8,9 days in October 2018. According to the Passenger Survey, Belgians were the most high-spending tourists for October 2018, while Swiss visitors were the second highest-spending group. Greek visitors came in last in terms of expenditure. The Simerini author also reports that there is hope that expenditure per person will increase after the launch of the casinos and other projects, which are expected to enhance Cyprus’ tourist product.

Illegal works at Pernera beach halted

Phileleftheros reports that the District Administration of Famagusta has already intervened in the illegal works that took place in the popular Pernera beach in Protaras. Specifically, the District Administration had reported the matter to the Police, since the works were taking place without the necessary permits.

Paphos looks ahead

The Chairman of the Paphos Tourism Development & Promotion Company, Giorgos Mais tells Phileleftheros that Paphos has overcome a difficult period but more should take place so that it fully recovers with regards to development, and especially in tourism and construction. He says that businessmen active in Paphos are facing 2019 with a positive outlook.

Agritourism training in Larnaca

The Larnaca-Famagusta district has launched an agritourism training programme. In the framework of the strategic local development of rural areas in Larnaca-Famagusta for 2014-2020, the Development Company will implement a comprehensive training programme under the subject “Agritourism-Alternative Tourism”. The company announced that the goal of the programme is to offer practical and theoretical knowledge in agritourism to entrepreneurs and staff who are active in the sector. The thirty-two trainees who will attend the workshops, are either businesspeople, managerial staff or other staff in businesses operating in the rural tourism sector. The training programme will last a total of 49 hours.

Medicines under the GHS framework

Medicines and pharmacists are joining the consultations on the General Health System (GHS), Kathimerini reports. The Health Insurance Organisation’s consultations with the pharmacists appear to be going well, it says, especially compared to those with the doctors. But there are some open matters, with president of the Cyprus Pharmaceutical Association Eleni Piera Isseyegh telling the paper that there are disagreements over the issue of the comprehensive budget, with both sides trying to reach convergences. “The terms of reference tabled by the HIO state that the profitability of pharmacies will remain as it is today, though for this to happen, they will have to take into account that our operational costs will increase, as will our stock, and we will have to employ more employees,” said Isseyegh. She added that the CFA will not sign any agreements until it has called general assemblies to brief its members. They will then vote on whether they want to join the GHS or not, and the decision will be collective. The paper reports that GHS beneficiaries must be aware that the System will cover one brand of each medicine and for every packet they get from the pharmacy they must pay a co-payment of €1. The pharmacist is prohibited from handing out medicine without a prescription from a private or specialist doctor. Over the counter medicines will remain at current prices. If a doctor prescribes a medicine that is not part of the GHS, then the pharmacist is obliged to propose any alternatives that are covered by the €1 co-payment. Meanwhile, there appears to be a dispute over the way in which pharmacists will receive payments. According to the paper’s sources, one of the main points of dispute is that pharmacists will be paid the same remuneration whether a medicine is cheap or expensive. Pharmacists believe that this will reduce their annual income significantly, even though their workload is expected to increase.

Medical cannabis both useful and dangerous

More than half of medical cannabis patients in Michigan drove within two hours of using and while still under the influence, according to a new study. The research, conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan Addiction Center, found that one in five reported having driven while “very high” within the past six months. Researchers surveyed 790 medical marijuana patients in Michigan who were seeking recertification for chronic pain during 2014 and 2015. The survey asked respondents about their driving habits for the past six months, and 56.4 percent reported having driven within two hours of using marijuana. Nearly 51 percent reported they drove while a “little high,” while 21.5 percent said they were “very high” at the time.

Last attempt for GHS

The HIO met with groups of doctors of various specialties in all the towns over the weekend, after the Cyprus Medical Association said it would not be joining the GHS. The HIO has stepped up its efforts to personally update doctors and is feeling hopeful due to the fact that it is the doctors themselves who are seeking to have these meetings to learn more about their participation in the system and their remuneration. In the meantime, the HIO is looking into alternative scenarios, with three prevailing so far. In the first, if the Cypriot doctors refuse to join the GHS, it will proceed based on an EU directive to invite doctors from other EU member states; with Greek doctors taking precedence due to language barriers. In the second, taking into account the number of doctors who have registered to participate in the seminars the HIO will be holding in the coming days, which leads to the conclusion that there is a shortage of mainly paediatricians and not personal doctors for adults, the HIO is considering a slight increase to the age limit for children that must be registered with the paediatricians’ registry; from 15 years old to 14 years old, or even 13 based on the needs. The third is for the HIO to collaborate more closely with the public hospitals and to sign agreements with private hospitals. Meanwhile, the Citizens Alliance party said it will table a law proposal that will limit the role of the CMA in the licensing of new doctors to enable Greek doctors to register with the GHS.

