What loan demand was like and what bankers are expecting
There was a small recovery in the demand for loans in the third quarter of 2019, according to data released by the Central Bank yesterday, even though the lending criteria have not changed. Net loan demand by Cyprus businesses recorded a slight decrease, which according to bankers who participated at random in a relevant survey, is due to temporary idiosyncratic factors that are not expected to continue. Demand for household loans remained unchanged compared with the previous quarter. Bankers anticipate that demand for loans by businesses will have recorded an increase in the fourth quarter of 2019, due to the strong but slowing economic growth rate and historically low lending rates. Net demand by households is expected to stay the same as in the third quarter.
Problem with Estia documents
Financial Ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou has found that state asset management company KEDIPES has been circumveting a specific term included in the memorandum of understanding that was signed between the government and the banks regarding the Estia scheme. In an announcement, Ioannou said that the MoU provides that in the cases where the total sum of the NPE proves to be wrong following the completion of the restructuring process, in line with a court or other authority’s ruling, and provided that the participating bank has accepted the binding nature of the ruling, then any difference that arises will reduce the sum of the restructured loan in the following order: a) the restructured frozen loan, b) the restructured remaining loan and c) the restructured primary residence loan. “Unfortunately, a circumvention of the above term has been observed in documents by KEDIPES, which were signed by beneficiaries of the specific Scheme or beneficiaries of the Scheme are being urged to sign the restructuring agreement, before this is sent to the Labour Ministry,” he said.
Financial Ombudsman: Cancellation of foreclosure
Financial Ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou intervened and managed to get another foreclosure of a primary residence cancelled. According to an announcement by his office, the foreclosure of the property, in Paphos, had been scheduled to take place on 20 January. He said the cancellation was achieved because the owner had submitted an application for the Estia scheme at the last minute, on 31 December 2019, and therefore there was no reason for the process to go ahead as her application is under examination. Ioannou thanked the deputy CEO of Bank of Cyprus, Charis Pouangare, and his associates for taking swift action to ensure the foreclosure was cancelled. He said this action by the bank “is fully in line with the expressed provisions of the Estia scheme and the relevant announcements by the government”.
Judgement day at the Institutions Committee
It is judgement day for the House Institutions Committee today, with the MPs who truly seek to ensure transparency and those who are only doing it for show are expected to be revealed, Politis reports. The committee last convened on 5 December, with two MPs waiting for today’s session to raise the issue of seeking the data from the Central Bank governor on NPLs held by politically exposed persons (PEPs). The governor has expressed his willingness to provide the list, but he has to receive a written request by the Institutions Committee first. Main opposition AKEL MP Irene Charalambidou and Green Party MP Yiorgos Perdikes are expected to submit a request for the governor to be invited to give clarifications on the list. The paper says it remains to be seen how their colleagues will react.
Properties worth millions up for foreclosure
Properties worth many millions are about to be put to auction by the banks, in their effort to recover debts. The foreclosures list for January and February includes homes of significant value, such as a 1,164 square metre property in Limassol, which Bank of Cyprus is foreclosing with a reserve price of €3,856,000. Gordian Holdings is foreclosing a 4,104 square metre land plot with six carob trees and a two-story house at the reserve price of €1,610,000. The most expensive property up for auction is a seven-storey building in Limassol, spanning 1,650 square metres, with a reserve price of €4m. Altamira is also auctioning off a land plot in Limassol, with a reserve price of €1,482,000.
Bank of Cyprus ruling in March
The Nicosia Permanent Assizes Court will announce its ruling on the first instance objection raised by the defence in the 3rd Bank of Cyprus criminal case citing abuse of the judicial process, on 19 March. The case is about the reclassification of BoC bonds.
They’ve turned the Lagarde list “treasure” into coal
Just €10m of the €35m pinpointed in the infamous (Christine) Lagarde list have been recovered by the Tax Department. The Lagarde list, which concerns large deposits at HSBC bank in Geneva with links to Cyprus, has been downplayed by the Nicos Anastasiades government from the start, Haravgi reports. The list had been officially requested by Cyprus during the previous administration. However, since Anastasiades’ appointment in 2013 the matter remained stagnant. The government finally proceeded with investigating the list following pressure by main opposition AKEL, and in 2015 it was found that 490 legal and natural entities on the list had links to Cyprus. In 2016 it was announced that tax totalling €35m had been imposed on 88 individuals connected to 85 accounts. However, the House Institutions Committee yesterday heard that just €10m – or 28.6% – has been collected. The paper notes that former Finance Minister Harris Georgiades had clarified that the €35m only concerned the tax year 2003, and that more discrepancies might possibly be found for the following years. However, nothing has been done about it.
