KEDIPES and the transparency that is missing
Phileleftheros asks KEDIPES – who it says is appointed by and answers to the government – in a commentary: it says that it is in favour of transparency, as it reiterated in its announcement on Friday, so why has it been delaying the Auditor General’s investigation into the red loans of PEPs for months now? To begin with, KEDIPES would not hand over the information without a positive opinion from the Attorney General. When this was acquired, it took them more than a month to deliver the data, and only after Phileleftheros ran a story that denounced the unjustifiable delay. When it was pointed out to them by the Auditor General himself that they did not send the loans of the PEPs that were transferred to Hellenic Bank as performing so he could check whether there were gratuitous restructurings and write-offs, the officers of KEDIPES prompted Odysseas Michaelides to apply to the Attorney General anew, because according to its legal advisors, the Attorney General’s opinion did not comment on specific articles of the law! The paper points out, if KEDIPES was so in favour of transparency and the Auditor General’s audit was so well received, its officers would immediately hand over all the data without using legal and communication tricks. Anything beyond that is just trickery.
Profits and dividends from the insurance companies
The majority of insurance companies have recorded an increase in turnover and profitability, but also a distribution of dividends. Despite the multiple challenges facing Cyprus’ insurance sector, the big insurance companies managed to record positive results last year. The results show that there is potential for the insurance sector, for those companies that manage to keep ahead of the competition. BoC’s subsidiary General Insurance Cyprus recorded a profit of €6.5m in 2018, compared with a €9.6m profit the previous year. Its gross premiums reached €48.9m, compared with €46.1m in 2017. It submitted an interim dividend of €12m from its undistributed profits in 2018 (€10m in 2017). As for HB’s Pancyprian Insurance, its profits increased by €187,500 in 2018 compared with the previous year. The company benefited directly from the acquisition of the Co-op by Hellenic, as it recorded a steep increase in motor vehicle, asset and general liability insurance policies, to the tune of €244.2m, which came from former Co-op clients. The company’s Board of Directors did not recommend the submission of dividends. The company’s assets were €59.4m by the end of 2018.
They will respect the artworks…
Haravgi newspaper comments that KEDIPES has denied reports that various artworks it acquired from the local Co-ops will be put up for auction. It said in an announcement that it will hand them over to the state following a relevant agreement. If it is anything like the agreement to sell off the Co-op to Hellenic, there is no saving the paintings, it says. These artworks were created with love by artists who originated from the same villages that were decorated by the co-ops. Now these communities can rest assured as the paintings will be in the hands of this… culturally sensitive government. A government that sold off an entire masterpiece to a bank that uses controversial methods and faces serious accusations of implication, is not going to respect the art works. The paper says it doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Hellenic Bank is hiring private experts
Hellenic Bank has opened four job vacancies for specialised positions in IT, new applications and digital banking, which is now the biggest challenge. From 2015 onwards, the majority of the banks’ recruitments had to do with NPL management. Based on research by Phileleftheros, HB has announced the vacancies on its website. It also made some recruitments in July. It is now accepting applications up until 30 September, for the positions of Quality Assurance Automated Test Engineer (will be in charge of monitoring all the stages of developing software that will locate and report dysfunctions in the system), a Senior Software Engineer Back-End and an Analyst – Financial Analytics, for the bank’s Data and Analytics division. The paper writes that all the banks have a ‘job vacancies’ section on their websites. They are now hiring specialties that up until a few years ago were unknown. But they are also having to reduce their labour and operational costs, with supervisors in and outside of Cyprus warning that this is the second biggest problem facing the Cypriot banks in terms of cost.
August, a month of bank results and assemblies
Bank of Cyprus’ first-half results will be made available on 26 August. According to an announcement, its Board of Directors will meet on 26 August to examine the results for the six-month period ending 30 June. The results will be announced the following day, before the Cyprus and London Stock Exchange meetings begin. BoC announced profits of €95m for the first quarter of 2019. On 28 August, Hellenic Bank’s AGM will be held. The significant number of major shareholders and the behind-the-scenes action that is taking place for the bank’s new administration are causing havoc. According to an announcement by HB, eleven of the board members that are being proposed are existing members who are seeking re-election, while the other seven are new.
