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Daily Press Review – 22/5/2019

Anti-bullying workshops

Hope for Children CRC Policy Center and Hellenic Bank have organised workshops with a view to tackle bullying in schools. It is the second year that the two organisations have partnered up, in order to raise awareness in the local society and tackle violence and school bullying, Hope for Children’s announcement reports. The project’s aim is to raise awareness in students, not only in relation to bullying in schools, as well as problem-solving skills and addressing various difficulties, other than school bullying. Furthermore, through this experience, they aim to help children increase their ability to claim their basic human rights in order to be protected by all types of violence and abuse, so as to maintain a good quality of life and participate in decision-making.


Moneyval to request measures outside the banking sector

Kathimerini reports that Cyprus is going through it second week of evaluation by CoE’s Moneyval, which is asssessing Cyprus’ anti-money laundering framework. It is expected that by Friday, Moneyval will complete all its scheduled meetings with competent authorities and if all goes well, it will prepare its first report in September 2019. According to the newspaper’s sources, Moneval is satisfied with the improvements and the new legislations that have been implemented. At the same time, even though the credit institutions have tried to make changes “by the book”, according to European and American suggestions, the Cypriot financial landscape is not as transparent when viewed as a whole. Without being able to give more information on other entities or professional groups and the “grey areas” that have potentially been created, the only thing that’s certain is that Moneyval will suggest new measures for Cyprus in September. Kathimerini’s sources, report that they are preparing specific directives aimed at specific professional groups and the compliance of their practices. The Head of Compliance of Hellenic Bank, Matheos Charalambides,  who met with Moneyval, did not comment on whether there are any “grey areas” and which are these. He confirmed however, that it is possible that additional measures will be requested. He also clarified that he was only present in the meetings with Moneyval that had to do with the banking sector. Matheos Charalambides noted that the “tackling money-laundering, the financing of terrorism and the implementation of international sanctions have for the past years, and still remain amongst the top priorities of Cypriot banks, while they have invested important funds in establishing internationally recognised systems”. He added that procedures and practices have been established in order to mitigate risks, with a focus on training staff and developing an appropriate culture, while the recent Central Bank directive on shell companies, further strengthens the long-term effort to identify non-acceptable practices and take measures. He also underlined that the banks’ efforts and the progress that has been achieved, has been recognised by global organisations. He underlined however, that Cyprus’ risks as it comes to money laundering and the financing of terrorism have been identified and analysed in the National Risk Assessment report, which was published in October 2018. “We believe that the report will serve as an important guide reinforcing the additional measures that could potentially be taken. We expect that the improvement in effectively implementing the legal framework, which has been achieved in the last few years will be reflected in Moneyval’s final report”, he concluded.


Cypriot banks rank 7th in terms of costs

Kathimerini reports that Cypriot banks have reduced their operational expenses over the last 6 years. In 2013, the Cypriot banking system was shaken up by the haircut, a bank merger and the introduction of strict anti-money laundering directives. Over the 6 years that followed, many banks proceeded to implement Voluntary Retirement Schemes, Cyprus’ second largest bank closed down and smaller banks merged together. The banks’ personnel has been reduced by over 3.500 since the start of 2013, while bank employees are still many. In Cyprus, there is one employee for every 80 customers, while in the EU, there is one employee for every 150 customers. The newspaper reports that the banks’ high costs is not only caused by the number of staff and the staff’s salaries, but also the banks’ operational model, since having been established. More than 50% of the total operational expenses result from staff costs. Either way, data shows that Cypriot banks rank 7th in terms of costs, compared with 20 other EU countries. Specifically, Cypriot banks’ cost to income ratio stands at 60.34%. Kathimerini further goes on to argue that, even though credit institutions have said that they want to reduce staff and branches, their costs have not been directly reduced.


Astrobank announced reduction of base mortgage rate (BMR)

Astrobank announced the reduction of the base mortgage rate (BMR) from 2% to 1.75%. According to an announcement, this reduction will positively affect Astrobank’s clients who have a mortgage with an interest rate that is linked to the base mortgage rate. This reduction has to do with new and current mortgage clients, for the purchase, construction or renovation of a house. This reduction constitutes another vital step in Astrobank’s effort to continuously upgrade its services and products as well as for its firm establishment in the local market. The reduction entered into force on 20 May 2019.


