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Daily Press Review – 19/2/2020

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In an advertorial, Hellenic Bank urges customers to take out primary residence and life insurance, warning that if they fail to meet their loan instalments, they could lose their home. It also warns that there are extra charges if they repay their loan early and that the instalment and total cost of the advance may increase or reduce, depending on the fluctuation of the basic interest rate.

 

Charity gala with George Theophanous and friends

Annabelle Hotel and Round Table 7 in Paphos are co-organising the Annabelle Charity Gala Dinner on 13 March for the third year running, with the support of Hellenic Bank. The evening will feature a three-hour programme by singer George Theophanou and a team of young talented singers.

 

This is how Cypriots will celebrate Tsiknopempti

The island’s municipalities are planning a number of events to celebrate the carnival and Tsiknopempti (Barbeque Thursday). Among other, there will be a carnival party with food and music on Thursday outside of the Hellenic Bank building in Limassol (Gladstonos Street), as well as the Bank of Cyprus building on Agios Andreas Street.

 

Be careful with NPL sales, urges ETYK

NPL sales must above all be made in the interests of the bank itself, and in extent its shareholders and depositors, bank employees’ union ETYK said in an announcement yesterday, while it also stressed that the social aspect of the matter needs to be taken into serious consideration. “The banks, as a living cell of Cypriot society, have a duty to ensure that the loans they sell will end up with buyers who will not operate as vultures, but instead respect our fellow citizens; especially borrowers who are facing financial problems and are not defaulters by choice,” it said. It added that seeing that the practice of the banks so far has been to dispatch ETYK members to these buyers to manage the loans that are being sold, it is equally important that the buyers respect the staff that has been transferred, adhering to existing agreements and labour institutions. ETYK said the effective management of the NPL problem is vital for the future of the banks, the financial system and the country’s economy.

 

Borrowers within and outside of Estia under the microscope

The borrowers’ protection association (SYPRODAT) and primary residence protection association (SPPK) have completed a round of contacts with the Finance Minister, the majority of the parliamentary parties, the Financial Ombudsman and other competent authorities. In a joint announcement yesterday, they said that they discussed matters such as the handling of Estia applicants who will be deemed non-viable, as well as applicants who were previously under a restructuring regime as of 30/9/2017. They also discussed the case of borrowers who have a primary residence as collateral to their mortgage, and who are not eligible for the Estia scheme, in combination with the changes that are expected by the Central Bank regarding the foreclosures issue, which concern all borrowers. As for those who will not join Estia and other unprotected groups, the two associations said that they are waiting to see the plans that will be announced by the Finance Ministry.

 

Detectives in FBME case facing prison

It appears that the Central Bank of Cyprus’ decision to shutter FBME Bank’s Cyprus branch was based on selective evidence. The case was reopened recently at the Commercial Court, after the company Dangate and two detectives, who allegedly disseminated data of the bank to third parties, including the Central Bank, are facing a prison sentence. According to an article in globallegalchronicle.com, they are being charged with “not completely complying” with a court ruling to hand over all the relevant communication evidence that would prove each accusation against the bank. The two detectives, Nigel Brown and Alec Leighton, admitted to broadly disseminating confidential information about FBME, and revealing details to Cypriot authorities such as the Central Bank, Law Office, Police and Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS), as well as the authorities of other countries, such as FinCEN, the FBI, Tanzanian authorities and at least one journalist.

 

Turkey to be blacklisted if it does not cooperate with Cyprus

A unanimous decision by Ecofin yesterday to keep Turkey on its “grey list” of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, warning the country that it will be added the black list if it does not share tax information with Cyprus, is considered particularly important when it comes to how Turkey treats the Republic. Turkey currently exchanges tax information with all EU member states except six, including Cyprus. Turkey has made a commitment to exchange information with five of the six countries (except Cyprus, which it does not recognise) by the end of the year, in the hope that it will be removed from the grey list. However, Ecofin did not accept this and warned Turkey that if it does not include Cyprus by the end of 2020, it will be moved to the black list; which would have dire consequences on its economy. Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said yesterday that he believes Turkey will be forced to cooperate with Cyprus, by adding however a footnote that it does not recognise the Republic. Meanwhile, Ecofin yesterday updated its list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions to include the Cayman Islands. This addition could have certain repercussions for fund managers, sponsors, and investors operating through the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands had been on the “grey list” since the list’s inception in 2017, on the basis that the tax regime “facilitates offshore structures which attract profits without real economic activity”.