Entire neighbourhoods for sale
Almost entire neighbourhoods are up for sale by the banks, Phileleftheros reports. The majority involve developments in Paphos, apartments and houses in specific areas. In one case, there are eight properties for sale in the same complex in Anarita and seven in Peyia. Regarding HB specifically, the paper reports that it has a number of apartments and houses for sale. It is selling a two-storey house in Konia for €135,000, a house in Chloraka for €672,800, four maisonettes in Kissonerga for €644,400, two-bed apartments in Mandria for €86,000, a house in Agios Theodoros for €470,000 and a three-bed house in Fyti for €184,000.
The house in Ithaca, the apartment in Brussels and the shares in Microsoft
Parliament released the declarations of state officials’ assets over the past week, as provided by law. The law on the declaration of state officials’ assets does not provide for anything other than the publication of their assets, Alithia reports. The relevant ad hoc parliamentary committee has already examined the assets and decided to publicise them. In an announcement by the House of Representatives, it says that citizens who have any queries can apply to House President Demetris Sylliouris, or they can send any observations or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The newspaper presents the government ministers’ assets that were made public. Regarding HB specifically, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou owns 14 shares in the bank; Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides has deposits in HB, Banca Monte Paschi Belgio and SGBCY totalling €87,700; Transport Minister Vasiliki Anastasiadou has deposits of €358,000 in the Co-op, HB and BoC; and Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides has two loans at HB worth €322,439.
Some MPs are getting by with borrowed money
Parliament also announced the declared assets of MPs, with Phileleftheros reporting that some MPs followed the tactic of “if you can’t convince them, confuse them”. The paper says that they provided some random numbers that are confusing rather than enlightening. Regarding HB specifically, MP Zacharias Zachariou declared deposits of €214,649 in HB; Adamos Adamou declared overdrafts in three accounts (two at BoC and one at HB); Mariella Aristidou declared deposits of €115,915 in HB; and Michalis Giorgallas declared deposits of €6,300 in HB.
Declaration of assets by former ministers also “lacking”
In a third announcement, parliament published the declared assets of deputy ministers and former ministers, with Politis reporting that these were also lacking, as particularly in terms of the former ministers, the information concerns the assets they declared while they were on duty. Former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides claimed to have deposits in HB, BoC and RCB, as did former Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou.
MEPs’ declared assets made public
The House announced the declared assets of former MEPs and former MPs too. Regarding HB, former MEP Costas Mavrides, whose declaration is dated 25/8/2017, said among other that he had shares in BoC, the Cyprus Cement Company and Hellenic, while former MP Georgios Georgiou said he had two insurance policies and two debts at Hellenic Bank totalling €431,000.
The politicians’ loans
The majority of politicians’ loans, as it emerges through the Declarations of Assets that were publicised by the House, are at Hellenic Bank, Phileleftheros comments. And it is easy to surmise that these were loans that were initially granted by the Co-op and then transferred to Hellenic following its closure. This alone is one piece of evidence of how our banking system used to operate, as well as its transactions with the political system. But the question is not what happened pre-crisis, but what is happening today and why there is a lack of will to deal with the “gangrene” that is NPLs.
Supervisors are pressing for NPL sales
The sale of NPLs is proving to be a one-way road for the banks. The messages being received from the supervisors are strict and leaving no room for the banks to reduce their NPLs organically. Apart from BoC and HB, more banks are expected to start selling NPLs in 2020. Kathimerini reports that the bills that were passed by MPs in July altering the foreclosures framework wreaked havoc with the banks. Even DIKO’s compromise proposal has not come into effect yet, having been sent to the Law Office for vetting to see if it is constitutional. The biggest problems were caused for BoC and HB. This is because they were in the final stretch of procedures to sell loan packages, with consultations with interested parties being in advanced stages. BoC’s intention to sell one more loan package named Helix 2 was well known. At the same time, even though Hellenic officially announced that it was looking at selling a significant package of NPLs in 2019, nothing more came out of it, until news agency Bloomberg reported that Pimco had made a non-binding offer to Hellenic. The sum Pimco is interested in acquiring is close to €1.5b, which accounts for over 60% of HB’s NPLs.