Cruise ships driven away from the Limassol Port
According to an article in Phileleftheros, cruise ships requesting service access to the Limassol Port are turned away because DP World only serves two cruise ships a day as opposed to the Port Authority that used to serve up to seven cruise ships per day. According to the article, while the Deputy Minister of Tourism and the government are promoting plans to increase cruise tourism, the managing company of the cruise and passenger terminal at Limassol Port is turning down requests for cruise ship service. This has come to the attention of the Ministry of Transport as the contracting and supervisory authority which according to Phileleftheros’ sources has limited authority to intervene in the matter. The recent case that brought the complaints forward was related to the refusal of DP World to accept two cruise ship visits, not during the peak season, but in November 2021. In relation to this particular incident, a specific complaint was filed by the Hull Blyth Araouzos Ltd shipping agency which according to Phileleftheros’ information, related to turning down the request of Island Princess cruise ship to be served at the Limassol Port on the 7th and 21st of November 2021. The reason given is that the Limassol Port believes it is unable to serve more than two cruise ships at the same time, something that raises questions, since the port with the same facilities, used to be able to accept six and even more cruise ships at the same time when it was under the management of the Port Authority. In fact, the state-of-the-art passenger terminal that has recently been completed by the Port Authority and delivered to DP World was not even available at the time, the article states. It is noted that cruise ships remain at the port to receive services for a period of about eight hours during daytime and then they depart. It is further noted that other cruise ship cancellations preceded this case for the same reason. It is also pointed out that last July, DP World denied receiving and servicing the Celestyal Crystal cruise ship at the Limassol Port on a specific date on grounds that it would be serving two more cruise ships at the same time. Phileleftheros attempted to speak with DP World so as to get a comment and/or explanation on the limitations that determined its policies for up to two cruise ships each day, but the company reserved its right to comment at a later stage. The article also goes on to report on a serious case of a unknown number of passengers that disembarked a cruise ship from the Limassol port to visit the city and never came back, probably leaving the country by plane. The authorities have been investigating this case over the past few weeks. According to Phileleftheros’ sources, even if the matter has been classified as top secret, the procedures followed at the Limassol port as it comes to the disembarkation of passengers have been set under the microscope. Normally, outbound passengers should receive a special exit and entry card at the port, while their passports should be retained. The same sources report that recently, there was a meeting of all involved services, aiming to make these procedures obligatory, since in this specific case a special investigation and time was needed to ascertain the number and nationality of the passengers that didn’t return to the ship, as well as if they remained in Cyprus and for how long as well as to where and how they left Cyprus.
Security cameras checked at the port
Politis reports that the owners of the so-called spy van, Tal Dilian and Shahak Avraham Avni, remain in Israel since they cannot be issued in a third country. International arrest warrants against them are in effect while investigations on their activities are ongoing. According to Politis information, investigations extend to the Limassol Port as well, where Avni Sahak’s company has allegedly installed a security camera system. Additionally, Politis’ information indicates that the NCIS company has installed the security system by placing cameras in the passenger terminal of the port of Larnaca. The company, according to the information, was selected in a closed-door competition and the procedures that were followed will be examined. According to the same Politis’ sources, the system’s installation as such, does not mean there was also illegal activity. However, due to the company’s involvement in the case that started to unfold with the spy van, this aspect will also be considered. It will also be checked if the company or other affiliate had installed any wifi antennas as was the case at the Larnaca Airport. In the meantime, Hermes in an announcement yesterday, explained the circumstances and noted that it had never asked, nor was the company WiSpear authorised by Hermes Airports to undertake any project at the airports. The company reiterated that in July 2019 three antennas were placed on a trial basis at the parking lot of the Larnaca airport by the GoNetwork, which was found to be related to affiliated with NCIS of Avni Sahak. However, there were problems and the system according to Hermes never worked.
Works for Fishing Village completed in Kato Paphos
The works for the creation of the Fishing Village in the centre of Kato Paphos have been completed, and the plan is to open it up to the public next month. What remains for the revelation of the project, is the placement of street furniture, something that is expected to take place within the next few days. The completion of the works in the traditional centre of Kato Paphos, also had an unexpected consequence: it revealed a series of irregularities that have now been removed from the crews of the Paphos Municipality. At the same time, in this traditional residential centre, most of the plots were divided with temporary buildings or walls that have been demolished in the context of the revamp, pushing the Municipality to proceed to the proper demarcation of the properties. The cost of the revamp and beautification of the area amounts to 700 thousand euros and will include, among other things, the radical improvement of the road network and more generally the beautification and provision of different facilities in the wider area.
