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Daily Press Review – 8/11/2019

Cost-effective solutions for bill payments

The households must find more cost-effective ways to carry out their transactions with banks, since the fees they have to pay at the counters, is increasing more and more. One of the contemporary alternatives is e-banking, with which transactions become free and immediate. For older people, who don’t have the knowledge to carry out e-payments, they have to use standing payment orders. Phileleftheros presents what each bank offers and what they charge for the most frequently carried out transactions. At Bank of Cyprus, paying bills of general interest and taxes at the counters, through JCC Smart is increasing on 13 February 2020 to €5 from €2, for every account that is currently open today. Of course, through iBank all transactions are carried out for free. In the case where the client doesn’t use iBank, another choice would be to have a standing order for the payment of their bills. The client will only pay to start the standing order. At Bank of Cyprus this costs €10 for each bill that will be paid (EAC, telephone, water). In the case where an order was given but there is no money in the client’s account, they will be have to pay €5 extra. It is worth noting that in the case where there is a change, a new order must be signed and another €10 must be paid for each account. At Hellenic Bank, starting a standing payment order is free and the client only has to pay stamp duties (€1). Every change to the permanent standing payment order costs €5 and when there’s no money left in the client’s account, the client has to pay €4 extra. Payments are free when using Web Banking. If a client would like to pay for their account at the counter of a Branch of Hellenic Bank, they will be charged €2 for each account.

 

Employee salary systems

Opinion article by Andreas Antoniou who discusses how salary systems should operate in serious businesses and what mistakes they should avoid. He argues that the discussion on salary systems, usually focuses on the distinction between excellent and non-excellent employees. He argues that this is a theory that sounds right and of course, it has its fans and supporters. There are many ways to adopt this theory and promote fairness. Many authors have dealt with this matter, in an effort to support the huge campaign launched by Hellenic Bank to promote its opinions. Unfortunately, these articles focused on the banks and no other sectors like the public sector etc. The author goes on to say that he will not talk about the illegal actions by Hellenic Bank, but merely express his opinion on how a good and fair salary evaluation system must operate in a serious business. He argues that granting raises based on their evaluations and performance must be contained by specific processes, which ensure transparency and meritocracy. In this way – by for example, having a maximum amount – businesses can avoid the mistakes of the past. In fact he argues that in the past, big bonuses led to the collapse of the banking system.

 

Bank of Cyprus trial continues

The third criminal case against executives of the Bank of Cyprus continues on 18 November with the presentation of Prosecution witnesses. The witnesses that the Prosecution will call to testify include the Police investigators who took up the case. It should be noted that the Defence has already called witnesses, which were the defendants of the case who said that the prosecuting authorities used them as witnesses in the first two cases and then charged them. After the acquittal of the defendants Andreas Eliades and Yiannis Kypris, the process continues for the remaining defendants and specifically Christis Chadjimitsis, Nicolas Karydas, Chrisotodoulos Patsalides, Eliza Levadiotou and Despina Kyriakidou.

 

682 applications for Estia

682 applications were submitted for the Estia Scheme, of which 230 are completed, a Ministry of Labour official told the House. As Stockwatch reports, a senior officer at the Ministry of Labour, Vasiliki Hadjiadamou told the House Finance Committee that in two days, the 4th and 5th of November, the banks received 107 applications stressing that the borrowers are waiting for the last minute to submit their applications. The senior official reminded attendees that the Cabinet gave a 45-day extension to the deadline to apply for Estia. As such the deadline for Estia is now the 31st of December.

 

First place in absorption of funds from ERDF

Cyprus holds the first place in the absorption of funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with an absorption percentage of 50%, compared with the EU average that stands at 29%. Cyprus’ success was made known by Lazaros Lazarou, member of the Court of Auditors who handed the annual report to the President of the Republic, Nicos Anastasiades. An announcement of the Presidency mentions that President Anastasiades, upon receiving the report, thanked and congratulated Mr Lazarou for the work he’s been doing. On his part, Lazarou said that Cyprus is doing very well in the absorption of European funds, adding that it holds the first place in the absorption of funds from the ERDF. He said added that Cyprus will certainly fully absorb the funds by the end of the fiscal framework.

