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Daily Press Review – 16/12/2019

Pressure on growth

Hellenic Bank presented the new composite leading economic index. The Cyprus Composite Leading Economic Index (CCLEI) based on the Aruoba, Diebold, and Scotti (ADS) (2009) model approach (CCLEI_ADS), exhibited a year-on-year decrease of 0.71% in October 2019, following decreases of 0.69% in September, and 0.66% in August, signalling downward pressures on economic growth. The downward pressures on the CCLEI is mainly due to a reduction in the Euro Area Economic Sentiment Indicator. This reflects the deterioration of the international economic environment due to, among others, trade conflicts and the prolonged uncertainty over the Brexit process. In contrast, the decline in oil prices as well as the positive performance of domestic indicators, in particular, retail sales volume, credit card transactions and tourist arrivals, have contributed to a smoother reduction of the Index. In summary, recent downward trends in the CCLEI are due to the deteriorating external environment. The negative developments in the external environment, however, in conjunction with the positive performance of domestic variables, are in line with the forecasts of international and domestic organizations for the Cypriot. The index that is designed to provide early signals of turning points in business cycles i.e., early evidence of the turns in economic activity. This index comprises of a number of leading economic activity variables which tend to lead changes in the overall economic activity. The CCLEI is the combination of multiple leading indicators which have been carefully selected from a large number of international and local variables. Currently, the components are the Brent Crude Oil price, the Euro Area Economic Sentiment Indicator, the tourists’ arrivals, the value of visa card transactions, the retail trade sales turnover volume index, the volume index of electricity production, and the number of authorised building permits. The leading properties of these variables will be assessed on a regular basis.

 

Hellenic: Familiarising its customers with its digital channels

For the first time ever, a Cypriot bank (Hellenic Bank) has taken the initiative to educate its customers on how to carry out transactions on its Web Banking, Mobile App and ATMs. At a time when the nature of banking products and services is changing due to their digital transformation, the banks are called upon to take initiatives and guide their customers on how to use their digital channels. The aim is for their customers to adjust to the new state of affairs the soonest possible. Without a doubt, the digital transformation has created a big divide between members of the public who are technologically aware and those who are not, mainly the elderly. Setting the reduction of this divide as a priority, Hellenic Bank is planning a series of actions. The aim is to familiarise its customers with all of its digital channels and tools, for their better and swifter service. It has already organised its first educational afternoon at branches in Nicosia and Limassol. Those who attended were updated by the bank’s staff on how to use Web Banking, Mobile App and ATMs, while other training programmes will be held in all the towns.

 

Labour disputes in the banking sector gradually being resolved

Labour disputes in the banking sector are gradually being resolved, with bank employees’ union ETYK announcing on Friday positive developments concerning Bank of Cyprus, Astrobank and cdbbank. Regarding BoC, the two sides reached an agreement on the proposal to renew their collective agreement. In an announcement, the union said there was a spirit of goodwill and cooperation by the bank’s new management, and it expressed hope that “this is a new beginning for the long term”. The proposal for the collective agreement’s renewal is for three years (2018-2020) and it includes an innovation, which will mostly benefit employees who earn less than €2,500. Specifically, it was agreed that all employees will be granted a €115 pay rise for every month of 2019 and another €115 for every month of 2020. For 2018, annual increments have already been granted. It is clarified that “this regulation does not cancel the existing salary scales and the increase will be within the scales that were agreed with ETYK and which each employee is categorised based on their rank”, ETYK said.  The benefit for lower earners will be immediate (€230) and much bigger in the long term. As for Astrobank, ETYK said that the renewal of the 2019-2021 collective agreement was agreed, and that all the existing agreements were reaffirmed while both sides confirmed their dedication to maintaining the Industrial Relations Code. Among other, the agreement provides for an increase in the housing loan employees can take out, from €130,000 to €150,000. Regarding cdbbank, ETYK said the bank’s management informed the union that it will proceed “immediately to uphold its contractual and legal obligations by granting annual increments and the Cost of Living Allowance retroactively from 01.01.2019, as per the relevant agreements”. Haravgi notes that the remaining open fronts for ETYK are with Hellenic Bank and KEDIPES. However, these latest developments may now help bridge the differences.

