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Daily Press Review – 13/11/2019

In the press today:

They are changing their banking model
The island’s two biggest banks, Bank of Cyprus (BoC) and Hellenic Bank (HB), have a huge banking pie at their disposal and they must manage it in the best and most sustainable way, Kathimerini reports. The two banks want to continue to compete with each other, but without causing one another problems. BoC is focusing on its business model. The bank’s new CEO Panicos Nicolaou appears not to believe in a banking model with housing, consumer and other small retail loans, and instead envisions a model focused on corporate loans. At Hellenic, the need to change to a retail model was imperative. The portfolio it acquired from the healthy Co-op consisted of performing retail loans by over 90%. Both banks must now focus on developing their technologies, as they are having to face big technologically advanced companies, which will among other offer banking services, but without holding deposits.

Positive indications in the real estate market
The real estate market continues to recover, according to data released by the Land Registry Department, which shows that one of the economy’s biggest driving forces remains on a positive course. According to the data, in the first 10 months of 2019, 8,549 properties were sold, recording a 13.7% increase compared with the same period of 2018. Of those 8,549 properties, 4,306 (or 56%) involved sales to locals, while 3,756 (or 44%) were sales to foreigners. Hellenic Bank’s Chief Economist Dr Andreas Ashiotis says that due to the low interest rates but also the increase in citizens’ income, sales to locals are on the rise, with the data showing an increase in all the districts. Dr Ashiotis points out that 75% of sales to local buyers came from the Nicosia and Limassol districts. It is noted that there has also been an increase in foreign buyers. Total sales to European citizens reached 1,247 (or 33%), while sales to non-Europeans reached 2,509 (or 67%). Dr Ashiotis adds that even in the months following May, when stricter criteria were introduced to the citizenship-by-investment scheme, there is still a keen interest by non-European buyers in the property market. “The benefits that have arisen from the economic activity that stems from the naturalisations programme continue to contribute to the broader growth of the economy,” he said. “But they have more of a short-term rather than long-term character, especially when they are not accompanied by the investors settling and becoming active in our country. It is important that further coordinated actions are taken to attract other productive investments as well, besides in the construction sector, but at the same time ensure that the programme is being promoted within the framework of the security clauses that were recently introduced, in order to protect while at the same time reinforce the reputation of the programme itself but also our country as a whole,” said Dr Ashiotis.

Astrobank seeking €20m for National Bank
The procedure to integrate USB’s operations in Astrobank’s has been successfully completed, with all customers of the former being transferred to the latter’s systems. However, Astrobank is also in the midst of another procedure, which has been ongoing since autumn last year; the absorption of the good assets of National Bank of Greece (Cyprus). From the summer onwards, Astrobank has stepped up the procedure to purchase the assets, having dedicated a lot of time and effort. However, the ‘deal’ keeps getting postponed. According to Kathimerini’s sources, the reason for this is that Astrobank is trying to raise €20m capital so that it can proceed with the acquisition, which it has not been able to raise from its Lebanese shareholders. It has been rumoured that the Lebanese investors cannot move money from their banks in Lebanon due to the political unrest in the region. As a result, Astrobank is looking at other potential investors or investment funds that have already invested in other Cypriot banks. Like for example 7Q, the major shareholder in Hellenic Bank which jointed following the bank’s share capital increase. These delays have also put National Bank in a difficult position, as the sale of its Cypriot subsidiary is an integral part of its restructuring plan, which launched in April 2018.

Experts to analyse the developments in the Agricultural Sector
Professionals of the agricultural sector, including producers and merchants, will come together to discuss and analyse the latest developments of their sector at the 3rd Pancyprian Agricultural Conference, which is presented by HB and will take place on Wednesday, 4 December 2019 at Ktima Kousioumi in Nicosia.

Averof: Have the banks forgotten the three bail-outs?
Both Finance Minister Harris Georgiades and Central Bank Governor Constantinos Herodotou are expected to hold meetings with Bank of Cyprus’ management in order to urge it to have second thoughts about introducing the increases to its charges. They are also expected to meet with the other banks’ managements as well. Phileleftheros also reports on DISY president Averof Neophytou’s statements yesterday (more detail in top news item), while it adds the reaction of the borrowers’ protection association (SYPRODAT), which said in an announcement that “even though the Finance Ministry has the ability, based on the law, to intervene, unfortunately we are not expecting it to take measures as it has shown a blatant intention to help the banks foreclose as many properties as possible, when it referred to the so-called unconstitutionality of the law on Abusive Charges and the amending law on foreclosures”. SYPRODAT added that according to the relevant EU directive, member states can prohibit the banks from demanding extra charges from consumers, taking into consideration the need to encourage competition and promote the use of effective payment methods.

