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Daily Press Review – 14/1/2020

  1. Nicolaou: It will be a different Bank of Cyprus in three years

Philenews interviews Bank of Cyprus CEO Panicos Nicolaou, who says among other that the difficult years may have passed for the bank, following the 2013 events, however, it must implement its strategic plan to ward off future challenges. The site says Nicolaou appears determined to do this, saying that the reduction of NPLs needs to be accelerated, which is why the bank is looking at various options, the most important being to sell a large package of problematic loans. As for digital transformation, Nicolaou says there will be many developments in 2020, including the operation of e-branches. He also sends a message to strategic defaulters, warning that the bank will proceed with foreclosures once the deadline for Estia expires. Among other, Nicolaou is asked whether he agrees with the approach taken by Hellenic Bank on the hot topic of rewarding staff based on assessments and productivity. “We are in favour of updating the remuneration system based on performance and to this end, we will enter discussions with ETYK when we decide the time is right,” he said. “We must say that our priority is the success of the Voluntary Retirement Scheme and the restructuring of the bank. The bank has taken steps and has already implemented important innovations in this sector, including the introduction of pay rises based on performance. Everything went very smoothly and we are completely satisfied.”


Loan securitisations not used

The banks have not used the tool of loan securitisations to curb their NPLs, opting instead for other solutions. Despite the specific tool being one of the most important things the troika of international lenders pushed for in 2013, parliament was late approving the relevant bill, following pressure by the banks. Loan securitisations are used to a greater extent in Greece. The Single Supervisory Mechanism regularly urges the banks to use the tool to reduce their NPLs. Bank sources say that the cost is too high, combined with the fact that a securitisation must be big in order to attract investment funds from abroad.


An analysis first, then a social programme

The Finance Ministry is looking at options for the preparation of its social programme, which will benefit the truly vulnerable borrowers who will be rejected by the Estia scheme. Responding to questions at the House, Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said the banks and ministry were examining each individual application submitted for the Estia scheme. All the data is currently being processed. “There was quite a large number of applications. When we have all the data in front of us, then we will proceed with the final stage, which is the social assistance for those who cannot cope, even with the help of Estia,” he said. Petrides said it was too early to say anything.


Asset management companies granted access to the Land Registry Office

Asset management companies will now be able to seek information from the Land Registry Office on properties that are registered to natural or legal entities, just like the banks, if a bill discussed at parliament yesterday is passed. The House Interior Committee heard yesterday that asset management companies will submit an application to the director of the LR Office, asking for data on borrowers’ properties, while providing the reasons why they need the information. In order to be eligible to receive information, the companies must present a certification by the Central Bank of Cyprus, proving that they have been authorised to purchase credit facilities, or have been granted or have acquired (either through purchase or transfer) credit facilities. The bill also provides for an improvement to the proposed restructuring solutions as well as a more effective implementation of the Estia scheme.


1st Cybersecurity – Cyberdefence Hackathon 1.0

The IDEA Innovation Centre, Defence Ministry, Education Ministry, US Embassy in Cyprus and Israeli Embassy are organising the 1st Cybersecurity – Cyberdefence Hackathon 1.0. Its aim is to promote technological and business innovation in the Cybersecurity sector, defence applications, security applications as well as the detection of fake news in social media. The hackathon will take place from 31 January until 2 February, at the IDEA and Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation premises in Nicosia.


Incentives for the market

Cyprus Stock Exchange Chairman Marinos Christodoulides yesterday told Politis radio that the CSE needs support in its efforts to develop the Cypriot stock market, which would also benefit the economy and businesses. He said the CSE was working systematically, implementing a full and growth-based strategic plan. He said efforts are being made to get more businesses listed on the CSE, while adding that its denationalisation was a key development, which would help it become part of an even bigger market. Christodoulides also called for an end to references to the 1999 stock exchange bubble, which happened over 20 years ago, as these are damaging for the CSE.