 

Mentor of SMEs

The EBRD has so far offered advisory services to over 200 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that are active in various economic sectors. The head of the EBRD’s Financing and Development of SMEs unit, Nadejda Mustea, tells Politis newspaper about the programmes the organisation offers, the benefits the businesses have by participating in them, while she also comments on the paradox of the lack of access to financing when the banks have excess liquidity. On the latter, Mustea says this is a common phenomenon in the countries where the EBRD is active. “Financing is very important for growth; however, successful businesses stand out when the management has the vision and ability to share out and assign responsibilities and operations, including those that concern external professional advisors,” she said.

 

Supervisory shadows by ESMA

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has spotted serious inadequacies in the supervision that the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) exercises over legal entities that are under its supervision, according to a recent report it has issued. Based on the report, Cyprus is seriously lacking when it comes to supervision to spot suspicious transactions, as well as when it comes to the poor quality of referrals when suspicious transactions are spotted. It has also failed in regards to fining the legal entities that are found not to follow the legal procedures.  In fact, based on the report’s findings in the six rating categories, Cyprus failed in two. It is noted that Cyprus is the only EU country to fail in two categories, which have to do with failure to comply with the European regulations that are set by ESMA. Specifically, Cyprus was found to have partial-compliance in two categories, non-compliance in two and broad compliance in two.

 

ETYK backs down on the issue of increments

On the agreement reached between Bank of Cyprus and union ETYK on the collective agreement, Kathimerini Economy reports that this is the first time in ETYK’s history that it appears to have backed down on the renewal of its collective agreement with the bank. While it had initially insisted on the concession of increments for all employees, it has eventually agreed to a reduced pay rise, compared with the horizontal rises it had been demanding. The dispute between the two sides had been ongoing since 2017. The paper also reports that even though there has been no agreement with Hellenic Bank over the renewal of its collective agreement, the bank proceeded in early October to announce that it would be granting a 2% pay rise to all of its employees, while they would receive even more depending on their performance and profession, compared with the salaries that are paid in the market. According to HB’s calculations, each employee would receive on average a 4.4% pay rise, with a total cost for the bank of €4.7m. The employees received their pay rises retroactively in October. It may have not reached an agreement with ETYK, however the bank’s chosen method is costlier, by around €1m a year. According to ETYK’s demands, all employees would have received a horizontal pay rise of 3.8%. The bank also set a minimum wage of €1,300, which benefited around 300 employees. The question now is what ETYK’s stance will be against HB, especially following the latter’s very generous concessions.

 

It has changed its tune

ETYK has changed its tune, Kathimerini Economy comments. Even though it had reached agreement on the renewal of all the banks’ collective agreements, two were missing; those of Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank. But the two latter have an 85% market share. On Friday it reached agreement with BoC, and even though it refused to even discuss anything other than a horizontal pay rise and without reductions, it eventually conceded to both. It had to go with the flow of the times, says the paper. But to be fair, BoC also backed down, as it also refused to discuss horizontal pay rises and eventually gave in.

 

Great concern over its failure

With three weeks to go for the deadline to expire for applications to Estia, the number of applications so far has reached 1,600 and is considered disappointing. According to the latest data, of the 1,588 applications that have been submitted, just four out of 10 are fully completed, while the total number of applications has increased by 318 compared with two weeks ago. It is estimated that around half of the NPLs eligible for the scheme come from the island’s banking system, mainly BoC and HB as well as the Housing Finance Corporation. Even though BoC has €830m of the eligible loans, these represent just 6% of its gross loans. The bank has received applications for €120m’s worth of its NPLs, or 14% of its initial estimations. HB, which has €290m’s worth of eligible loans (or 4% of its gross loans), has received 100 applications, representing 8% of the eligible borrowers.

 

The plan has failed

The ambitious plan by Atlas Merchant Capital, which we became acquainted with when it was one of the suitors for the ‘good’ Co-op and a potential shareholder in Hellenic, to create a 100% digital bank in Greece appears to have failed before it has even started. Greek media reports claim that the initial capital of Praxia Bank has been used up and they are now seeking a way out.

 

65 years of Phileleftheros: Ready for battle, with a new state of affairs (2015-2019)

The Phileleftheros publishing group is celebrating its 65th anniversary. It takes a look back over the years. Presenting its front pages in an extensive feature, they include among other the shuttering of the Cyprus Co-operative Bank and the concession of its ‘good’ assets to HB, five years after the haircut on Laiki and BoC, and the closure of Laiki.

