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Daily Press Review – 27/11/2019

Ashiotis: Don’t confuse borrowers

Hellenic Bank’s head economist Dr Andreas Ashiotis has called for the changes to the foreclosures and insolvency framework to be left out of public debates. As he explained, borrowers should feel a credible pressure when it comes to their loan commitments and debts, as only thus will it be possible to further reduce NPLs. Especially when it comes to household and SME (small and medium sized enterprises) loans. Despite a recent deceleration in the reduction of NPLs, Central Bank (CBC) figures have shown that they have dropped 85% since December 2014, from €28b to €9.7b. Despite the 2013 banking crisis and the recession that followed, the Cyprus economy is currently on an upward course, with a growth rate of close to 4%. Dr Ashiotis said that the biggest drop in NPLs was down to an organic reduction, namely the reduction of loans by large businesses, either through debt-to-property swaps, or through restructurings. The reduction of SME loans is among other due to the implementation of the Helix programme by Bank of Cyprus (BoC). As for households, the reduction came from the transfer of the Co-op’s NPLs outside of the banking system. It is noted that based on CBC data, the majority of red loans are currently held by households and SMEs, while the picture for large businesses is much better. And this, said Dr Ashiotis, is because for the smaller loans, a much larger number of arrangements are required before there is some progress, in contrast with large business loans. “Therefore, the discussions surrounding a change to the legal framework, concerning foreclosures and insolvency, are not at all helpful, as they discombobulate borrowers and create a serious moral risk. A proper foreclosures and insolvency framework must apply credible pressure on borrowers to meet their loan obligations, not give wrong incentives to borrowers and of course it should be used correctly by the credit institutions,” said Dr Ashiotis.


Banks: ECB pushing them towards negative rates

The European Central Bank is pushing banks, not excluding Cypriot banks, to apply negative interest rates on large deposits. It seems that it is not too late for the Cypriot banks or some of them to start applying a negative interest rate on large deposits. As it is known, the ECB is charging banks a negative rate of 0.6% due to low inflation and weak growth in the region. By imposing a negative interest rate on bank deposits, the ECB aims to lend them more loans, thereby encouraging the growth of the economy. Government sources predict that the ECB’s key interest rates will remain at or below current levels until inflation prospects recover to near satisfactory levels, but below 2%. So, with this information, Banks have no choice but to start imposing interest rates for big depositors, big companies and institutional investors. The major European banks have already begun applying a negative interest rate, and the rest of the local banks will adopt similar practice.


Retail Banking in Cyprus – 7th Cyprus Banking Forum

Η Logicom Solutions presents the 7th Cyprus Banking Forum on Friday, 29 November 2019, at The Landmark Nicosia hotel. It is organised by IMH and its supporters are Alpha Bank Cyprus Ltd, Ancoria Bank Ltd, AstroBank Limited, Bank of Cyprus Group, CDB Bank Ltd, Eurobank Cyprus, Hellenic Bank, National Bank of Greece


Four very important reasons why you should vaccinate your children

Article on the importance of vaccinating children, leading up to the 3rd annual conference “The Future of Healthcare in Cyprus”, which this year goes under the title: “Recent Health System Reforms and Quality of Care”. The conference, which is under the auspices of the Health Ministry, is presented by the University of Nicosia and co-organised by the DIAS Group and Sigma Television, in cooperation with Boussias Communications & Health Daily, on Thursday, 5 December, at the Filoxenia Conference Centre in Nicosia. The conference’s Gold Sponsor is Hellenic Bank and its Communication Sponsor is Economy Today.


Bank of Cyprus is reducing its branches

Bank of Cyprus will close another 11 branches by the end of the year, bringing the total closed this year to 26, Phileleftheros reported on Wednesday. But it is increasing the number of cash offices from 9 at the end of December 2018 to 13 at the end of 2019. Announcing its nine-month results yesterday, BoC gave a brief overview of how its branch network is being formed to date. “BoC continues its branch footprint rationalisation as it expects to reduce the number of branches by a further 8% by the year end, further improving its operating model and remains focused on further improvement in efficiency,” it said. Compared to the end of 2013,  the rationalisation represents 57% reductions in the number of branches, Phileleftheros said. Back in 2013, there were 230 branches offering services to clients, and by the end of 2019 the number will decrease to 99 of which 86 are regular branches with staff and 13 are cash offices with ATMs only. However, the number of cash offices is increasing from nine at the end of December 2018 to 13 at the end of 2019. BoC customers are officially notified in writing about the closure of their branch and informed about their new branch.