Returning YKAN investigators bringing back more information

Two YKAN investigators who traveled to Australia to meet with the Australian authorities on the case of 645kg of amphetamines in barbeques that left from the Limassol Port for Sydney are returning to Cyprus today.  They are reportedly expected to attend a new meeting to evaluate the data so far, however, according to an official source, further arrests may follow in the coming days. According to the same source, coordination with the Australian authorities was comprehensive, with YKAN investigators bringing back with them documents and evidence important for further investigation of the case.


Cyprus is in the top 5 of the biggest discoveries of hydrocarbons in 2019

According to the international organization Rystad Energy, 2019 was a record year for natural gas discoveries, company announcements across the globe were the most significant made in the last five years. According to Rystad, last year a total of 26 discoveries were recorded with more than 100 million Boe (equivalent to oil barrels), mostly in offshore areas. Of particular interest, among the top five, are discoveries in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone, in the “Glaucus-1” target, in Block 10, by the American ExxonMobil. Guyana’s success story from 2018 continued in 2019, with ExxonMobil adding four new discoveries within its offshore Stabroek block, while Tullow Oil’s Jethro and Joe exploration wells established the presence of a working petroleum system to the west of the Stabroek block. Rystad Energy estimates that the discoveries in Guyana hold cumulative recoverable resources of around 1.8 billion boe. “ExxonMobil can be declared explorer of the year for a second year in a row thanks to its ongoing efforts and results in Guyana, along with significant investments in Cyprus. The supermajor was exceptional, both in terms of discovered volumes and value creation from exploration,” says Palzor Shenga, a senior analyst on Rystad Energy’s upstream team.


House Energy Committee will be updated on casino construction progress

The House Energy, Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee will be updated today on the progress for the implementation of the deal for the construction of the casino in Limassol. Representatives of the company ICR Cyprus Resort Development Co Limited, will speak at the House Energy Committee today Tuesday 14/1 so as to inform the members on the course of the construction of the casino-resort in Limassol. The MPs will request information with regards to the progress observed in implementing the deal, since according to the main contract, the construction was scheduled to begin in early April 2019 and the project would have been completed by 2021. The works, which are recorded in detail in the main contract, include the construction of all the casino’s facilities, which covers 37 acres, including the central building that will house the main gaming room, world-class restaurants, MICE facilities, luxury shops as well as a spa and indoor pool. It should be noted that the meeting will be attended by the Police Chief, the Director General of the Ministry of Finance, the Director General of the Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry, the Chairman and members of the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Commission, representatives of the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, of the Law Office of the Republic, the Cyprus Hotels Association (PASYXE), the Cyprus Association of Tourist Businesses (STEK) and the company ICR Cyprus Resort Development Co Limited. The City of Dreams Mediterranean will be built in Western Limassol and will be the biggest casino-resort in the wider region and Europe. It will include a central building, a 16-storey hotel with 500 rooms, including suites with sea view and balconies to overlooking the garden, MICE facilities as well as an extensive space with four big outdoor pools, a jacuzzi and a playground. Moreover, it will offer over 100 tables and 1000 state-of-the-art slot machines. The ground floor will also include the main entrance of the hotel, facilities for the personnel, administration offices and an engine room. The resort will offer a wide range of attractions and entertainment options apart from gaming, establishing City of Dream Mediterranean as an important tourist destination. The ground-breaking project, is expected to attract more than 300 thousand tourists every year to Cyprus. The City of Dream Mediterranean, will create about four thousand vacancies during the construction phase and around 2,400 permanent positions after it starts its operation. After its second year of operations, the integrated casino-resort is expected to contribute about €700m each year to the Cyprus economy, an amount that corresponds to about 4% of the country’s annual GDP.