Threatening to block Greek doctors

On the HIO’s efforts to find alternative solutions for doctors’ participation in the GHS, and specifically the fact that it is considering to recruit doctors from Greece, Politis newspaper reports on statements made by CMA vice president Marios Karaiskakis on Friday, that the Association will refuse to register Greek doctors if it decides that this will put their profession in jeopardy. In other related news, the paper reports that the HIO received a complaint that a group of doctors had started a petition for non-participation in the GHS. Also, public servants are protesting about the contributions they will have to pay for the GHS, and have joined forces to protest against the government.

“I call on the doctors to join the GHS”

Phileleftheros newspaper reports that more and more doctors are voicing their disagreement with the decisions of the CMA. Among them is former CMA president and former Labour Minister Antonis Vasiliou, who in an interview with the paper urges doctors to participate in the system. He says it is not right for the few to lure the majority into joining a front against the GHS.

Citizens are troubled and anxious

Alithia newspaper carried out a poll to see what the public’s views were regarding the GHS. The majority appeared disappointed and pessimistic over whether the GHS would be implemented, while many citizens said they were worried that the doctors’ stance and frequent statements by medical societies and private hospitals that they will not participate in the GHS, will eventually prevent it from being implemented or negatively impact on the quality of services that will be offered. But there are also those who are optimistic about how the plan is progressing, while others state that they are completely clueless about the matter and so cannot voice an opinion.

Patient Safety Conference 2019

The Patient Safety Conference 2019 on preventing and managing human error in the health sector will take place on 25-26 January at the Filoxenia Conference Centre in Nicosia. The participation fee is €60.

More kickbacks to ENT doctors

A second batch of eight public sector ENT doctors, many of whom retired, are being led to the courts. They are facing charges of bribery and corruption, and will be joined by another four individuals who are related to the audiology centre the bribes came from. This is the second case of public doctors receiving kickbacks; the first took place in 2017, when three public ENT doctors were convicted and jailed. Once the first case wrapped, a tax investigation showed that the specific audiology centre issued a number of other cheques-kickbacks to both private and public sector ENT doctors. Once this new information emerged and a police investigation ensued, the Attorney-general ordered a second criminal procedure to be filed in court in the coming days.

Medochemie is the grand sponsor of the 1st Nicosia Marathon

Medochemie pharmaceutical company is the grand sponsor of the 1st Medochemie Nicosia Marathon. Sales Manager, Nicos Christides said Medochemie supported efforts that promote sports, especially among young people but also for the healthy development of our society.

From drugs nightmare to Ayia Skepi

Phileleftheros reports that substance abuse is one of the most serious social problems of Cypriot society. The number of users keeps on increasing and the average age continues to drop. For the last 20 years the only rehabilitation community that provides psychological support is Ayia Skepi. Victoria Michael a psychologist with a specialisation in rehabilitation has worked at Ayia Skepi for the last 12 years. The substances being abused have changed in the past few years and as a result so have the problems as well as the treatments needed. Psychiatric problems are very common as a result of drugs use. The user’s profile is not specific since the reasons that lead to drug abuse use are many. They can be biological, social or have to do with the family. One of the most important factors are childhood problems such as abuse, abandonment or neglect.

Possibility of deadly cancer

The American Cancer Society recommends an annual check for lung cancer with low dose computed tomography to persons who risk having lung cancer and who are 55 to 74 years old and in good condition, smoke or have stopped smoking in the last 15 years, have a history of at least 30 packyear (1 packyear corresponds to 1 package of cigarettes daily for one year. One package of cigarettes daily for 30 years for 15 years corresponds to 30 pack-year).

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