We need to put an end to populism
Alithia newspaper interviews Finance Minister Harris Georgiades, who says that the fact the Cyprus economy is experiencing a fifth consecutive year of growth is vastly important; especially considering how just a few years ago it was on the brink of collapse. But he adds that in order to continue on this successful course, we need to put an end to populism. He also says, among other, that the island is very close to being at the point of allowing the transfer of the biggest part of NPLs out of the banks’ balance sheets, while he also says that the closure of the Co-op was the right decision, evident through the fact that just a few days after the deal was clinched, the country achieved successive upgrades, finally managing to return to investment grade, which puts a protective shield around our economy. As is the case across the globe, said Georgiades, a bank is acquired and integrated into another bank that is in a position to raise the necessary capital. And this was the case with Hellenic Bank, with the exception that it did not choose to include the Co-op’s NPLs for self-evident reasons. These loans, he said, were taken on by the state, which has a duty to collect them, through KEDIPES.
Foreclosures laws under the ECB microscope
The Cypriot law on foreclosures, which was recently amended with the compromise law proposal by DIKO, is now in the hands of the supervisory authorities in Frankfurt, which are also looking at the foreclosures law that was passed by the House in 2018. The ECB’s legal service and its technocrats will compare and assess the interventions that were made by the Cypriot parliament, regardless of whether the Attorney General has referred the two laws that were passed by the House on foreclosures. Executives of the supervisory authorities who have knowledge of the situation have told StockWatch that once the ECB has assessed the relevant laws, it will prepare a report which it will relay to the local supervisory authority to use during further developments at the parliament. Senior bank executives tell the site that there may be a temporary numbing of efforts to reduce NPLs; however this is expected to be overcome once the mechanism the Central Bank is preparing is ready. As it has already been leaked, Hellenic Bank is in consultations with its major shareholder Pimco for the sale of €1.5b of NPLs, while Bank of Cyprus appears to be preparing a new package of loans for sale, similar to the one it sold last August to Apollo.
Millions spent on advertising over a decade
Corporations have spent massive sums on advertising over the past decade, in excess of €140m on radio and €90m in the press. It is noted that these sums were taken from data available on Matrix Media from 2008 until 2019, and they may differ from the actual sums the corporations have paid to the media, through interim agreements and/or discounts. According to the numbers, topping the list for radio ads is Alphamega Hypermarkets, with €2.5m, while in the printed press, the banks take the lead with Bank of Cyprus topping the list (€638,247) followed by Hellenic Bank with €362,819.
They are increasing the commissions
In their bid to distance their customers from the counters, the banks keep imposing new counterincentives. They are increasing commissions in an effort to move into the new digital banking era. The two biggest banks, BoC and HB, which own the biggest market share, are seeking to boost online banking, significantly reducing the cost of transactions at a time of reduced revenue due to low interest rates and steady payroll costs. Bank of Cyprus has already implemented its charges from June, while Hellenic Bank is set to follow on 16 September. HB will also impose two new charges as of 1 January 2020: €2 for cash withdrawals of up to €10,000 at the counters (€1 for people aged over 65), and €5 for cash withdrawals of over €10,000. And while the banks are increasing their commissions in a bid to encourage digital banking, customers are also facing other new conditions. HB’s decision to charge instead of provide interest on large deposits has changed the state of affairs.
Public debt and red loans
Opinion article by Tasos Yiasemides on the economy, who mentions among other that the course of public debt is a significant indicator for the economy, as it shows the “tolerance” it has in the face of negative developments. It is understood that the high level of lending/leveraging impact on the state’s ability to implement its fiscal policy, but also make drastic decisions particularly in times of recession. Cyprus’ public debt, despite the downward trend it has been on, increased as a percentage of GDP in 2018, following the debt issues that were made to facilitate the merger of the ‘good’ Co-op with Hellenic Bank. The increase of public debt was accompanied with the acquisition of the Co-op’s assets by the state, which with correct management will lead to a reduction of the public debt.