Dragons and banks
Politis comments that conspiracy theorists could say that the big furore over the banks’ charges was a tactic by the government to divert public opinion away from the citizenships scandal. But it says the truth is that the issue with the bank charges is of serious concern to the public.

Total-Eni’s first drilling target at ‘Kronos’ in Block 6
The Total-Eni consortium will begin drilling at the ‘Cronos’ target in Block 6. The target was set as a priority because of its promising features, which on one hand it has good prospects for a respectable finding, and on the other hand, it will provide useful geological information for subsequent drillings. According to information reported earlier, the drilling rig “Tungsten Explorer”, which is already in the area, will launch a series of up to six consecutive drillings in the Cypriot EEZ on behalf of Total-Eni within the new year. The consortium has identified the ‘Cronos’ drilling target (in Block 6-managed by Eni) for more than a year now through seismographic surveys, and through further processing of the data it arrived at the decision to conduct a research drill. The drilling rig will go directly to ‘Cronos’ target, probably without passing through the Limassol Port.

Shipping and the Arab world
Today marks the start of the 32th Arab Transport Ministers’ Council in Alexandria with Deputy Minister of Shipping Natasa Pilides representing Cyprus. This council is very important for the shipping industry across the globe, so Cyprus’ participation is especially significant. Mrs. Pilides said that “Cyprus’ presence in this council is important for establishing co-operation among Cyprus and Arab states, as well as promoting Cyprus’ re-election in the International Maritime Organisation on 27 November”.

Electric bus for Kato Paphos
Next summer, an electric bus is set to connect the harbour of Kato Paphos with the city centre. This electric bus will cost €218,000 and the city council approved the offer on Monday evening. This is part of the European Union’s promotion of new environmentally friendly technologies and public transport. The cost will be covered by the relevant budget for EU schemes. The bus will have state-of-the-art technology, it will be powered by electricity, and have a maximum capacity of 20 persons, 12 of which will be seated. It will be accessible for persons with disabilities, and it will be charged at a designated charging station.

Interest to restart Cyprus-Egypt cruises
Cyprus and Egypt are currently negotiating to restart cruise routes between the two countries, while the Ministry of Shipping is also in talks with other Arabic countries that have important ports. The Deputy Minister of Shipping, Natasa Pilidou, in statement to CNA, expressed her optimism for the restart of the cruises between Cyprus-Egypt. She also said that they are “making efforts in this direction and since there is interest from both sides, it is possible and we think that it will happen”. In the meantime, Mrs Pilidou said she will participate in the Congress of the Ministers of Transport of the Arab Association in Alexandria. As she said, this pan-Arab meeting is of leading significance for global shipping. Asked what about the most important matters in the sector for Cyprus and the Arab world, she mentioned the important ports that some of these Arab countries have, with which Cyprus could promote cooperation in the cruise sector, as well as the measures that they are expected to take in order to reinforce “green shipping”, thereby contributing to protecting the environment, a vital issue for the future generations, since the 90% of international commerce is conducted via sea.

Aegean adds new Paphos-Athens route
Aegean announced that in the framework of its development, it is investing in the expansion of its network in the winter period, adding two new routes from Paphos to Athens and from Larnaca to Beirut. Specifically, starting from 12 December 2019, AEGEAN will be connecting Paphos with Athens with two weekly scheduled flights throughout the year, with the possibility of adding a third flight during peak periods. A new direct route from Larnaca to Beirut, has already started from 7 October 2019 and is executed twice per week. With these routes, AEGEAN will be carrying out a total of 5 destinations to Cyprus, Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Tel Aviv and Beirut. With the start of the new routes, Aegean is attempting to increase the capacity of its network abroad in 2020, offering 1.12 million seats from Cyprus, marking a 6% increase compared to last year, and offering even more choices and destinations for Aegean’s passengers. Aegean continues to support Cyprus’ prospects to expand its tourist period and increase passenger traffic, the announcement reports. Aegean and its subsidiary Olympic Air transported a total 14 million passengers in 2018. The airline’s route schedule in 2019, covers a network of 151 destinations in 44 countries.