 

ECB has positive first reaction on borrowers’ complaints mechanism

The ECB had a positive first reaction with regards to creating a complaints mechanism for borrowers relating to foreclosures. Last summer, the Central Bank had taken the initiative to prepare the mechanism, after the Parliament’s effort to amend the foreclosure legislation. At yesterday’s House Finance Committee, a senior official of the Central Bank Kleanthis Ioannides, said that the ECB hasn’t given Cyprus an official position on the mechanism. As he said, in the videoconferences that were held, the CBC did not get a negative opinion from the ECB, adding that this does not mean that they got a positive reaction either. The head of the Central Bank, Constantinos Herodotou is currently in contact with the ECB as well as the SSM in an effort to accelerate the approval procedure for this mechanism. It should be noted that the Central Bank has completed the preparation of the document, which will describe the provisions of operation of the mechanism. The relevant document was also sent to the ECB, which called the CBC to promote the legislations that must be amended, in order to implement the specific mechanism. On the 28th of November, in the framework of discussions on the state budget for 2020, the head of the Central Bank is expected to participate in meeting of the Committee. The chair of the committee and DIKO MP, Angelos Votsis expressed the hope that Herodotou will give more details about the specific mechanism.

 

MPs request a way for “grey-area” borrowers to join Estia

House Finance Committee members are requesting that the eligibility criteria of Estia are relaxed, as it comes to “grey-area” borrowers. The MPs support that borrowers, who marginally exceed the income criteria of the scheme or who have primary homes with a slightly higher value than the one foreseen in the Scheme, are automatically excluded from the Scheme. They report that these specific cases are “grey-area” cases. Essentially, the House requests that the Bank turn a blind eye and accept this kind of applications. According to the Scheme’s provisions, eligible borrowers are those whose primary homes are not valued at more than €350K. At the same time, the income criteria for the scheme are between €20K-60K combined with the composition of the family. During yesterday’s discussion of the Scheme at the House Finance Committee, a representative of the Ministry of Labour reported that if the bank judges that an application that is submitted is a “grey” one, it should be addressed to the special committee. On behalf of the Cyprus Banks Association, Michalis Kronides noted that the government has to let them know whether they will be accepting “grey-area” cases. He also said that there are cases of borrowers with houses valued at more than €1m and they submit applications for ESTIA to stop the foreclosure process. The members of the committee called on the stakeholders to solve the issue of marginal borrowers by Monday.

 

EVEL has not forgotten the technological park

The Limassol Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EVEL) held its 57th Annual General Meeting yesterday, in the presence of Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, the Mayor of Limassol and its surrounding communities, EVEL members and associates. Addressing the AGM, Lakkotrypis expressed his warm congratulations, collectively and to each businessperson separately, for their significant contribution to Limassol’s huge growth, while he noted that it was not by chance that Limassol currently has the infrastructure and expertise to continuously evolve into an important regional centre for touristic, business and financial activities. The minister highlighted the significant growth in the construction sector, referring specifically to the integrated casino-resort that is under construction and is expected to open its doors towards the end of 2021, as well as the fact that the hydrocarbon companies that are active in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone are serviced by Limassol port.

 

Galatariotis: We have 5,000 unemployed people and serious staff shortages in Limassol

EVEL Chairman Costas Galatariotis referred to Limassol’s serious shortages in human resources in almost all categories of employment, as he addressed EVEL’s AGM. He said if there were conditions of full employment, the problem would only have to do with numbers and it would be easy to import foreign human resources. But the matter is more complex. “At the end of September, we had more than 5,000 unemployed people in Limassol, alongside serious shortages in human resources. When it comes to specialised human resources, the problem can be attributed to the lack of necessary skills,” he said. A second problem for the town, he said, was the high cost of housing. Galatariotis further referred to the bustling construction sector, the driving force of which is the private sector, he said. Regarding public sector infrastructure, Galatariotis welcomed the completion of the road that is parallel to Limassol port, which he said would contribute to decongesting other roads that lead to the port.