 

E-auctions are an effective measure

The head of the Association of Cyprus Banks, Michalis Kronides, tells Kathimerini in an interview that e-auctions are a step in the right direction for the banks, adding that the measure is expected to make it easier for the banks to recover debts. As for the Estia scheme, Kronides says that in order for there to be a correct analysis of whether it was a success or not, we will have to wait for the procedure of submitting applications to wrap. He said there was possibly a number of Estia beneficiaries who did not show an interest, either because they did not want to arrange a settlement of their debts, or because they want to conceal or not declare their real assets and income.

 

Alternative investment solutions

At a time when deposit rates are on a downward spiral, many depositors are opting to invest part of their money in alternative investment solutions, so as to increase their returns on their capital. Bank of Cyprus, through BOC Asset Management, which is a 100% subsidiary of the bank, is offering UCITS products and services to cover all types of investment needs.

 

Diminishing at the banks

Total employment in the third quarter of 2019 increased by 3% year-on-year. The biggest increases were recorded in the sectors of the Arts, Entertainment, Constructions, Professional, Scientific and Technical Services, and Information and Communication. On the contrary, there has been a reduction in the banking and insurance sectors. The banks are getting rid of people, Kathimerini comments.

 

Final beneficiary business register

A delegation of bankers and representatives of the banking sector visited Brussels recently to relay to the relevant institutions the progress the local banking system has made in reducing NPLs and combatting money-laundering. The EU recommended Cyprus creates a final beneficiary business register, which is provided in a relevant EU directive and relates to the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing. Cyprus has yet to harmonise with the 5th Directive however, which is something it is trying not to publicise, but Politis comments that it is something that cannot be avoided.

 

Positive assessment for Cyprus by the OECD

Cyprus has complied with its commitments to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as regards the exchange of information with other member-states on tax issues. The Republic has made progress when it comes to the common reference template for the exchange of information and tax transparency, which is under the auspices of the OECD’s Global Forum. Specifically, the OECD assessed Cyprus as ‘broadly compliant’, reversing its negative assessment of 2015, when it was assessed as ‘non-compliant’.

 

Not even 1% of expenditure was cut

It appears there was much ado about nothing, when it comes to the amendments the parties approved when passing the 2020 state budget. According to Phileleftheros’ sources, not even 1% of the expenditure was cut (€10m of the €9.4b). It is reminded that the majority of parties cut the funds earmarked for privatisations, excluding those for the development of Larnaca port and marina, the development of the Troodos area, the Cyprus Stock Exchange as well as the Solidarity Fund, all of which have been committed. They also reduced expenditure for operational costs and staff training, conferences and seminars by 5%.

 

Businesses, corruption and chaos

Cyprus businesses consider corruption as the biggest obstacle they have to face, at a much higher percentage than the EU average. According to a Eurobarometer, Cyprus businesses said the biggest problems they have to face are the lack of means to recover debts, the complex procedures, insufficient infrastructure and favouritism/nepotism. They also said that corruption in Cyprus is a hobby of the rich and those who have direct access to the system (including via the political parties) and less so through bribery of public officials.

 

New financial injection for Turkey in the works

Brussels may have reaffirmed its conclusions about sanctions against Turkey for its provocative behaviour, however the European Commission is also in the process of discussing a new package of financial support to Ankara worth billions of euros, relating to the migratory flows in Europe. The concession of a third package to the country was discussed during a recent visit by the EC’s vice president Margaritis Schinas and Commissioner Ylva Johansson to Ankara.

 

Borrowers one step closer to primary residence foreclosure New moves to manage red loans

The Housing Finance Corporation (HFC) is preparing to open tenders in the next few days for a platform to manage its NPLs, in a bid to curb its increasing number of problematic loans that do not fall under the Estia scheme. This means, however, that borrowers who still cannot restructure their loans are being pushed closer to having their homes foreclosed. “This is not the best news for borrowers, of course,” said economist Marios Ieropoulos. “They will have to deal with experts on matters of debt restructuring, but ok… it is an effort; it is the final measure before foreclosure; an effort for them to save their primary residence through restructuring. Otherwise, unfortunately they will have to go down the difficult road of foreclosure.” According to the Cyprus News Agency, the HFC’s total NPLs total €295m, comprising around 33% of its total loans. Of those, €200m are eligible for the Estia scheme. “(The setting up of a platform) is something that began in 2014 and which has been followed by the big banks, Hellenic Bank with APS, Bank of Cyprus with Pepper, the former Co-op and now KEDIPES with Altamira, National Bank with Corral klp. The situation has reached its limit; something needed to happen,” said Ieropoulos. (Also reported in Phileleftheros, Politis and Haravgi, but without reference to Hellenic Bank, and without including Marios Ieropoulos’ statements)