New sale of NPLs

Reducing its NPLs and proceeding with its digital transformation are among BoC’s top priorities. These will be the next steps according to the comments by the bank’s management accompanying the announcement of its results yesterday, showing a profit after tax of €116m, from losses of €39.514m in the same period of 2018. More specifically, the bank continues to assess the possibility of accelerating the reduction of its NPLs, by selling a new package of loans with a book value of €2b. On 30 September, its total NPLs were €4.085b, comprising 31% of BoC’s total loans. The sale of a new package of loans, coupled with a continuation of the organic reduction of the bank’s NPLs, will lead to a substantive drop in its NPL rate in 2020.



Foreclosures after Estia

The day after the Estia scheme will bring foreclosures for borrowers who do not join the scheme or who are considered non-viable. Announcing its results, BoC said that up until 22 November, it received 487 applications to join Estia, involving loans totalling €120m. “The scheme is expected to resolve part of the portfolio chosen for Estia, help in spotting the non-viable customers for whom alternative solutions are being examined and allow for the rest of the portfolio to be dealt with, mainly through foreclosures; consensual or not,” said the bank.


Ten banks left in Cyprus, from 13 in 2017

The sale of National Bank of Greece’s Cyprus subsidiary to AstroBank means that there are now 10 banks on the island, from 13 back in 2017. As well as NBG, there were the acquisitions of the Cyprus Co-op and USB Bank.


Last chance for Estia plan

Interview with Financial Ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou, who among other clarifies that he does not have the power to cancel foreclosures as such, and that he makes recommendations and it is down to the banks’ good will whether his advice is taken on board or not.


Political parties amend the 2020 state budget

Political parties’ amendments for the state budget of 2020 will be along the lines of those in 2019. Behind-the-scenes discussions between political parties, mainly the opposition’s, are in progress for drafting mutual amendments and budgets will be reduced. Recently, the financial staff of the political parties, following the guidelines of the 2019 budget amendments, have been working tirelessly to put the amendments forward the House Finance Committee on Friday. The goal is to have as much mutual amendments as possible, as they have more chances for approval.


Reduced Benefits             

The budget of the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Security will be gradually reduced in the coming years, with its Head explaining in a note submitted to the House Finance Committee ahead of its 2020 assessments, that the reduction for next year is mainly due to the overall reduction in social welfare benefits. In detail, the child benefit is reduced by €5.4m, funding to pensioners by €6m, the guaranteed minimum income by €3.9m and the cover material reception conditions for asylum seekers by €3.5m.


New properties on the market by Altamira

Altamira has put 50 new properties up for sale across Cyprus, with the most expensive being a half-finished industrial building in Latsia worth €2.45m. There are also industrial warehouses in Kato Polemidia worth €1.250m and a commercial plot worth €830,000 in Aglandja, Nicosia.


Give back the passports

Politis newspaper reports that it has secured the list of nine people who received Cypriot citizenship through the island’s citizenship-by-investment scheme, against whom a process has begun to revoke their Cypriot passport. They are nine investors, who also managed to secure citizenship for family members. Almost all of them have cases pending against them, legal or even with international organisations. Their names have been implicated in cases of huge financial scandals involving the embezzlement of massive sums, money laundering and other issues, which raise serious questions over why they were chosen to be given Cypriot citizenship. Even more serious is the question why the government granted them citizenship, as the majority of them have been well known for years. The procedure to revoke their citizenship will be long and the result is questionable. The list is expected to grow, as the three-member committee appointed by the Cabinet continues to investigate the case. The nine names are: Vladimir Stolyarenco, his wife and daughter; Alexander Bondarenko, his wife and two sons; Oleg Deribaska, his son and daughter; Im Paulika and her husband Aun Pornmoniroth; Choeung Sopheap and her husband Lao Meng Khin; Hum Kimleng and her husband Neth Savoeun; Zhang Shumin, his wife and three children; Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa and his wife.


Cyprus committed to sustainable shipping

The Deputy Minister of Shipping, Natasa Pilides, highlighted the Republic of Cyprus’ commitment to sustainable international shipping, at her address at the 31st Conference of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Mrs. Pilides stated that Cyprus promotes safe, threat-free, sustainable and environmentally-friendly shipping through its active participation and collaboration. The Deputy Minister committed that Cyprus will continue to do as much as possible to positively contribute to IMO’s vision for the benefit of the international shipping industry.