How the banking map has changed in six years
Cyprus’ banking map has changed significantly from 2013 until today. Following the economic crisis, the banks have reduced in number, some have closed and been acquired by other banks, while others have changed name and administration. The supplement takes a look back on all the changes that have taken place over the past six years. Among other, it refers to how according to the Association of Cyprus Banks, there were 13 banks in operation in 2018, while today there are 11. The first “victim” of the banking crisis was Laiki Bank, which is now a thing of the past after being absorbed by Bank of Cyprus. The second biggest hit to the banking system was the closure of the Cyprus Cooperative Bank last year, the biggest part of which was acquired by Hellenic Bank, making the latter the island’s second largest bank. The other changes were the absorption of Emporiki Bank by AlphaBank Cyprus, the change of regime at Piraeus Bank Cyprus and its renaming to Astrobank, which absorbed USB Bank and is expected to acquire National Bank of Greece (Cyprus).
Two suitors for Venus Rock
The founder and CEO of Invel, Christoforos Papachristoforou, and his partner at South African Atterbury Takis Christodoulou are in advanced stages of consultations with Bank of Cyprus to jointly acquire Venus Rock. According to leaked information, the future of the transaction now depends on the offer that will be submitted for the massive development. An interest has also been shown by an Asian investor, whose identity has not yet been revealed. Venus Rock belongs to BoC’s REMU, after being acquired through the restructuring of debts by Theodoros Aristodemou in 2016 totalling €280m. It is estimated that the cost to acquire the development will be around €180m-€200m. The Limni project does not appear to be included in the consultations to be acquired alongside Venus Rock. If it was to be included, it would add another €60m to the investment.
Seeking a buyer and liquidator
The announcement of BoC’s financial results for the first half of 2019 opens the way for decisions to be made regarding the future of the shares of former Laiki Bank, which is heading towards a liquidation procedure. At the same time, the Central Bank is expected to apply in court for the appointment of a liquidator for former Laiki, to proceed with its dissolution.
Return to profitability
cdbbank announced on 9 August that it recorded profits of €2.8m in the first half of 2019, compared with losses of €2.2m in 2018. In an announcement, the bank said it was on a positive course, indicative of which was an increase in deposits by €35m in 2018 and a further €25m in the first six months of 2019. Another significant factor is that it has reduced its NPL ratio to 42.1%. The increase of cdbbank’s capital by €4.3m last March proved a milestone, significantly boosting its capital adequacy ratio. This, combined with the completion of the voluntary liquidation of its subsidiary in Russia which led to the repatriation of capital, had a very positive impact on the bank’s business profile.
Uncertainty because of the referral
Interview with Financial Ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou, who says among other that the referral of the laws on foreclosures to the Supreme Court has led to an extended period of uncertainty, which is weighing on the entire system of the Cyprus economy. Ioannou stresses the need to convince parliament to withdraw the laws. At the same time, he responds to claims by the banks that his Service is understaffed and will not be able to handle the new obligations it will be given if DIKO’s law proposal is passed, saying that it has not been given any additional powers or responsibilities. He explained that borrowers already have the ability to use his Service as mediation in problematic loan restructuring.
Co-op officials’ loans
The team of investigators probing the Co-op’s collapse has been scrutinising a series of documents over the past few days, which were handed over as a first batch by KEDIPES. These documents include information about suspiciously granted loans, restructurings and debt write-offs, which were made in favour of members of the former Co-op’s secretariats, their relatives and other executives. Simerini cites valid sources to add that the investigation will be stepped up in September, when a second batch of documents is expected to be handed over by KEDIPES. These documents will be assessed in combination with the findings of the committee of inquiry into the Co-op’s collapse.
Creating an atmosphere about Cyprus ahead of Moneyval and Commission
The timing alone of the publication of the OCCRP report implicating President Anastasiades’ law firm in money laundering raises serious questions over the intentions of its authors, as it was published on the afternoon of 14 August (ahead of the national holiday of 15 August), when the Cypriot state would be unable to react, Politis reports. Indicatively, two days after the report was published, the head of money laundering unit MOKAS, Eva Papakyriacou, who is on vacation, had no idea about the publication and was not in a position to comment. Legal sources tell the paper that Cyprus is being targeted, and that the OCCRP report refers to an incident that happened prior to 2013, at a time when Cyprus is expecting reports by Moneyval on the island’s banking system and the European Commission on its golden visa scheme this autumn. The timing of the report’s publication, when Cypriot authorities were unable to respond immediately, reinforces these suspicions.