 

Time zero for corruption – Political leaders to give answers

The leaders of the eight political parties will be called to answer questions by the public relating to corruption in Cyprus, at an event organised tonight by NGO Cyprus Integrity Forum. The event will take place at 6pm at the Hellenic Bank administration building, in the presence of the Attorney-general, Justice Minister, Police Chief and Auditor-general. The event will be addressed by CIF president Marios Skandalis among other. It will include a panel discussion with the eight party leaders (DISY’s Averof Neophytou, AKEL’s Andros Kyprianou, DIKO’s Nicholas Papadoupolos, EDEK’s Marinos Sizopoulos, Green Party’s Yiorgos Perdikis, ELAM’s Christos Christou, Solidarity Movement’s Eleni Theocharous and Citizens Alliance’s Yiorgos Lillikas). The public will get the chance to ask the party leaders questions. Entry is free.

 

E-auctions premiere on Wednesday

The launch of e-auctions on Wednesday, 18 December, has created expectations among the banks for swifter and more effective foreclosure procedures. The first auctions will begin at 10am by Gordian Holdings and mainly concern farming plots in Nicosia, Larnaca, Famagusta and Paphos, as well as land plots in Nicosia, Paphos and Limassol. So far, 30 e-auctions have been uploaded to the platform. Based on the latest available data, hundreds of properties have been foreclosed so far, of the thousands for which foreclosure procedures have been launched. Specifically, just 444 properties have been auctioned off (or 4.8%) of the 9,221 under foreclosure. Even though the rate of foreclosures has picked up significantly recently, the banks are hoping that e-auctions will make it even easier for them to recover their debts.

 

Tender for the provision of services

The Central Bank for Cyprus is inviting tenders for the provision of services to carry out a sample study on the financial situation and consumption habits of households. The contract will be awarded following an open procedure, with the criteria being the least costly offer. The tender opens on 3 January 2020 and expires on 20 January.

 

E-auctions premiere on Wednesday

The launch of e-auctions on Wednesday, 18 December, has created expectations among the banks for swifter and more effective foreclosure procedures. The first auctions will begin at 10am by Gordian Holdings and mainly concern farming plots in Nicosia, Larnaca, Famagusta and Paphos, as well as land plots in Nicosia, Paphos and Limassol. So far, 30 e-auctions have been uploaded to the platform. Based on the latest available data, hundreds of properties have been foreclosed so far, of the thousands for which foreclosure procedures have been launched. Specifically, just 444 properties have been auctioned off (or 4.8%) of the 9,221 under foreclosure. Even though the rate of foreclosures has picked up significantly recently, the banks are hoping that e-auctions will make it even easier for them to recover their debts.

 

Tender for the provision of services

The Central Bank for Cyprus is inviting tenders for the provision of services to carry out a sample study on the financial situation and consumption habits of households. The contract will be awarded following an open procedure, with the criteria being the least costly offer. The tender opens on 3 January 2020 and expires on 20 January.

 

Mini managers being eyed

A bill has been tabled for approval at the House that will make it easier to attract small investment fund managers to Cyprus. The aim of the bill is to regulate Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) managers, whose assets do not exceed the limits imposed by the relevant EU Directive, which has been transposed into national law. The bill provides that “mini managers” who apply for an operating licence must have initial capital of at least €50,000. In the event that the value of the portfolios they are managing exceeds €125m, then they must provide equity that is equivalent to 0.02% of the sum that exceeds the €125m.