 

Delays in imports from China

The coronavirus has started to have an impact on Cypriot businesses, though the problem is not too serious at present. It mainly has to do with the importation of raw materials and spare parts. Market stakeholders tell Kathimerini Economy that this is not expected to impede on the businesses’ smooth operation. It is estimated that Cyprus’ annual imports from China are worth around €400m. It also imports consumables, technological products and hospital supplies.

 

Gender pay gap in Cyprus

The 19th of February has been established by the Labour Ministry as the Equal Pay Day in Cyprus, with the aim of raising awareness over the gender pay gap on the island, which sees women being paid 13.7% less than men. Trade union PEO said in an announcement that the pay gap is a complex and chronic problem which requires targeted policies and measures that correspond to the causes of this gap.

 

Port of Larnaca deal is historic

The announcement that the government has reached agreement with a Cyprus-Israeli consortium for the redevelopment of Larnaca port and marina, revealed by the Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos was received in a very positive way. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the mayors of towns in Larnaca district, Karousos said that this was a historic development for the town and district of Larnaca, as well as for Cyprus more generally. It’s a great and special day for Larnaca its citizens and Cyprus in general. The city has awaited this development for many years, along with the relocation of oil facilities from Larnaca’s sea front area. Both the port and marina development and the relocation of the oil facilities will contribute to the city’s development.

 

Yeni Safak: Oruc Reis explorations east of Crete in 2020

According to the Turkish pro-government daily Yeni Safak, as soon as the Turkey-Libya agreement is registered with the United Nations, the first authorization for Ankara’s hydrocarbon explorations will be issued to Turkey’s seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis, which during the course of this year, will begin explorations East of Crete, in Block 15. The same sources of the newspaper indicate that as soon as the Libya-Turkey agreement is signed by the UN Department of Oceanography, the Turkish EEZ will be announced, and hydrocarbon investigations will  begin. The Turkish state-owned oil company (TRAO) will begin explorations east of Crete this year. Based on the findings of Oruc Reis, drilling will follow. The same sources say that if there is a request from the President of Libya al-Sarraj, there will be explorations in the areas of Libya. Yeni Safak reports that Greece in 2014 had launched a tender for the licensing of plots 15 and 20. The paper also claims that half of the plot 15 belong to the Turkish shelf and that Greece attempted to occupy a 39,000 sq. m. in the Libya EEZ.

 

Awards for Cypriot Hotels

Ten hotels in Cyprus were awarded with the 2020 HolidayCheck Awards. Crystal Springs Beach Hotel stood out in first place and Aldiana Club Zypern in second place. According to the list of the winners, seven out of ten hotels are located in the free Famagusta area. According to the announcement in 2020 a total of 732 hotels were awarded in 38 countries. The list of the hotels awarded in Cyprus include: 3rd place: TUI BLUE Pioneer Beach, 4th place: Hotel Sunrise Beach, 5th place: Napa Mermaid Hotel Suites, Gold Award, 6th place: Asterias Beach, 7th place: Hotel Grecian Sands, 8th place: Hotel Grecian Bay, 9th place: Hotel Nissi Beach Resort, 10th place: SENTIDO Sandy Beach.

 

19% increase in passenger traffic of Paphos airport

Traffic in the Paphos airport was up by 19% in January. In statements to CNA, the Senior Manager of Aviation Development at Hermes, Maria Kouroupi said that the a total of 122,586 passengers arrived or departed from the Paphos Airport in January 2020. In the same period last year, this number was 102,739. It is remarkable that 2019 closed with a record number of arrivals (3 million passengers) in Paphos. Hermes’ ongoing efforts to extend the tourist season have started bearing fruit, she said, adding that the traffic   increase recorded in the winter period is due to the year-round presence of RyanAir, Easyjet and Jet2 as well as other companies that are active year-round at the Paphos airport. Mrs Kouroupi noted that new routes to Athens, Beirut, Katowice, Malta and Kiev were introduced in the current winter period, which started on 27/10/2019 and ends on 28/3/2020.