Private hospitals discussing GHS

On Thursday night, the Aretaeio board of directors expressed interest to start negotiations with the HIO, for the second phase of the GHS. The decision was taken by majority, as 29 out of 40 of the hospital’s shareholders supported starting negotiations with the HIO so as to join the GHS. Following PASIN’s decision, Aretaeio will officially express its interest to the HIO when PASIN and the organisation will sign a memorandum of cooperation. However, signing the memorandum will depend on the meeting between the HIO and PASIN on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean private hospital in Limassol, has officially entered discussions regarding its full incorporation to the GHS since last Saturday, and has signed the relevant agreement with the HIO. This hospital is not included in PASIN, is therefore not bound by its decisions. Further developments are expected to take place in the next couple weeks regarding a second large private hospital in Nicosia, while other smaller hospitals-clinics have approached the HIO asking further information about the way negotiations will be taking place, as well as the preparation necessary in order to enter discussions with the organisation. Moreover, Phileleftheros also reports that the HIO has to prepare three separate catalogues for pharmaceuticals and consumables. The first will include outpatient healthcare patients and the consumables covered by the GHS for primary healthcare. Two additional catalogues will be prepared for inpatient care and its consumables. The first inpatient catalogue will include consumables usually used to carry out surgical procedures and its value will be included in the “DRGs” catalogue and will be additionally compensated. The second inpatient catalogue, that the HIO is calling “catalogue Z” will include expensive and specialised medical consumables. This catalogue is expected to result in intense negotiations, as the hospitals’ representatives have already clearly stated their demands.


Intense period for healthcare sector

As above Haravgi reports on PASIN’s negotiations with the HIO. It also reports that there is a difference of opinion between the HIO and the Pharmaceutical Association with regards to the adequacy of medicines. Speaking to Astra yesterday, on behalf of the HIO, Gnosia Achniotou said that there will not be an expiration date as it comes to medicine shortages. She underlined that the patients will not be at risk, since the HIO is in constant communication with the Ministry of Health and the gaps are being covered. Mrs Achniotou said that where there is a shortage and the specific drug is unique, then the HIO in cooperation with the Ministry of Health proceeds to importing it from abroad. On its part, the head of the pharmacists’ association, Eleni Piera stressed that theoretically, there will not be a problem but in practice, drugs that are also found in small volumes must also be considered to be in shortage. Mrs Piera called on the HIO to implement an emergency legislation since the most important thing is to have an adequate number of drugs on the market. As she said many drugs were in shortage and were still on the shelves of the public hospitals, until they were provided to the pharmacies for distribution. “As we still are faced with a stalemate in state processes, the problem has still not been solved and they are still on the shelves, risking expiration”. She added that the most important aspect is that pharmacists are now able to sell medicines that are available and not necessarily the cheapest option and this has somewhat alleviated the problem.




PASYKI and PASYNO demand collective agreements

State doctors’ union (PASYKI) and the nurses’ union (PASYNO), are yet again bringing back their demand to establish collective agreements in the healthcare sector. PASYNO has already tabled the matter for discussion with the State Health Services Organisation. Specifically, as the union’s spokesman Theodoros Petelis said, the matters that are still pending for them, include the serious issue of establishing collective agreements for their colleagues that have just been hired to the Organisation on a contract basis. “Certainly”, he added, “we know that the law and the relevant regulations entail provisions for the scale, the evaluation, and generally their employment framework, but these are personal contracts and not something common”. He explained that the union is demanding the establishment of collective agreement, something that they have already discussed with OKYPY and they are still waiting for a reply on when discussion on this matter will begin. On its part, the chairman of PASYKI Sotiris Koumas told Phileleftheros on the same matter, that the Union before the creation of the State Health Services Organisation was clearly stating and claiming their demand for the establishment of a collective agreement. “This demand was supported and accepted by the former president of OKYPY as well as the Minister himself. At PASYKI, we believe that the collective agreement will ensure our new colleagues and will not create a two-speed system for doctors. For example, we have recently identified that the contracts did not guarantee their overtime payment, something that was fixed later; but there are other things that need to be guaranteed such as annual leave etc”. The two unions as well as the remaining unions for employees working in public hospitals are waiting on a reply by OKYPY on a series of matters for the staffing of hospitals with nurse personnel and caregivers. Mr Petelis explained that the union had its third meeting with OKYPY last Thursday, and that they discussed this matter but were informed that the study will be delayed a few more days as a change in the Organisation’s leadership as well as the imminent increase of the needs of the Larnaca hospital, changed the situation, we believe that by the end of the month, we will be able to complete this cycle of discussion for the staffing and the ratio of nurses to caregivers. “Up until this moment, the dialogue was put forward in a satisfactory framework and we are happy, even if we keep saying that we have delayed significantly. This issue needs to close, so that we can meet the deadline for the full autonomisation of the hospitals and the start of the GHS’ second phase.