 

DP World supports PASYKAF

During its annual Global Volunteer Week, DP World Limassol carried out a Blood Donation drive and fundraising in cooperation with P&O Maritime Cyprus, aimed at increasing awareness and helping meet the local community’s blood needs. The Blood Donation drive on December 5 at the company’s Cruise Terminal at the Limassol port was held in memory of the late DP World Limassol employee, Panicos Markides. In addition to the participation of its employees, port stakeholders and family, with over 30 blood donations, DP World Limassol accepted, on the day, donations on behalf of the Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends (PASYKAF), demonstrating its commitment to support the local community and contributing towards reinforcing the organisation’s efforts. All contributions will be donated to PASYKAF services and programmes that are offered to cancer patients and to their families. It is the third year in a row that DP World Limassol is organising a Global Volunteer Week in Cyprus, on the occasion of the UN International Volunteer Day (IVD), which takes place every year December 5.  DP World launched the Global Volunteer Week initiative in 2015, aiming to encourage its employees around the world to contribute to the local communities by volunteering in social and environmental activities. The initiative aims to create empowering relationships with the local communities and civil society, as well as promote sustainability. DP World Limassol Communications and Sustainability Officer, Doros Aresti, stated: “Donating blood to those in need has endless benefits. We are aware of the increased need for blood, even more so and during the holiday season, given that it is a period with multiple additional challenges. Our team is proud of its positive impact on the community and the difference that we feel we are making”.

 

 

 

Ayia Napa marina opening soon for boats and public

The Ayia Napa marina is opening in January and ships will be docking soon while in June the commercial area will open for the public. According to the CEO of M.M Makronisos Marina Ltd, Stavros Caramondanis, the construction work on the two towers is proceeding fast according to the time schedule and will be completed in 2022.

 

Shipping in need of technical personnel

Deputy Minister of Shipping Natasa Pilidou, during the presentation of the co-financed Information System MARIS Marine Naval Career Information System, referred to the need for a significant increase of shipping technical staff with relevant experience and service time to staff ships as well as shipping companies.

 

Cyprus-Greece cross-border cooperation

In an official summit that was held on 12 December 2019, the Deputy Ministry of Shipping presented the project “Cross-border cooperation in maritime spatial planning”, a project of strategic importance for Cyprus and Greece. The project is part of the Directive 2014/89/EU for the establishment of a framework of spatial planning as well as part of the policies relating to the protection and management of the maritime environment and the coastal zones promoted by the EU such as the Integrated Maritime Policy of the Mediterranean. Moreover, the project is connected to the EU’s strategy for Blue Growth, which aims to support the blue economy in sectors that are crucial for the Cypriot and Greek economy, such as shipping, fisheries, energy as well as maritime and coastal tourism. As Pilidou said in her welcome address, the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, complies to all the provisions of the relevant law, which concern the sustainable development of the seas of the Republic. “By implementing an approach based on the ecosystem” Pilidou added, “which will consider all the economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects, ensuring the proper environmental state of Cyprus’ marine environment”. At the same time, she underlined that the Deputy Ministry is investing in cross-border projects, which are connected to its themes and has been participating in co-funded projects with great success and great results for the Deputy Ministry as well as the Republic of Cyprus in general.

 

Italian frigate Martinengo

According to Alithia, the Italian frigate Martinengo, that sailed last week to the port of Larnaca with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reporting that Italy sent a military ship in Cyprus for the protection of its national interests, however, on Saturday, the Turkish Ministry of Defense published videos and photos indicating that in the context of enhancing security, Turkish Navy conducted a joint exercise with Italy with the participation of the frigate Martinengo.

 

Three persons arrested over online gambling case

Three persons aged 34,54 and 26 were arrested following a court order by the Paphos District Court, which aims to facilitate the investigation of an illegal online gambling operation. The three suspects were arrested by members of the Police based on court warrants, after a search that was carried out on Thursday in the presence of house’s administrator as well as the owner. 17 personal computers were found which were apparently used as online casinos. The police also found several notes as well as money.

 

Ayia Napa marina opening soon for boats and public

The Ayia Napa marina is opening in January and ships will be docking soon while in June the commercial area will open for the public.  According to the CEO of M.M Makronisos Marina Ltd, Stavros Caramondanis the construction work for the two towers is proceeding quickly. According to the timeframe it will be completed in 2022.