 

Stakeholders disappointed over not being invited to discuss mosquito problem

The Western areas of Limassol are still extremely affected by the long-running mosquito problem the area is faced with. This year it is expected to be even worse due to the increased rainfall that was recorded in the past months and the accumulation of large volumes of water in lakes and other points in the wider area of Akrotiri. This was highlighted in a recent meeting that was called by the Municipality of Limassol so as to review the situation and put forward measures to tackle the problem. The meeting however, was not attended by the immediately involved parties, such as residents and other actors of the area, which is something that has caused their intense dissatisfaction. Specifically, the Limassol Casino, MY MALL, the Phassouri Estate as well as the Community Council of Zakaki are extremely irritated and disappointed by the Municipality and particularly the Limassol Mayor due to the fact that they were not called to the meeting to present their own perception and the serious problems they are facing. It should be noted that the specific businesses and actors, in an effort to tackle the problem themselves, they commissioned experts from Greece, to prepare a study with the measures they should take so as to effectively tackle the problem. The study, which as it was reported, cost ten thousand euros, was delivered to the stakeholders who then gave the Mayor a copy. This gesture was not appreciated to the fullest, but at some point, the Municipality also tried to claim ownership of the findings of the study. The businesses based in Western Limassol are also disappointed in the fact that the Municipality requested and received €15,000 from the businesses, for the purchase of 12 machines that would help address the mosquito problem. However, these machines in the end only covered about 40-20sqm and by extension they could not have any substantial impact on the huge areas that are suffering from the mosquito problem. It should be noted that in the last meeting that was held, the Mayor of Limassol reported that after studying the recommendations of a study of the University of Athens, the Municipality is seriously looking into the possibility of using drones designed for targeted pesticide spraying.

 

Concerned over expensive treatments and medicines

The organised patients’ group (OSAK) are calling the HIO to expedite the procedures for the second phase of the GHS, who are concerned over the delays observed in preparing the inclusion of expensive, innovative, and specialised treatments and medicines in the GHS. “June is just around the corner but there are still several things that must be done”, said the head of OSAK Marios Kouloumas, adding that “our concern is due to the fact that the medicines we refer to, don’t have exchangeables, are specialised and absolutely crucial to the treatment of patients with serious diseases, chronic diseases, or rare conditions; that is why we can’t allow 1 June to come and say we didn’t make it in time”.

 

Postponing surgeries so they are done in the context of the GHS

The Health Insurance Organisation’s (HIO) concern over the possibility of system abuses when the second phase of the GHS is implemented, has raised a lot of questions. Alithia spoke with stakeholders who provided specific examples. There is an observable number of operations which were scheduled to be conducted around this period, but they have been postponed until the beginning of the second phase of the GHS, so the cost for the patient is significantly reduced or even be have the operation done for free. These changes can be attributed to either the patient or the doctor, and such changes may not appear as system abuses – because they are not illegal – but they are burdening the GHS’ budget.

 

Vitamin D test only when necessary

The HIO has implemented protocols and restrictions on tests that have an observed increased demand recently. Under the organisation’s microscope are tests for vitamin D, thyroid, prostate etc., and it will determine if requesting these tests ought to be based on protocols. Especially for vitamin D, it was found that each request for general health blood test also included vitamin D. For the past couple weeks, doctors can only request this test only if their patients meet certain medical criteria; this is also true for thyroid and prostate tests as well. Meanwhile, the HIO is trying to draft protocols for all medical specialties, while it has already completed protocols for cardiology, orthopaedics, haematology, pathology, pulmonary, neurology, etc.

 

What happens when you stop smoking

They say that smoking kills, but that does not intimidate people who continue to smoke. Of course, there are a few smokers who are trying to stop, putting themselves through a rehabilitation process. The truth is that by stopping smoking, you start treading on a healthier path, while also saving a lot of money. There are many benefits; your physical condition will improve, your skin and teeth will be brighter, and you will be able to breathe a lot better. However, stopping smoking is a difficult process which requires both stubbornness and patience. According to the NHS, 20 minutes after you’ve stopped smoking, your heartbeat will drop to normal levels, while 15 years after stopping you’ll have halved the risk of a heart attack.

 

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