Attracting tourism from the Gulf countries

The Gulf countries are rather obvious targets for visitors, but the number of visitors arriving in Cyprus remain low. These are strong markets, with high living standards and young populations who are eager to travel (50% are under 30-years-old). Planning foresees the development of these markets, and in fact, recently, delegations from the Deputy Ministry of Tourism visited to Saudi Arabia and Dubai. The delegation focused on promoting connectivity between Cyprus – Saudi Arabia, through airline companies such as Etihad, Saudia, Flynas and Flydubai. They discussed common tourist packages, developing tourist investments in Cyprus, among other things.


Airbnb bill goes to the Plenary

The discussion for the regulation and taxation of private self-serviced accommodation that is leased through web platforms such as Aribnb, was completed yesterday at the House Energy, Commerce and Industry Committee. The bill, which stipulates that Airbnb-style apartments must be licensed and registered on a special registry, will go to the Plenary next month for a vote. The bill stipulates licensing and registering over 20 thousand apartments, let through Airbnb-style platforms. Despite the fact that all parties supported the bill that will create the register, DISY avoided giving an opinion to the Plenary with regards to eliminating the provision that foresees that the management committee of each apartment building must agree before an apartment is let through Airbnb. In order for the owners to be included in the registry, they tell the authorities with a solemn declaration that they posses the necessary town-planning permits and that they keep the safety and hygiene regulations. The owners will be given a chance to comply with the bill within a year. As it was reported on the House Energy Committee, the non-licensed accommodation leased in Cyprus are between 20-40 thousand, while licensed villas are below 100.


Deputy Ministry of Tourism budget reflects new priorities

The budget of the Deputy Ministry of Tourism for 2020, reflects a new priority for tourism in Cyprus: expanding and diversifying to other markets. The Deputy Ministry’s budget that will be examined tomorrow Thursday, stipulates €19,029 that will go towards financing the relevant actions. The new budget will go to the Plenary on Thursday. Specifically, there is a budget line for cooperation with foreign tour operators as well airlines, for the execution of intensified advertising campaigns to priority markets as these were defined in the new business plan, a budget line for the planning and implementation of a new brand name for tourist Cyprus and the production of promotional material. The current identity of Cyprus has been deemed old and dates back to 2010. There is also a budget line destined for the upgrade and maintenance of Cyprus’ website, as well as the upgrade and maintenance of the Deputy Ministry’s social media pages for the promotion of Cyprus. The operation of a multimedia database as well as the upgrade of electronic chart will require increased budget lines. The budget also includes promotional activities such as PR events in Cyprus and abroad for the promotion of Cyprus tourism, either exclusively through the Ministry. It also includes a budget line for digital marketing campaigns, electronic commercials, e-brochures on specialised websites etc.


Celine Dion tops Billboard charts with “Courage”

Celine Dion reminded everyone that she still is one of the biggest divas in the music world internationally, with her new album Courage that only just came out a few days ago. 17 years have passed since Celine managed a similar success, since according to Billboard, the famous singer had managed such a meteoric rise in the Billboard 200 was 2002. Celine’s new album Courage, has marked worldwide sales and her new song “Imperfection” (the first radio release of the new album) climbing the charts and reaching the first place of Billboard 100. This is the fifth time that Celine managed such an achievement in her entire career. The five-time Grammy winner, Celine Dion will sing her new hits as well as much-loved older songs in her concert that will take place in Cyprus. The concert, presented by Melco and City of Dreams will take place on 2 August at GSP Stadium in Nicosia and will start at 20:30.


Lamda’s plans for Hellinikon

Lamda Development’s detailed plan includes details about the development of Hellinikon area. The plan reveals the central role that housing developments will have over the next 25 years, as it is foreseen that around 10,800 houses will be built, respecting the current permitted uses and calculating an average 110sqm home. The specific houses include two tall houses of special design: a) the tower/housing complex close to Metropolis park b) housing tower in marina. The plan foresees that around 1,000 rooms will be created in three hotels, without including the Integrated Resort Casino (IRC). The three hotels will be: a) a hotel tower with 600 rooms in Vouliagmeni Avenue, which is a tall building of special design, b) a luxury five-star hotel of around 270 rooms in the marina and c) a seaside luxury hotel of 170 rooms.