 

120,000 Cypriots to travel for Christmas holidays

The Christmas and New Year holidays are days of resting as well as an opportunity to escape to popular destinations. Cypriots’ trips are expected to continue their upward course during this year’s holiday period. In December, the number of Cypriot travellers is expected to be over 120,000, exceeding the 2018 record, the CEO of the travel agency Top Kinisis, Dinos Kakkouras has said. For yet another year, Greece has been chosen as the favourite destination of Cypriot travellers for their Christmas holidays. Specifically, the first cities of choice is Athens and Thessaloniki, due to their daily and direct flights. Indeed, due to the season people choose to visit more mountainous Greek destinations. Europe is always a favourite destination for Cypriots, with Vienna, Belgrade, Warsaw, London and Prague being the main destinations. A small number of people may choose to travel to other places, but they mainly prefer these cities. Cypriot travellers prefer close destinations that they can travel to with a direct flight, the president of the Travel Agents Association, Vasilis Stamataris said. “Up until now, Cypriots’ trips abroad are satisfactory and this apparent by the full airports of Cyprus”, he added. Besides, there are 70 airlines operating flights to and from Cyprus, which cover many European countries, Stamataris stressed. As it comes to Cypriots who choose to stay in Cyprus for the holidays, they usually choose Limassol, Paphos as well as many villages that provide agritourism.

 

Community Action for Akamas welcomes Deputy Ministry’s decision

The Community Action for Akamas (KDA) association welcomed the Deputy Ministry of Tourism’s decision to carry out a study that will focus on the specificities of the Akamas area and will determine what types of tourism it can promote in the areas as well as in regards to the promotion of the entire area as a riviera. In statements on behalf of the Community Action for Akamas , the mayor of Polis Chrysochous, Mr Yiotis Papachristofi stressed that the decision to develop the area serves as a step forward to the right direction. “With particular satisfaction, we welcome the statements of Mr Savvas Perdios and the announcement for a study that will determine the tourist development of Polis Chrysochous as well as the district. After decades of waiting, the Deputy Ministry’s intention for the tourist development of the Akamas communities, has lifted our hopes for survival and welfare”. The Community Leader of Neo Chorio, Andreas Christodoulou also welcomed this development, saying: “This development can only bring us joy, as it aims to develop the district in its entirety. On this basis, seven Akamas communities decided about a year ago, to establish the Community Action for Akamas, with a view to promote our common opinions and our goals. The Akamas communities have suffering for years now, expecting that the government solves the problems of the area and provides incentives for young people to stay in their villages”.

The “new” Municipal Market of Limassol

The Limassol Municipal Market will start operating next March and the now upgraded “grocery” will meet all preconditions to become a pole of attraction for both locals as well as foreign tourists. The Limassol Municipality had decided to change the rather depressing image of the Market and restore it to its former glory. As part of the effort to revamp the Municipal Market, the Municipality assigned the consortium of companies Alexandrou Corporate Services AR Consulting and Prosperity Group to jointly manage the Market and transform the new spaces of the Market, which will include new and innovative uses. The new image of the historic Market will be revealed next March, when the revamp worth a total €3m will be completed.

 

Long way to go until Lady’s Mile revamp

Limassol’s long-term wish to upgrade the Lady’s mile area, remains a distant dream not only due to the fact that the area is located within British bases-controlled areas, but also because the funding for the implementation of such a project is still not available. This was the latest update in response to a question raised by AKEL MP George Georgiou to the Town Planning and Housing Department of the Ministry of Interior. On the opposite site of those requesting development of the infrastructure and upgrading of the area, there are several environmentalist organisations and other institutions such as the Cyprus Conservation Foundation, Terra Cypria which support alternative forms of tourism.

 

An evaluation of the first six months of the GHS

In an opinion article the Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou, looks back at the first six months of implementation at the GHS. “Having completed six months, we can now reliably evaluate the biggest social reform that is the GHS. The GHS has received intense, and many times unjust, criticism even before its implementation. However, the Cypriot society has embraced the system which is evident in the number of registered beneficiaries and the increased flow of doctors and health professionals who continue to register with the system. The GHS continues to evolve and improve day by day, and manages to provide high-quality healthcare services”. He extends his thanks to the Government, the HIO, the society, organised patients and all groups of healthcare professionals for their patience and persistence but he especially s thanks to Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades for his support. Moreover, he acknowledges that there are still a few problems and efforts are being made in order to solve them. He reiterates that state hospitals are the backbone of the system which is why they have the Government’s support, but not without limitations. “The 2020 budget for state hospitals is the highest in the history of the Republic of Cyprus. However, the contribution of private hospitals will also be of vital importance especially during the second phase of the system’s implementation”, he adds.