Casino-resort to be launched before the end of 2021
Based on the current status quo, the casino-resort is expected to open by the end of 2021, the Chairman of the Cyprus Gaming and Casino Supervision Commission told Kanali 6. According to Mr Mavrellis, the temporary casino and the satellite casinos have taken on 760 employees, while in the next few months the company will start submitting applications to the Commission for the approval of employees who will be recruited to the Casino-resort once it starts its operations, which will be over 1200. The Commission has so far been getting reports on insignificant individual problems. As it comes to matters affecting the social fabric, Mr Mavrellis said that they haven’t been identified yet. However, he didn’t rule out that potentially there were incidents where this was the case, highlighting that we mustn’t ignore that illegal casinos had been operating and may still operate in Cyprus, while there are many illegal casinos in the occupied areas.
We learned when the Paphos casino will open!
Works for the completion of the C2 Paphos satellite casino are at an advanced stage, and it is expected to officially open its doors to the public in early March. C2 Paphos will be located in the much-visited tourist area of Yeroskipou, on the main coastal street (at the end of the Thea Afrodite Avenue), while the building takes up an area of 550 square metres. It will have around 50 state-of-the-art gaming machines, in accordance with the relevant legislation, as well as the popular bar Columbia. C2 Paphos will have more than 25 parking spaces. The vacancies that opened at the C2 Paphos are for Gaming Machine Attendants, Cashiers and Security Guards. The people that have been hired or will be hired as Gaming Machine Attendants, will attend Melco’s renowned training programme, an intensive two-month course that includes both theoretical education as well as practical training. Following the completion of the training programme, the staff will start working at the satellite casino. The C2 casinos operate in accordance with the Cypriot legislation and the relevant regulations, according to Melco’s commitment to higher standards of service, quality and responsible gaming.
Next steps for casino tender
The tender process for the casino license in Hellinikon will proceed with only one candidate, the Mohegan-GEK TERNA consortium. The Gaming Comission took the final decision, excluding the American Hard Rock from the competition, due to the problems in its offer as it came to the legal documents. As a result, the only candidate for the completion of the project is now Mohegan and GEK TERNA, whose folder was approved as being complete. The Commission will meet another time for procedural purposes so as to approve the unexpurgated version of the minutes of yesterday’s decision, which will be shared with both the candidates of the tender competition. Subsequently, Hard Rock International will have 10 days to appeal the decision to the Authority for the hearinng of pre-judicial objections (AEPP). It should be considered as certain that Hard Rock will file an appeal with AEPP, as should the the company’s assumption of interim measures to freeze the tender process. The AEPP decision is expected to issue a decision within two months, and if it doesn’t get justice it will appeal to the Supreme Court. In this case, the legislators support that they cannot exercise new interim measures to freeze the tender process and as such, the Gaming Commission will be able to proceed to the second phase of the competition.
Medicines with “delivery” in Kato Pyrgos
Kato Pyrgos community leader Nicos Cleanthous discusses the lack of access to medicines and lack of pharmacist in the area which has been troubling residents of the area for a while and still remains unresolved. According to Mr Cleanthous, despite all of OKYPY (state health services) and Health Minister’s promises, the pharmacist position has been vacant since last September, so there is no local private pharmacy for the residents. Until now, locals got their medicines from a community health centre, when a pharmacist came in twice a week. However, the pharmacist hasn’t shown up in a couple of weeks, so residents had to send their booklets to Paphos and receive the medicines through a nurse at the local health centre or even by bus. It’s worth noting that most of the residents are older people with varying mobility problems. Beyond the pharmacy not operating on a daily basis and not having a permanent pharmacist, a large quantity of medicines has expired resulting in great financial loss. OKYPY spokesperson Charalambos Charilaou says that the organisation has carried out all necessary procedures, but was unsuccessful because they haven’t found a pharmacist who wants to relocate there and everybody has refused their proposals.