Critical time for the banks
The immediate future and the remainder of 2019 are expected to be critical for the banks, as they anticipate serious developments that may very well result in a new banking environment. And these developments will be taking place amidst a very unfavourable international environment, as there have been some serious indications of a global recession. The major developments concern mainly the two systemic banks, Bank of Cyprus (BoC) and Hellenic Bank (HB), whose balance sheets have been battling a high rate of NPLs for the past six years. It is evident that the two banks have a long way to go until they resolve the issue with NPLs, especially considering the two laws that were passed by parliament amending the foreclosures framework. The referral of the laws by the Attorney General coupled with the pressure being applied by the supervisory authorities for the initial, stricter framework not to be distorted, are weighing heavily on the banks, who have been battling for years to convince Frankfurt over the real value of their assets. According to the Central Bank, there are still around €10.3b of NPLs in the Cypriot banking system. According to leaked information, the supervisory authorities have imposed a strict timeframe on the banks to drastically reduce their NPLs by the end of 2020, as Cyprus is among the leading countries in Europe when it comes to problematic loans. To accelerate this reduction, the banks are in consultations to sell loan packages. HB, through its CEO Ioannis Matsis, recently announced the bank’s intention to sell an NPL portfolio to an investment fund. It was then leaked – and not refuted – that Pimco is the fund in question. BoC sold an NPL portfolio worth €2.8b in 2018. The transaction included corporate loans as well as loans by small and medium sized enterprises with real estate as collateral. However, BoC’s NPL portfolio remains high while the bank has secured real estate worth hundreds of millions in debt-to-property swaps. Meanwhile, HB’s new Board of Directors is expected to be appointed by the end of August. HB’s shareholders will meet in an EGM on 28 August to elect the 13-member Board. The battle for the majority of seats on the new Board will be between Demetra Investment and Wargaming. The EGM is also expected to offer the first clear indication of the alliances that will emerge among HB’s many major shareholders, but also the strategy the Bank will adopt to deal with the challenges it is facing. On the other hand, John Patrick Hourican will attend his final meeting as BoC’s CEO on 27 August, before handing the reigns over to Panicos Nicolaou. BoC is hoping that the change in leadership and swap to a Cypriot banker will change the bank’s model in a broad range of operations. Another challenge facing the new CEO will be to reduce labour costs.
What the stress test on the banks’ deposits show
The two main market players, BoC and HB, have the majority of Cypriots’ deposits on their portfolios and control 66% of the market share. The issue of their excess liquidity is illustrated in the numbers and they need to channel it into health loans. Both banks have total deposits of close to €30b and loans of just €23b – which means they have around €7b more deposits on their accounts than loans. On 31 March 2019, deposits at HB reached €14.6b (€14.7b on 31 December 2018). The market share of HB’s deposits on 31 March was 30.9% (also 30.9% on 31 December 2018). BoC’s total deposits at end-March 2019 were €16.29b, compared with €16.84b at end-2018 and €17.85b on 31 December 2017. BoC’s market share of deposits was 35.2% at the end of March (36% on 31 December 2018). BoC continues to be in the lead when it comes to market share of deposits. Eurobank Cyprus is third with a share of 9% and deposits of €4.93b. The rest of the banks – RCB Bank, Alpha Bank, Astro Bank, Housing Finance Corporation, National Bank of Greece (Cyprus), Ancoria Bank, cdb, Societe Generale Cyprus – have a collective market share of 24%. As for loans, HB’s gross loans on 31 March 2019 reached €7.59b, slightly down from €7.63b on 31 December 2018. Its market share was 19.6% (19.5% at end-2018). BoC’s gross loans were €15.90b on 31 December 2018, compared with €16.20b on 30 September 2018 and €18.755m on 31 December 2017. The bank is Cyprus’ biggest loan provider, with a market share of 46.4% at end-March 2019 (45.4% on 31 December 2018). BoC and HB together have a 65% market share in loans. The rest of the banks have a 35% market share.
