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Daily Press Review – 6/12/2019

Estia will only cover 20% of its goal

The limited success of the Estia scheme is a credit negative according to ratings agency Moody’s, which has sounded alarm bells over the impact this will have on Cyprus’ banks. In its weekly credit outlook, the agency said that on 28 November, Central Bank of Cyprus Governor Constantinos Herodotou revealed that applications for Estia were lower than expected. Herodotou said that 1,050 applications had been received by borrowers in November, which is less than 10% of what was originally expected. Moody’s said that overall, around 20% less applications have been submitted so far than expected and thus the scheme will have a limited impact on reducing NPLs, which is negative for the banks. It said it initially expected that Estia would support loan restructurings and help kickstart repayments, bringing at least €1b to the banks. It continued to believe that by the end of 2020, more than €4b of the current €10b’s worth of NPLs will be removed via sales or securitisations, which will reduce the NPL rate to below 20%, from the 30% it was in June 2019. However, it added, it no longer expects that Estia will be a significant factor in reducing NPLs to around 10% from 2021 onwards. According to the agency’s calculations, around half of the eligible NPLs come from the island’s banking system, mainly from Bank of Cyprus, Hellenic Bank and the Housing Finance Corporation. Non-banking entities, mainly KEDIPES, hold the rest. It is noted that Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank have already announced that they will be selling loans. In fact, BoC said that the value of its loan sale may exceed €2b, while according to leaked information, HB is in consultations with investors to sell loans worth €1.5b.

 

Foreclosures worth millions

Prime plots with a value of between €500,000 and €4m are up for foreclosure in December in various parts of Cyprus. There are continuous listings in the press, while there is already information about properties that will be foreclosed in 2020. Besides the plots, there are also apartments and houses up for sale. According to data on the Interior Ministry’s website, a 2,236 square-metre plot in Strovolos stands out, which Hellenic Bank is putting up for auction at the price of €4,055,000. HB is also putting another two plots, 562sq.m. and 559sq.m., up for auction in the same area, with a reserve price of €3,195,000. Meanwhile, Bank of Cyprus is foreclosing two plots in Engomi, Nicosia, with a reserve price of €671,200.

 

Hellenic Bank to offer training on ATM, Web Banking and Mobile App

Hellenic Bank (HB) on Tuesday announced it has launched a series of seminars to brief its customers on the digital services it offers. The bank said the first seminars took place in some of its outlets in Nicosia and Limassol, where staff briefed customers on all the digital means at their disposal such as Web Banking and the Mobile App in addition to ΑΤΜs. The seminars aim to familiarise the bank’s customers with its digital services so they can receive a faster and better service and also take advantage of all the benefits that new technologies offer, the bank said. The educational afternoon, Hellenic Bank said, was the first in a series of actions planned to reduce the gap created by rapid technological evolution among members of the public who have digital skills and those who have not yet acquired such skills, especially the elderly. The bank plans on organising more seminars for its customers also in the other districts. “By organising a training afternoon, Hellenic Bank is leading the way. Customer education in digital service is one of the biggest challenges faced by the banking organisations worldwide, as digitisation of the banking sector is inevitable. In this context, educating our customers on the use of new technologies is a top priority,” said Retail Operations Manager at Hellenic Bank Katina Siakalli.

 

Parliament and the NPLs of PEPs

It has been a fortnight since the Central Bank governor sent a second letter to parliament, reaffirming the CBC’s readiness to comply with its obligation to provide information and data to the parliamentary committees, Politis comments. The correspondence, which had to do with the issue of NPLs held by politically exposed persons (PEPs) left the House President exposed, as the first letter confirming the CBC’s willingness to cooperate was sent back on 4 July, yet no further actions were taken. Now the House Watchdog Committee has also been informed. So, the paper expects that the Committee will now seek to acquire the infamous list of names.

 

New roles for the ESM

Euro zone finance ministers reached a deal “in principle” on widening the responsibilities of the European Stability Mechanism, the euro zone bailout fund, but failed to tie off all loose ends or to make progress on a deposit insurance scheme, the group’s chairman said on Thursday. The reform of ESM is one of the measures for deeper economic integration of the euro zone, along with a miniscule euro zone budget and setting up a European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS). Changes to the ESM treaty are intended to reduce the risk of investors holding out for a better deal in a sovereign debt restructuring and give the bailout fund room to mediate between the sovereign and investors. They would also allow the ESM to lend to the euro zone’s bank resolution fund to wind down failing banks if, in a major bank crisis, the resolution fund runs out of money of its own.

 

Another €55m added to the 2020 budget already

The 34 amendments to the 2020 state budget that were submitted by the government will increase its expenditure by €55m, which comprises 0.2% of GDP. Of those, the amendments that were approved by the Cabinet last Wednesday amount to €26m. These include the five preconditions that were set by party DIKO, in order to vote in favour of the budget. With the state’s amendments, low-earning pensioners’ pensions will increase by €19m, while the expenditure for the housing scheme to rejuvenate the mountain areas will increase by €1.5m; among other. Meanwhile, the parties are preparing all the amendments they will table during the House Plenary vote for the budget, which will take place this Wednesday. From the information available so far, it appears that the €33m fund for the Estia scheme will be committed, while the fund for privatisations will be cut. New Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides will analyse the government’s plans for 2020 to the House Plenum today.