Second round of vaccinations in GHS

The Ministry of Health and the HIO announce the start of the second round of vaccinations for GHS beneficiaries that belong to the high-risk groups of the population. According to an announcement by the Ministry and the HIO, the high-risk groups are people of 65 years of age and above, children over 6 months, teenagers and adults with chronic pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or other chronic metabolic diseases, chronic kidney or liver disease, neurological or neuromuscular diseases, sickle-cell anaemia or other haemoglobinopathies, immunosuppression, people who went under organ or stem cells transplant, children and teenagers who need long-term treatments with aspirin, people with a BMI of 40kg/m2. The vaccines are also destined for pregnant women, no matter their age, women who recently gave birth, women who breastfeed, or people who are in close contact with children below 6 months or who take care of people that belong in the high-risk groups of the population, employees who work in healthcare, healthcare professionals, people working in refugee and migrant centres, veterinarians as well as professionals working in animal production.


GHS brings investments and challenges

A new state-of-affairs is being shaped in view of the second phase of the GHS’ implementation. With the government and the HIO having two important issues to regularise in state and private hospitals, the upcoming changes have attracted investment interest. The state remains at the forefront of these investments, as it has launched a race for the autonomisation of state hospitals as well as the support of private hospitals that will be incorporated in the GHS. At the same time, there are important investments in the private sector, while foreign investors have also expressed interest. Specifically, there will be reclassifications in the healthcare sector without ruling out the exportation of private hospitals. The Minister of Health, Constantinos Ioannou spoke about the upcoming investments. Called to give more information about foreign interest for investments, only said that the new environment creates opportunities that have drawn the attention of investors.


Cancer patients increases heart disease risk

More than one in ten cancer patients do not die from their cancer but from heart and blood vessel problems instead, according to new research published in the European Heart Journal  today (Monday). For some cancers, like breast, prostate, endometrial, and thyroid cancer, around half will die from cardiovascular disease (CVD). Dr Nicholas Zaorsky, a radiation oncologist, and Dr Kathleen Sturgeon, an assistant professor in public health sciences, both at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Cancer Institute, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA, and colleagues compared the US general population with over 3.2 million US patients who had been diagnosed with cancer between 1973 and 2012. They used information contained in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database to look at deaths from CVD, which included heart disease, high blood pressure, cerebrovascular disease, blocked arteries and damage to the aorta — the main artery carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. They adjusted their analyses to take account of factors that could affect the results, such as age, race and sex, and they looked specifically at 28 different types of cancer. Among the 3,234,256 cancer patients, 38% (1,228,328) died from cancer and 11% (365,689) died from CVDs. Among the deaths from CVD, 76% were due to heart disease, and the risk of dying from CVD was highest in the first year after a cancer diagnosis and among patients younger than 35 years. The majority of CVD deaths occurred in patients with cancers of the breast (a total of 60,409 patients) and prostate (84,534 patients), as these are among the most common cancers to be diagnosed. In 2012, 61% of all cancer patients who died from CVD were diagnosed with breast, prostate, or bladder cancer. The proportion of cancer survivors dying from CVD was highest in bladder (19% of patients), larynx (17%), prostate (17%), womb (16%), bowel (14%) and breast (12%).


Air pollution linked to higher glaucoma risk

Living in a more polluted area is associated with a greater likelihood of having glaucoma, a debilitating eye condition that can cause blindness, finds a new UCL-led study in the UK. People in neighbourhoods with higher amounts of fine particulate matter pollution were at least 6% more likely to report having glaucoma than those in the least-polluted areas, according to the findings published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. “We have found yet another reason why air pollution should be addressed as a public health priority, and that avoiding sources of air pollution could be worthwhile for eye health alongside other health concerns,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Paul Foster (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital). “While we cannot confirm yet that the association is causal, we hope to continue our research to determine whether air pollution does indeed cause glaucoma, and to find out if there are any avoidance strategies that could help people reduce their exposure to air pollution to mitigate the health risks.” Glaucoma is the leading global cause of irreversible blindness and affects over 60 million people worldwide. It most commonly results from a build-up of pressure from fluid in the eye, causing damage to the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is a neurodegenerative disease.


Disabled persons put on hold, risking their lives

A disabled patients association said that disabled 1974 war veterans have to wait up to 2 years to get a doctors’ visit. At the same time the President of the European Disability Forum called on Cyprus to transpose the UN Declaration for the rights of disable people as well a National Action plan that will tackle the unemployment problem of disabled persons in Cyprus. In the meantime, the European Economic and Social Committee stresses that 80% of the citizens who suffer from impaired vision have been unable to get a job.


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