Government-AKEL at loggerheads
A heated row broke out over the weekend between the government and main opposition AKEL, over the report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) that implicated President Nicos Anastasiades’ law firm in Russian money laundering. The government made three separate references to the issue, describing it as an attempt to harm Cyprus’ reputation. It then responded to a fresh call by AKEL for explanations by Anastasiades, and the party’s accusations that the government was attempting to silence the media. Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou accused AKEL of hypocrisy and of feeding into a clear effort to blight the country’s reputation.
Few hikes in Cyprus real estate
Buying a residence is currently one of the most beneficial options in Cyprus. For a start, the interest rates for buying a house or flat are at historically low levels, and secondly the taxes are few and bearable. Buying a residence in Cyprus is not accompanied by particularly high fees, as is the case with other European countries, where owning a property is a massive financial burden for taxpayers due to the huge taxes that are imposed. In terms of real estate taxes, Cyprus ranks 18th in the EU, with its immovable property tax making up 1% of the GDP. Greece ranks fourth with 3.2%, while France tops the list with 4.7% of GDP. The lowest rates are recorded in Lithuania, Slovakia and Croatia with 0.4%.
Old Limassol port seabed cleaned up
Navy police has shown its human face once again in an action for the society and saving the environment. Members of the Port and Navy Police, involved in an effort to raise public awareness to keep the seas and beaches clean, donned the diver’s uniforms and dived to the bottom of the seaside area of Limassol’s old port.
Investments in the cruise industry
The return of Cyprus on the cruise map is high on the tourism agenda of the Deputy Ministry. A proposal for the development of modern infrastructure with a 2020 horizon has been will be the subject of a study. At present, relevant authorities are working to define the terms of the study for the candidate who will undertake the study project.
Larnaca port developments in September
The date of the Larnaca port investor presentation by the consortium representative has been set for the end of August or early September. In addition, on 29 August a meeting of the Ministry of Transport has been set up with the Maritime Agents Association.
Ten new hotels with thousands of beds in the works
Ten new hotels and around 3,000 new beds will be added to the local hotel market over the coming period, significantly enriching the country’s tourism product at a time when the market appears to have reached its limit. Based on data collected by StockWatch from the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, there are currently ten new hotels under construction, which will provide 3,186 new beds to be added to the existing 90,000. There are currently around 800 hotel units in Cyprus, situated primarily in the free Famagusta and Paphos regions. The addition of thousands of new beds over the past few years has significantly boosted supply at a time when the hotel industry’s revenue is under pressure. This year has been the hardest for tourism of the past few years, due to a reduction in arrivals and a shrinkage of revenue. Improved conditions in competitive destinations such as Turkey and Egypt, but also a radical increase in alternative accommodation such as Airbnb, have impacted on the hotel industry’s revenue, in the range of a double-digit percentage drop. But despite this year’s difficulties, the inflow of tourists has shot up from roughly 2.4 million in 2013 to almost 4 million in 2018, which is a record high. According to the data collected by StockWatch, three new hotels will be added this year in Nicosia, one in Limassol and two in Larnaca, Paphos and free Famagusta. Also, the five-star, luxury City of Dreams Mediterranean casino-resort is expected to open its doors in 2021, offering another 1,000 beds.
Akrotiri area is changing character
Serious issues and concerns are being raised over the large-scale developments that are taking place in the Zakaki, Tserkez Tsiflik and Asomatos communities, covering a total area of 5-6 km along the northern side of the Akrotiri Peninsula in Limassol. A number of new applications have been submitted lately for new developments in a region that neighbours the Akrotiri wetland; an environmentally sensitive area with special characteristics which is host to a number of important flora and fauna species. The broader region is completely changing character, going from an agricultural area to a residential, holiday and commercial area. In the northern part of the Akrotiri Peninsula a number of big development projects have either been completed or are underway. These include the new Limassol port, MYMALL Limassol, the licensed City of Dreams Mediterranean (Integrated Casino Resort), the licensed Limassol Greens Golf Resort, the Fasouri Waterpark, the licensed EAC photovoltaic park, the licensed Limassol port road and the proposed mixed development Sunset Gardens. Concerns have been raised by the Environmental Authority and the Environmental Impact Committee, as a number of applications are being examined lately for large-scale developments in the broader region. Even though the area is divided into town-planning zones that allow these developments, reservations are being expressed over whether it is able to facilitate additional developments, which will more than double the population while also seriously impact on the natural environment and the management of natural resources.