 

Three proposals by Health Minister

The Minister of Health has tabled three proposals with a view to further improve and stabilise the way doctors are paid, as well as the framework of operation for personal doctors for adults and paediatricians in the GHS. With the first and main proposal, Constantinos Ioannou essentially suggests going back to the initial plan of the HIO, which foresaw that 70% of salaries would be deposited as a per capita income for the doctors and the remaining 30% would be paid for each medical act. He also wants to introduce doctors’ education to the way their compensation is calculated. Moreover, the Minister suggests linking the doctors’ training with their payments so that this will result in an incentive for the continuous education of healthcare providers in the GHS as well as the introduction of additional efficiency indexes, which will also be linked to the compensations for personal doctors and paediatricians. Among those indexes, GHS doctors will be rewarded for their participation in scientific/educational seminars both through their compensations by the HIO as well as through a points system by the HIO. Finally, the Minister tabled a proposal to the HIO to extend the decision for the right to switch personal doctors for adults and paediatricians every three months rather than every six months. As Minister of Health sources say, they aim to put forward measures that will improve and stabilise this situation even more. Some of the suggestions by the Minister of Health have been discussed with the HIO since last September, while the Doctors Association has already been informally informed on matters that relate to the doctors’ education. A main precondition for any changes of course, is the conduct of dialogue and negotiations with the doctors themselves. Phileleftheros’ sources report that the Ministry of Health has already recorded the situation in the GHS and in the coming days will officially inform all the stakeholders including political parties.

 

Students solve GHS issues

Students from the Dasoupolis Lyceum aim to solve the issues that many of us have identified in the new health system of Cyprus, since in the framework of the “Student Entrepreneurship programme by Junior Achievement”, which has been operating for the past 5 years, wished to proceed to something innovative and useful for Cyprus. Specifically, through their company 17-year-old students,  created their own app for the GHS, giving the opportunity to users to arrange their next appointment to their personal doctors, in this way avoiding delays and unanswered calls to the hospitals. The student’s company is named “Tap and Plan” as it has to do with the creation of programmes to arrange appointments with a simple click through their mobile, tablet or personal computer. Speaking to the paper, the children’s Technology Professor, said that with the “B gesy” app, patients can arrange their next doctor appointment and is the first programme that their company has implemented.

 

Six months of the GHS: Pros and Cons

Invited to Alpha’s show Eleni Piera the President of the Cyprus Pharmaceutical Association, Charis Charilaou the president of the association of Clinical Laboratory Directors, Biomedical and Clinical Laboratory Scientists and the head of HIO Andreas Papaconstantinou, discussed the pros and cons of the first six months of the GHS’ implementation. Mrs Piera said that there are many positive outcomes for pharmacies, despite the continuing issue of medicine shortages. For this positive outcome, she said that the GHS created the institution of the pharmacy of the neighbourhood as now there’s no competition between the public and private sectors. Instead, there is a complete cooperation between patients and doctors, and electronic prescriptions are very advanced. Concerning the cons of the system, she stated that there are still medicine shortages, which make the daily operations of the pharmacies much more difficult. Lastly, on behalf of all pharmacists, she asked for stability and respect for all agreed terms.

 

Medochemie cooperate with Frederick to promote research

Medochemie and Frederick University signed a memorandum of cooperation which includes hosting and exchange of researchers, students and personnel for the development and participation in joint research programmes, as well as sharing scientific knowledge to the Cypriot society. The Innovation Director of Medochemie Dr Christakis Sergides, said that the memorandum is very important for Cyprus to bridge the cooperation between the academic and research community of the island, with the Cyprus pharmaceutical industry. This will contribute to utilising the findings of the academic and business research as well as the development of new, innovative products and procedures.

 

Blood pressure and natural ways to reduce it

High blood pressure is one of the most common heart problems among adults. If left unchecked, it can become dangerous but there are many natural ways to reduce it without having to take medicines. Losing weight, exercising, relaxing are things that can be helpful, as well as reducing your daily salt intake. Quitting smoking is something that will also help reduce your high blood pressure, as after each cigarette your blood pressure is increased for a while before it can return to its normal levels. Smoking is harmful to the heart in other ways as well, and long-term smoking can weaken the taste buds, leading us to add more salt than needed to our food in order for it to be tasty enough for us.

 

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