Row over the €70m demanded by the clinics
On the topic above, Phileleftheros reports that the issue provoked a strong reaction from parties DIKO and EDEK. DIKO warned in an announcement that health expenditure was skyrocketing at an alarming rate, while EDEK wondered whether the state had the right to guarantee the viability of private hospitals, based on its European obligations. DIKO said that the government was “changing the philosophy of the GHS” by “guaranteeing the deficits of private hospitals”, while EDEK wondered whether the government had sought the approval of the EU before deciding to provide state guarantees, as state sponsorships to private entities are banned by the EU. In statements to Phileleftheros, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou clarified: “These are not state guarantees, but a guarantee of the financial obligations emanating from the Memorandum of Understanding that was prepared by the Health Insurance Organisation and which is expected to be signed by the organisation and the Cyprus Association of Private Hospitals.” He added, “The state has not under any circumstances decided to cover possible deficits of the private hospitals” but instead “we are ensuring that if and when deficits arise in the existing budget for inpatient care in the GHS, the Health Ministry will be able to cover them”. Meanwhile, the paper reports that even though the signing of the MoU is still pending, the HIO and private hospitals’ association PASIN have been meeting over the past few days, with the latter expressing informally its interest in joining the GHS. Phileleftheros’ sources say that besides the two private hospitals in Limassol (Mediterranean and Germany Oncology Centre), the HIO has also been approached by and had meetings with other big private hospitals in all the districts, as well as smaller clinics which wish to join the system. In fact, one Limassol clinic has already launched procedures to extend its services and incorporate doctors of various specialties ahead of the full implementation of the GHS on 1 June. Also, today, PASIN will be visiting the HIO to discuss the three-page document of questions it submitted on seven different subject categories involving the financial aspect of the private hospitals’ cooperation with the HIO. The meeting is considered important as its outcome will pave the way for the MoU to be signed, or not.
PASYKI and PASYNO insist on collective agreements
State doctors’ union PASYKI and state nurses’ union PASYNO are insisting on their demand for the establishment of collective agreements for new recruits at the State Health Services Organisation (OKYPY). Further, the two unions have officially tabled their request for the establishment of a Provident Fund by OKYPY for discussion, invoking the law governing the organisation’s operation. Regarding the collective agreements, PASYKI president Soteris Koumas said that the union was awaiting OKYPY’s actions on the matter, while regarding the Provident Fund, he said that this would concern new recruits at the public hospitals who are not covered by any pension scheme. PASYNO spokesman Theodoros Petelis said the need to establish a collective agreement has arisen from the fact that both personal contracts signed by new recruits as well as the relevant Regulations “contain loopholes that must be covered to protect the workers’ rights”. He said OKYPY must enter a dialogue to discuss these issues and cover these loopholes. Commenting on the two unions’ demands, OKYPY press spokesman Charalambos Charilaou said that there was indeed a provision in the law for a Provident Fund, but that OKYPY currently has “more burning issues” to deal with, which are deemed more important. As for the collective agreements, he said that from the moment that the workers’ contracts can cover all the matters pertaining to their employment regime as well as any benefits, then there is no need for a collective agreement.
Electrochemotherapy since 15 years ago
On the occasion of articles “advertising a new method of cancer treatment”, the Cyprus Oncology Society issued a statement yesterday, stating that “Electrochemotherapy is not a new cancer treatment, while it’s known and has been practiced for at least 15 years now”. It also says that “this is not a revolutionary treatment as it only provides relief, and it is used in cases where the possibilities of treatment with internationally established methods are exhausted and its indications are limited to skin carcinomas, primary or metastatic”. It is worth noting, that the vast majority of international organisations issuing guidelines has not adopted it.
Mediterranean Hospital and HIO sign for the second phase of the GHS
Following an MoU signed with the HIO last April, the Mediterranean Hospital of Cyprus submitted expressed interest to the Health Insurance Organisation initiating consultations in order to enter the second phase of the GHS. The Mediterranean Hospital of Cyprus is the first private hospital to sign for the second phase of the GHS, reaffirming its active participation in the state’s health system, aiming to provide in-patient care services to all citizens.
Is smoking in the car prohibited after all?
Many people, whether it’s the car’s driver or the passengers, smoke inside their cars. In fact, in Cyprus there is a relevant smoking regulation for both smoking while driving as well as for smoking in cars. The police states that smoking is prohibited for all passengers in any vehicles that transport children under the age of 16. In public transportation (e.g. taxi or bus), smoking is prohibited entirely. On the other hand, if the police identify a driver smoking in a private vehicle, they may be charged for driving without having free hands.
Store opening hours through decrees
The House Labour Committee is discussing about reinstating the decrees regulating the opening hours of stores in the Minister of Labour, as MPs are hoping that the Government will touch on the issue of stores being open on Sunday. However, the Government has no such intention, while it’s considering the advantages of defining the whole of Cyprus as a tourist region. At least, the House’s decision corrects its unconstitutional provision, without expecting anything more, seven years after retail shops were given the opportunity to decide when to open and when to close.