Tomer Bitterman: MYMALL Limassol will be expanded
The site interviews the general manager of MYMALL Limassol, Tomer Bitterman, who says that future plans for the mall include to expand it and add new shops. He said current conditions call for fast fashion; namely high street brands at affordable prices, where fashion trends change rapidly. He also says, among other, that the operation of the Cyprus ICR – which neighbours the mall – in the next five years is expected to bring significant change. “We expect the two projects will mutually benefit from each other, particularly in terms of attracting visitors to the region.”
OSAK asks that the HIO and Private Hospitals to enter into discussions
Organized patients disagree with the proposal for additional charges regarding in-patient care, and they ask that the association of private hospitals and HIO begin discussing immediately, in order to achieve a timely agreement in view of the second phase of implementation of the GHS. To express their dissatisfaction and disagreement to the recent proposal, OSAK (organized patients) sent relevant letters stating that the discussion should foresee an agreement that satisfies all parties without further burdening patients.
CyMA submits suggestions for GHS
Alithia reports that CyMA has sent letters to the President of the Republic, the Health Minister, political leaders as well as organised patients in view of re-starting discussion with the GHS’ appropriate authorities. In these letters, CyMA submits suggestions in order to improve the GHS’ functionality and efficiency based on social solidarity, equal accessibility and the patient-centred approach. In fact, these are the same suggestions that CyMA, ENIK, PASIN and the Private Hospitals Association have mutually submitted again in the past. The CyMA has re-submitted these suggestions as apparently they haven’t received the needed reaction, so as to re-start discussion which will enable hospitals and doctors who have not yet joined the GHS to do so.
Messy waiting lists
Patients face a serious issue when trying to contact various departments of state hospitals via telephone, OSAK states that state hospitals are in need of an immediate reevaluation of their waiting lists. OSAK’s Marios Kouloumas spoke to Phileleftheros and explained that since the GHS implementation, dozens of citizens experienced delays with specialized doctors of the public sector and were in turn serviced by the private sector. However, their appointments remain booked in the public sector doctors’ schedules, which in-turn created additional issues when new patients request appointments and the only available slots are after two-three months. This furthers adds to the patients’ inconvenience and OSAK claims that state hospitals must re-evaluate their waiting lists by contacting patients and confirming which appointments should be canceled in order to accommodate other patients.
MoH’s Blood Bank appealed to the public
Phileleftheros reports that the Ministry of Health’s Blood Bank expresses their gratitude towards all blood donors who have contributed to this year’s summer blood sufficiency. According to their announcement, their donation helps improve the quality of life for many patients, and in many cases is crucial in saving patients’’ lives. They appealed to the public, to both new and frequent blood donors, to go donate as there is a serious need between 19 – 23 August due to the holidays, and managing the needs is quite challenging. In their announcement they have listed the work schedules of all centres accepting blood donations across Cyprus.
Urinary tract infections and wrong anti-biotics
According to a recent British study, doctors are concerned about urinary tract infections and the insufficient tests for their diagnosis. They highlight that there is an urgent need for a precise and quick test in order to reduce over-prescription of anti-biotics. The lack of a reliable test results in the frequent prescription of unneeded or unsuitable anti-biotics, which increases the patients’ risk of becoming resistant to those medicines. The existing tests are based on urine analysis which is often inaccurate or too slow. Urinary tract infections are a relatively common problem, but they can however cause further complications. This study shows that one out of every five patients returns to the doctor for a second treatment course because their problem was not treated initially.
GHS’ 7 biggest threats
Alithia reports that two months have already passed since the first day of the GHS’ implementation; the biggest social reform of the Republic of Cyprus. It may works in a satisfactory manner thus far, but an alarming number of problems has been observed, which need to be addressed quickly before they become a threat to the system’s sustainability. The problems include the system’s software, the availability of pharmaceuticals, over-prescription of medication, delays with GP appointments, lack of off-duty services and so on. It’s worth noting that for some of the issues that emerged, there are solutions that are already under works. These problems firstly impact patients, and that is why the President of the Patients Association Marios Kouloumas was asked to discuss these issues in details with Alithia.