IMF identifies weaknesses in reduction of NPLs in Greece and Cyprus

The IMF’s board has decided to amend its programmes, in order to avoid mistakes like the ones that took place in Greece and Cyprus. The Board identified errors and omissions in many programmes of the international organisation over the past few years, and has therefore decided to adjust its planning and its programme requirements. The report makes a special reference to the IMF’s programmes’ inability to effectively tackle the problem of red loans. It comments that in countries like Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Portugal, NPLs marked an increase by an average of 10.5%, even though financial stability was one of the programme’s priorities for these countries. The NPLs marked a reduction, only after the programmes’ conclusion in Ireland and Portugal, while they remain quite high in Cyprus and Greece, preventing the repetition of a credit boom. The experience from these countries showcases the challenge of reducing NPLs over the period of the programme”.


Luxury hotels arrive in Larnaca

In Larnaca, companies are investing hundreds of millions in the hotel sector and the tourist product is being enhanced. 3 International brands are due to build luxury hotels, and multiple other hotels are being renovated. 5 new hotels will be ready by 2020: Solar, Radisson Beach Resort and Samirama. Kathimerini also reports that according to their sources, international hotel giant Best Western will also build a hotel in Larnaca, a stones throw away from Finikoudes beach. The company is currently waiting for a town-planning permit.


Casino best confirms the confidence of investors in Cyprus

The Deputy Minister Savvas Perdios said in his welcome address at the Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF) that “the casino-resort “City of Dreams Mediterranean” in west Limassol best confirms the confidence of investors in Cyprus”. The conference is taking place from 21 – 23 of May and marks the 30th anniversary of the Forum. According to a relevant Press Release, Perdios referred to the expectations that the casino-resort, which will be the biggest casino in Europe, is expected to be launched in start of 2021 and will attract 300.000 additional tourists in Cyprus per year. He also referred to the comparative advantages of Cyprus as an investment destination and an especially competitive hub for international businesses. As he said, Cyprus’ potential has not only been proven over the past few years, but it was strengthened and extended, standing out amongst the majority of investment destinations. Mr Perdios also referred to the Government’s ambitious reforms programme, the strong growth rate, the creation of surpluses as well as the reduction of unemployment and fiscal charges in an important number of sectors. “The above, in combination with public sector reforms and the enhancement of the total tax and legislative framework, led to new important investments in a wide range of sectors, such as tourism, energy etc.”, he said. He also expressed gratitude that Cyprus, is a partner with Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF) and its members, throughout the country’s effort to restructure and further enhance its position as a trustworthy, investment and business-friendly competitive centre.


New incentives for specialised doctors

New incentives to persuade specialised doctors to join the GHS, will be officially announced tomorrow Thursday, creating an atmosphere of optimism, that more doctors will express interest in joining the system by the 1st June. As Haravgi learns, incentives include a change on their fees, since for specialised doctors, salaries will be calculated per medical act rather than per capita (as is the case for personal doctors). They are expected to reconsider as reportedly the new offers will be marginally different from their current income (through insurance companies). Haravgi also reports that the list of pharmaceuticals for outpatients, has already been given to the pharmacists. The aim of having these lists is to better help private pharmacists prepare for GHS’ beneficiaries.


GHS rivalry in view of the euro elections

An intense rivalry is in progress over the last few days between the Citizens’ Alliance-Green party coalition against EDEK. This rivalry focuses on GHS, but it is obvious from both of their announcements that their motivation is the euro elections and the 6th sit in the European Council. They argued about the regulations about the pharmacies’ operations within hospitals.


In Cyprus 1 out of 4 suffers from hypertension

The Cyprus Society of Cardiology aimed to raise awareness for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of hypertension in the framework of its campaign for the World Hypertension Day. The message of the campaign was ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ and aimed to inform people about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hypertension. The campaign took place on Friday, 17 May and Saturday 18 May at Nicosia’s shopping centres, where hundreds of citizens got the opportunity to receive information by cardiologists on the serious pathological complications caused by high blood pressure, while they were also offered free blood pressure checks.