 

Procedures to fill 213 government posts

The House Finance Committee yesterday unfroze 213 new job positions in the public and broader public sector. Of those, 142 positions will be in the public service, the majority of which in the Labour, Interior and Agriculture Ministries, as well as the State Treasury. They also include positions at the semi-government organisations, state universities and the water and sewerage boards.

 

1st Limassol Santa’s Race

The 1st Limassol Santa’s Race took place on Sunday, 1 December 2019 at 9:30 a.m. People of all ages and abilities got in the festive spirit and dressed as Santa Claus to run along the coastal road. Santa’s Race was organised by the Limassol Tourism Board in cooperation with the Cyprus Sightseeing and Multipurpose Centre ‘Saint John the Merciful’. The goal of the event was to mark the beginning of the festive season, participate in an athletic and entertaining event as well as provide to our fellow citizens in need, as the event’s earnings will go towards providing food for poor families in Limassol during Christmas and New Year’s. Santa’s Race wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Limassol Municipality and Limassol Central Police. Other valuable sponsors of this event include; XM Forex, Areti Charidemou & Associated LLC Law Firm, Cyprus Casinos, Efstaco pools as well as multiple volunteers by Round Table 6.

 

‘Ziu Jitsu’ at Parliament

The movie ‘Ziu Jitsu’, which is being filmed in Cyprus starring Nicolas Cage, may be moving along, however, opposition parties intend to veto the release of €8.5 million claimed by the production company. Based on the investment incentive plan for the promotion of the audio-visual industry, the government should pay to the film project’s production company 35% of the budgeted production costs of about €25 million. According to information sent to Parliament, the company is owned by BMCH Cyprus LTD, Double Tree Entertainment LLC, and Elio Pictures LTD which own 33%. A representative of the Ministry of Finance explained that during the shooting in Cyprus, 220 people were employed through the production company that need to be paid. Despite the ministry’s explanations, AKEL, and the Green Party have strong reservations and disagree with the release of the relevant funds before they examine the information sent.

 

Extension to on-call offers

The HIO has announced that it will extend the deadline for submitting applications for providing on-call duty services by GPs to GHS’ beneficiaries until 13 December 2019. The relevant documents are published on the organisation’s website.

 

PASYKI takes drastic measures

PASYKI announced that’s its drastic measures are a cry for help so as to put an end to OKYPY’s inaction and indecision. PASYKI expects the Health Minister to maintain his composure, noting that he himself admitted that OKYPY was delaying meeting its responsibilities to coordinate an action plan to support state hospitals, which are the backbone of the GHS. “The Health Minister and OKYPY, both admitted that the A&E Departments are working with ‘security personnel’, and that it was they who instructed doctors to cancel scheduled appointments and in turn tarnish the image of state hospitals. It’s the lack of timely measures or/and the implementation of wrong practices that resulted in the staff shortages and patients turning to other healthcare providers for their needs”, said PASYKI.

 

Limassol General Hospital is left with no angiogram

AKEL’s Limassol MP George T. Georgiou asked Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou to intervene as there is a broken angiogram in Limassol General Hospital, and the issue needs to be solved as soon as possible. In his letter he says, “This is not the first time that this has happened, resulting in the daily inconvenience of patients. Now, there’s a waiting list with potentially dangerous consequences”. He highlights that this issue concerns patients who have surgeries scheduled in one year from now, and that this could even lead to loss of life.

 

Close to an agreement with private hospitals

The head of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), Andreas Papaconstantinou, yesterday said that consultations between the organisation and private hospitals regarding the second phase of the GHS were at a critical point. Papaconstantinou said that the two sides were currently engaging in informal discussions and that preparations were ongoing. “We believe that in one-two weeks we will reach convergences, so that we can sign a memorandum of cooperation in order to proceed,” he said. Meanwhile, spokesman for state health organisation OKYPY Charalambos Charilaou yesterday commented on the work stoppage that has been announced by state doctors’ union PASYKI on 13 December. He said “a structured dialogue is currently underway with all the government doctors’ unions”. Last Tuesday, he added, they were told in a meeting with the Board Chairman that the matter would be discussed at the next Board of Directors meeting that will take place on 12 December. “We were very surprised to hear the measures being announced,” said Charilaou. Also referring to the work stoppage, the president of the doctors’ and clinical directors’ branch at public servants’ umbrella union PASYDY, Agathoklis Christofides, said: “We are on hold. Depending on the actions that will be taken by the employer’s side, we will decide the next steps.”

 

Huge provocation by the Health Ministry

Main opposition AKEL’s parliamentary spokesman Giorgos Loukaides yesterday described recent statements by the Health Minister on the issue of doctors fleeing the state hospitals as a huge provocation. He said the minister was more or less blaming the doctors for the serious problems facing the public health sector and the resignation of their colleagues. “It is unheard of,” he said. Loukaides said that not only has the government failed to live up to the commitments it made in July 2016 to upgrade and restructure the public hospitals, it has left them on life support. “Three whole years since OKYPY was established, with the responsibility of the government, this organisation continues to mislead with constant changes in its administration and management,” he said. Loukaides said the top priority for the smooth implementation of the GHS was to support the public hospitals, before implementing the reforms. “Today, solely because of them, the viability of the General Health System is under threat, because of their own actions and omissions, while patients continue to suffer from the negative consequences in the public health sector,” he said.

 

 

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