Covering losses from Thomas Cook collapse
Foreign organisations such as TUI, JET2 and EASY JET HOLIDAY are increasing their Cyprus programmes in view of the summer period of 2020, in order to make up for the losses of Thomas Cook’s bankruptcy. This was the main conclusion of the hoteliers of the free Famagusta, who participated in the London tourism expo, which took place last week. As the chairman of PASYXE Famagusta, Doros Takka, told Politis, these three tourist organisations will seemingly increase their Cyprus packages, in order to cover some percentage of their losses due to Thomas Cook. “My estimation is that the summer of 2020 will be similar to last summer, as it comes to arrivals from the United Kingdom. The gap left by the collapse of Thomas Cook will be somewhat reduced”, he said.

Complaints for Paphos Municipality intervention on beach
The Green Party has commented that the construction of a café on the SODAP beach in Kato Paphos, is an environmental crime. As the Greens report, this time the crime wasn’t implemented by a private actor, but the Paphos Municipality itself. Yesterday, they add, the surveyors placed the construction of the café 10-15 metres away from the sea. In the past few days, they said, many citizens called to protest about the changing landscape of the area. The party has said that it must be investigated whether the Municipality has violated the law on the protection zone of the beach.

Betting and casinos raise state revenue
Phileleftheros reports that the state received €116.6m from the taxes and fees imposed on the different games of chance and the casino, in the past few years. Between 2017-2019, the state made a €38.9m profit from OPAP’s games. The state also made a €29.2m net profit from the state lottery. Moreover, land-based and online betting from 2017-2019 brought the state a net revenue of €21.7m. As it comes to the casino, the state’s revenue stood at €21.2m from 2018 until October 2019. This amount resulted from taxes and fees. Specifically, the profits from the casino tax, which is imposed on 15% of the operator’s net revenue stood at €13.4m. The first temporary casino opened its doors in June 2018, while the two satellite casinos of Nicosia and Larnaca opened their doors in December 2018. In July 2018, the operating company opened its satellite casino in Ayia Napa. It should be noted that for the first four years, the annual license fee is €2.5m, while in the next few years this will increase to €5m. The state already received €2m from the license fee of the satellite casino. It should be noted that the state revenues will increase even more, since the operating company, will submit the fees for the satellite casinos in Nicosia and Larnaca. Another €448K resulted from different fees.

Altamira sells privileged coastal property for €30m
A huge property built on 10 plots, in a central and popular location in Tsiflikoudia, in Limassol Municipality was listed for sale on the website of Altamira, which is managing the properties of the former Co-op. As the relevant listing reports, the property is a point of reference for the area, while it is ideally located between the new port and the marina, only a few minutes away from the “MYMALL” shopping centre and the under-construction casino-resort “City of Dreams Mediterranean”.

Reblozyl approval, a landmark for Cyprus thalassaemics
The FDA’s approval of Reblozyl was a landmark decision for the 650 Cypriot thalassaemics. As the Chairman of the Pancyprian Thalassaemic Association said, this is the first treatment which reduces the blood transfusions that thalassemics need and significantly increases their quality of life. The approval of the specific product is a landmark decision and added that the thalassaemics of Cyprus are now calling on the state to prepare for its use, after it has been approved in Europe. Its approval by the EU is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2020 benefiting people with thalassemia and the GHS.

Flu vaccines still a headache for Ministry and HIO
The Ministry of Health and the HIO are struggling as it comes to the seasonal flu vaccines, as the company producing the vaccines said it was unable to provide vaccines in Cyprus on time last September. Because of the delay that was caused in acquiring the first two patches, a total 25,000 vaccines that arrived in Cyprus over the past weeks, were mainly given to senior citizens, children with chronic diseases by the Vaccination Centres of the Ministry of Health. However, under normal circumstances these vaccines would have been given from the personal doctors and paediatricians of the General Health System, as the vaccines are included in the doctors’ contracts with the HIO and are calculated in their salaries. Because of this, at the end of this week 18,000 vaccines will go to the citizens through their private doctors and paediatricians. For this purpose, the HIO has call on all the personal doctors for adults and paediatricians in the GHS to order the number of vaccines they will need to cover their patients’ needs. While many doctors have responded to the HIO’s call and ordered the number of vaccines on time, many have not yet sent their offers to the HIO and as such, it’s still not clear how many vaccines will be needed to cover the needs of the vulnerable groups of the population. This delay has caused additional obstacles in the whole effort, since the HIO needs to examine the doctors’ orders and put a limit where they think there is abuse.