 

Making kids’ dreams come true

The “Yianis Christodoulou Foundation” is planning a series of actions aimed at supporting children with special abilities, starting this Christmas season. The series of activities were presented at a press conference yesterday. Among other, they include a collaboration with “Jubilee Sailing Trust”, which owns ships that have been designed to be used for educational and entertainment purposes by people with special abilities. The specialised ship TENACIOUS will be at Limassol port from 4 until 17 May 2020 to welcome children and youths.

 

AKEL: We once again stressed the injustices and problems at the National Guard

Main opposition AKEL MP Costas Costa presents the party’s positions on a discussion that took place at the House Finance Committee over the budget of the Defence Ministry. He stresses the need for the National Guard to remain a capable and powerful force, and once again voices the party’s opposition to the privatisation of semi-government organisations that are very important for national security, such as the Electricity Authority and Telecommunications Authority, which would create serious problems in the operation of the National Guard. He said he hoped this would not also be the case with the privatisation of the new Limassol port.

 

$9-12 billion income from Aphrodite

Daily Politis reports on the four milestones from the start date to the production date in 2025 and the penalties for the companies. The three companies Noble Shell and Delek pledged yesterday through the revenue sharing contract, the development and production plan involving adherence to a concrete time schedule involving four very important steps in order to start the natural gas production in 2025. The formula adopted in the new contract is the same used in contracts for other Blocks. Step 1 involves conducting a second confirmatory drilling at the Aphrodite deposit within 18 to 24 months; step 2 involves that by the end of 2021 the FEED Front End Engineering Design should be completed. The FEED study is expected to cost another $100 million; step 3) by the end of 2022 the FID Final Investment Decision for infrastructure and sales of natural gas should be completed; step 4, thereafter and most likely within 2023 the GSPA Gas Sales and Purchase will follow, that is, the final trade consortium agreement with the buyer, Shell as the administrator of the natural liquefaction terminal and gas pipeline to Idku, Egypt. If the above schedules are adhered without major deviations, within 2023 construction work of the underwater infrastructure will begin for the production to begin in about two years. Funding and construction of the pipeline to Idku will primarily be assumed by members of the consortium with other investors without excluding the involvement of the state.

 

“Medousa 2020” with the participation of France

The military exercise “Medousa”, which is scheduled to take place in Cyprus in 2020, is changing from a trilateral exercise (Cyprus-Greece-Egypt) to a quadrilateral one with the addition of France, according to a report in HellasJournal. The report invokes senior sources from both the Greek and Cypriot military forces, to claim that a relevant agreement has been reached and that discussions with France are in very advanced stages so that French military officers can be updated on the relevant action plans for the exercise. The senior Cypriot source confirmed that not only would France be participating in the exercise, there will also be observers from the US as “guests”. According to the report, a new state of affairs has been created, which in turn has led to the need to protect the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone. The report says that as a result, besides the Greek and Egyptian F-16 jets, the next “Medousa” military exercise will also include French Rafale jets, while at sea, there will be an increased presence of fremm or maybe even Orizon frigates. Through exercises such as “Medousa”, a new powerful player is entering the game with interests in the region, in a bid to increase security; especially now that TOTAL-Eni are going to start drilling next year, the report said.

 

They want direct flights with Europe

The occupied areas will exert pressure on Europe for there to be direct flights with the illegal airport of Tymbou in the Turkish-occupied north, especially following the upgrades and expansion that it has undergone, said the Turkish Cypriot so-called ‘tourism minister’ in statements during the World Travel Market 2019 expo in London. In fact, he said that if necessary, the occupied areas will take legal measures to achieve this goal. According to the Turkish Cypriot press, the ‘minister’ said efforts were being made to change the fact that whoever travels from the UK is forced to stop in Turkey before travelling to Tymbou airport, adding that a large-scale campaign was currently underway to promote the occupied areas and that a way had been found to bypass the “unfair embargo and isolation” via online advertising and promotion.