Persons with autism at mental institutions and retirement homes

Haravgi reports that the government appears to be incapable to create the appropriate services for people with autism, and these people end up at mental institutions or retirement homes. This problem concerns adults with autism, as families who are unable to care for their relatives, didn’t hide their anxiety about this practice, which as the paper reports is unacceptable and insulting to our society.


Children conceived from frozen embryos at increased risk for certain cancers

When frozen embryos are used during in vitro fertilization (IVF), the resulting children have a slightly higher risk than other kids for certain types of cancer, evidence from Denmark suggests. Analysing health records of more than a million Danish children, researchers found that babies conceived through assisted reproduction involving frozen embryo transfer were more than twice as likely to develop childhood cancer, particularly leukaemia and neuroblastoma, a type of brain cancer, according to the report in JAMA. “We did not find increased risks with other types of fertility treatments,” said study leader Marie Hargreave of The Danish Cancer Society Research Centre, in Cophenhagen. Hargreave called for more research to validate her group’s findings. Moreover, “it is important to stress the fact that the increased risk is very small for the individual as childhood cancer is very rare,” she said in an email.


FLASH radiotherapy will be available in 5-10 years

Cancer patients may one day be able to get their entire course of radiation therapy in less than a second rather than coming in for treatment over the course of several weeks, and researchers in the Abramson Cancer Centre of the University of Pennsylvania have taken the first steps toward making it a reality. In a new report published today in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics, researchers detail how they used proton radiation to generate the dosage needed to theoretically give a cancer patient their entire course of radiotherapy in one rapid treatment. It’s known as FLASH radiotherapy, and it’s an experimental paradigm that could represent a sea change for the world of oncology in the future. In this study, researchers also found FLASH demonstrated the same effect on tumours as traditional photon radiation while sparing healthy tissue due to the shorter exposure time.  “This is the first time anyone has published findings that demonstrate the feasibility of using protons — rather than electrons — to generate FLASH doses, with an accelerator currently used for clinical treatments,” said the study’s co-senior author James M. Metz, MD, director of the Roberts Proton Therapy Centre and chair of Radiation Oncology. The co-senior authors on the study are Constantinos Koumenis, PhD, the Richard H. Chamberlain Professor of Research Oncology, and Keith A. Cengel, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology, both in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Metz noted that other research teams have generated similar doses using electrons, which do not penetrate deep enough into the body to be clinically useful as a cancer treatment for internal tumours. Other groups have tried the approach with conventional photons, but currently available treatment devices do not have the ability to generate the necessary dosage. This study shows, that with technical modifications, the currently available accelerators for protons can achieve FLASH doses with the biologic effects today. The key for the Penn team was the ability to generate the dose with protons, and even in that setting, researchers had to specially develop the tools needed to effectively and accurately measure radiation doses, since the standard detectors were quickly saturated due to the high levels of radiation. The Roberts Proton Therapy Centre includes a dedicated research room to run experiments like these, allowing investigators to use photon and proton radiation side-by-side just feet from the clinic. It’s one of the few facilities in the world with those unique features, and Metz said this infrastructure is what made Penn’s FLASH experiments possible.


Company in Cyprus gives incentives to those who quit smoking

Exclusive Capital, with headquarters in Limassol, wants its employees to be both healthy and satisfied, so that they’re able to attain their full potential. To this end, the company has offered incentives to its employees, thereby being pioneers in Cyprus. The company’s executives wanted to contribute to the reduction of smoking, so they have decided to give 5 extra days of paid annual leave to employees who would avoid smoking during work hours or quit smoking altogether. In addition, employees who were smokers were given a smoke-free device as an alternative to smoking. This decision was based on findings that smokers are more susceptible to diseases such as heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, etc. Exclusive Capital said that investing in the physical and mental wellbeing of its employees is one of its top priorities.

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