T/Cs go to court over GHS
Turkish-Cypriots who receive pensions through the Social Insurance Fund of the Republic of Cyprus, are contributing to the GHS fund but they are not GHS beneficiaries because they are not permanent residents of the RoC. As such, as the Turkish-Cypriot employees union (TÜRK-SEN) has announced yesterday that they are suing the Republic in order to find a solution to the problem. As the T/C press announced in a written statement, the union’s IR Secretary Asim Ebeoglu said that they were in close contact with the Ministry of Health, so that the T/C who receive a pension from the Republic can join the GHS, given that they have contributed to the Social Insurance Fund. However, these contacts did not bear fruit and they are now trying to solve the matter through the Court. Ebeoglu called everyone affected by the matter to speak with the TÜRK-SEN union. Commenting on the decision of the Turkish-Cypriots, the deputy director-general of the HIO, Athos Tsitonides, told Phileleftheros that the HIO has looked into the T/C issue, but according to the legislation, individuals who do not normally reside within the RoC-controlled areas, are not GHS beneficiaries notwithstanding whether they are contributing or not.

Trainee doctors go on three-hour strike
Trainee doctors are going on a three-hour strike today from 10am to 1pm, protesting the fact that there was a problem with their titles due to a change in the Greek legislation. The measures that were announced by the trainees, have been described as unnecessary by the Minister of Health, Constantinos Ioannou who sent a letter to the Pancyprian Union of Government Practitioners (PASYKI) saying that the matter cannot be resolved by Cyprus, as it has to do with the Greek legislation. The Minister said that they had sent letters to the Greek Minister of Health in July 2017, February 2018 and June 2019 on the matter. He also said that he discussed the issue during his meetings with both the former and current Greek Minister of Health. He said that while they received verbal reassurances that the matter will be resolved, it has not been resolved so far. “As Ministry of Health, we are in contact with the competent officials of the Greek Ministry of Health and I hope that the matter will be resolved within the next few days”, he added.

Duration of referrals extended
The HIO is changing the duration of referrals made by GPs in the GHS to facilitate patients. Reportedly, this includes both referrals to specialised doctors as well as referrals for diagnostic & laboratory tests. In detail, the HIO decided that referrals to specialised doctors will now last 6 months instead of 3, and referrals for diagnostic & laboratory tests increase from 1 to 6 months. The duration of long-term referrals remains as is, at 12 months.

in 2 diabetics don’t know they have the disease
Acording to the Endocrinology Centre Cyprus, 1 in 2 diabetics don’t know they suffer from the disease. It’s also noted that diabetes mellitus affects at least 400 million persons across the world while incidents are rapidly increasing. In its announcement, on the occasion of World Diabetes Day on Thursday 14 November, the Endocrinology Centre states that diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease which emerges when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or when the body doesn’t use the produced insulin efficiently. Everybody is responsible for proper and timely diagnosis, noting family history, obesity, unhealthy diet and lack of physical exercise as some of the main risk causes of the disease. In its announcement, the Centre also notes that the disease does not cause any symptoms and as a result there can be a delay in diagnosis and even complications. The announcement adds that according to big studies, the disease can largely be avoided by proper diet and regular physical exercise.

Autumn is the ideal season to quit smoking
If you want to get rid of this harmful habit but don’t know where or how to begin, autumn is the ideal season to begin your efforts. This season suggests new beginnings and it can push you to adopt new and more beneficial habits for your health and daily life. No matter how many years you’ve been smoking, it’s never too late to make a new start. Wanting to commit and accomplish new goals fits perfectly with the Autumn season but it’s not enough to get you to quit smoking; you’ll need patience, sufficient information and most importantly the assistance of the right allies (i.e. pharmaceutical products that help you quit smoking). The article advises smokers to consider when their urge for a cigarette is more intense, to keep their mouth and hands busy, to maintain a healthy diet, to find the right anti-smoking product for themselves and to try to quit smoking with a loved one.

The hopes of Stella Kyriakides’ European “followers”
Despite the fact that the new composition of the European Commission has been extended to 1 December, the European citizens’ interest in the Commission’s policies remains unchanged. A striking example of keen interest is Stella Kyriakides’ acceptance among European citizens, but above all the increased demands they have for the new European Commissioner for Health. This can be seen in the impact of the show of well-known Dutch comedian and TV presenter Arjen Lubach. Lubach, commented on the consequences of smoking for human health and called his viewers to follow Stella Kyriakides on Twitter so that she acts on replacing the ISO-TEST. This method is used in Europe to measure the percentage of nicotine in cigarettes but according to the relevant studies it does not provide a realistic representation of nicotine percentages. The comedian also spoke about the problematic ISO-TEST method and how the Canadian Intense method is a more realistic way of measuring nicotine. He also noted that Stella Kyriakides is the most capable person to push for changes and therefore stop misinformation about smoking in Europe. After he asked viewers to follow her on Twitter, in just 24 hours, her followers skyrocketed from 7385 to more than 23 thousand.

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