 

The recruitment of healthcare providers is moving forward

The survey about the current situation at various clinics and departments of state hospitals and their needs for nursing staff is moving forward and is expected to be completed by the end of December. Meanwhile, the schedule for training health professionals has been finalised and is expected to soon begin implementation. On Wednesday, the Cyprus Nurses Association and State Health Services Organisation (OKYPY) discussed the progress of the ongoing procedures relating to staffing state hospitals and the structure of public health in general.

 

Forgotten contribution to the GHS

Although contributions to the GHS started since last March, they were not included in the 2019 state budget for the state’s contribution to the GHS. A supplementary budget of €62m was included in this year’s budget so as to cover the state’s contribution to the GHS for the salaries of employees, self-employed, officials and pensions. During yesterday’s discussion at the House Finance Committee, it was mentioned that initially the state’s contribution would be covered by funds from the Ministry of Health, however there weren’t enough to cover the cost. This year, the state’s total contribution will be €129m and a €418m budget line has been included in the 2020 budget.

 

OKYPY’s earning for October totalled to €7m

OKYPY has yet to completely reach its financial goals as it comes to earnings for services is offers in the GHS framework. However, it seems that state hospitals have started to adapt to the new situation in October, as OKYPY’s earnings exceeded €7m with 70% of its services recorded in the GHS system. According to official data by OKYPY, in June, the first month of GHS’ implementation, its earnings only amounted to €774,183, but increased to €3,407,042 in July. OKYPY’s earnings stood at €2,892,752 only in the first couple of weeks of October, while by the end of October its earnings amounted to almost €7.5m. The organisation’s estimated annual earnings are around €50m i.e. €7.5m per month. As such, the month of October has confirmed the estimated budget.

 

The negative effects of smoking on health

There are 1.1 billion smokers across the globe, making it clear that smoking is a universal “disease” which people need to be informed about and its subsequent effects on health. One of the most widely-known effects of smoking is the increased risk of developing carcinogenesis. Lung cancer is the most widely-known cause of death directly related to smoking. The possibility of developing lung cancer depends on the age of the smoker and the number of cigarettes smoked within a day. A smoker is 10 to 30 times more at risk of lung cancer in relation to a non-smoker. Additionally, smokers are not only at risk from lung cancer. Laryngeal cancer is the second most common disease in the upper respiratory and digestive system and its most common cause is none other than smoking. There are of course other risks for myocardial infraction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, sexual dysfunction and it can even lead to perinatal mortality if a pregnant woman continues smoking. Quitting smoking will obviously be followed by many positive effects as life without smoking is one of higher quality, with better functioning, better physical health and fewer risks.

 

Health Minister: More than 300 new cases

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou stated that in Cyprus, there are more than 300 new lung cancer cases recorded annually, highlighting the need for developing preventive programmes. During his address at a scientific conference for lung cancer, Mr. Ioannou said that his Ministry is making efforts to plan and implement programmes focused on prevention, timely diagnosis, and accessible treatment which will follow international and European guidelines and protocols. For lung cancer, the Minister said that through campaigns such as the one for quitting smoking, the Ministry aims to raise awareness and create a culture among specific groups of the population, such as young people and children, thus, investing in reducing the incidence of lung cancer over time.

 

Mobilisation for Halloumi

Today at 11am, agricultural organisations and sheep & goat farmers will protest outside the Ministry of Energy, Commerce & Industry to express their fear over what they say is the risk of losing the traditional halloumi that Cyprus has produced for centuries. They’ve called on the Government to complete the procedure of registering halloumi as a product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), and the agriculture movement stands united in order to prevent Cyprus from losing halloumi’s nationality. The procedure had started and halloumi’s folder had reached Brussels, but Turkey responded negatively arguing that the Green Line regulation should be revisited in order to allow products of animal origin to pass through the occupied areas into the areas controlled by the Republic. The President agreed in the presence of Jean-Claude Juncker that the folder should remain idle and there hasn’t been any progress since.