It’s time for privatisation in Cyprus

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades dangled a carrot in front of employees of the state-owned telecoms company Cyta this week when he addressed the trade union summit of the Cyta union, Pase-Athk.

The majority of operations of the semi-governmental organisation will be transferred to the new state company with a view to attracting a strategic investor or investors, Georgiades said.

Few would have thought that Georgiades would have dared to address union members and talk to them about the privatisation of their company.

Yet at the end of the speech the Cyta employees applauded him.

This is a big change from last year, when trade unionists attacked parliament and the Minister of Finance personally for bringing forward the legislation for privatisation.

Still, the General Secretary of Pase-Athk, Alecos Trifonidis, expressed his opposition to Cyta privatisation “as a matter of principle for the country’s best interests”.

The reality is that Georgiades’ proposal is too good even for trade unionists to refuse and Trifonidis knows that it is going to be difficult to persuade union members otherwise.


Rights protected

Among the sweeteners offered, Georgiades reiterated the government’s position that the rights of employees will be fully guaranteed through “practical adjustments”.

He promised Cyta employees that they will have the choice either to stay in the new private company or keep working for the existing state-owned organisation under terms yet to be determined.

Additionally, they could choose to transfer to the ‘security’ of public sector, while employees will also be able to choose voluntary early retirement.

Working for the new organisation will include an attractive incentives package.

“In all cases, employees will have opportunities and options, in all cases their pension rights will be fully guaranteed and no employee will lose their status unless they choose to do so,” Georgiades said, stressing that “under no circumstances will an employee be let go”.

Georgiades’ ‘gifts’ to the trade unions came as a response to a proposal by opposition Akel earlier this week to freeze the privatisation process until 2017.

However, on Wednesday, the Troika of international lenders’ statement on the bailout programme made a clear reference to the need to proceed with privatisation.

“Timely implementation of the privatisation plan is necessary to increase economic efficiency, attract investment, and reduce public debt,” they said.

Under the bailout deal that Cyprus signed with international lenders in March 2013, the government is due to privatise Cyta, the Electricity Authority of Cyprus and the Cyprus Ports Authority and raise €1.4 billion in the process.

Meanwhile, in the next few weeks Cyprus will officially launch a call for expressions of interest for Limassol Port, the main port of the island, according to sources within the ministry of commerce.

Privatisation of EAC has been pushed to 2018 due to technical difficulties, however.

Source: in-cyprus

Police raid homes to collect unpaid fines

People in Cyprus have been answering their front doors at odd hours lately, only to find a special task force from the police trying to collect unpaid fines or make an arrest.

According to Phileleftheros, there are complaints from people who get a knock on the door in the early morning hours or late at night, and in some cases police turn up when fines have already been settled.

One such example occurred earlier this week when two police officers in Nicosia went to a woman’s home who had been ordered by a court to pay €800 in fines. The woman initially panicked and thought of the worse after she was told that she would go to jail if she didn’t cough up the money.

It later emerged that the woman had actually made arrangements with the Legal Services to settle her bill in installments. However, this piece of information was not handed down to the officers. One of the officers would later recognise the woman because she had visited authorities to make payments in the past, so the arrest did not take place.

An unnamed police source told Phileleftheros that if people make legal arrangements to pay their fines, they shouldn’t expect to get a knock on the door. But some people with outstanding warrants have learned to hide from police, which means police have to try multiple times to make contact.

The courts have issued 240,000 warrants for €203 million in unpaid fines.

Source: in-cyprus

Cyprus banks close too early

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said it is unacceptable that banks close their doors at 1:30pm, when even public jobs managed to catch up with the times.

Georgiades was addressing the 5th Nicosia Economic Congress at the Hilton Park on Thursday, giving an overview of Cyprus’ economic prospects.

“We have a success story that is still unfolding” the minister said, adding that the big risks are already behind us and Cyprus is on a track to recovery.

Speaking on banking reforms, the minister said “no economy can recover and grow without a healthy banking sector”.

“I consider it unacceptable and provocative that even now the banks close their doors to customers at 1:30pm. Even the public sector has been able to improve on this and I think we should all expect more from the banks”, the minister said.

Georgiades pointed out that Cyprus has registered a positive growth rate in the first quarter of 2015, following 14 consecutive quarters of deep recession.

“This has been a landmark development which confirms the positive prospects of our economy” the minister said.

Georgiades also spoke on other positive highlights of the economy, such as the full lifting of capital restrictions. He said this “confirmed the restoration of trust and confidence to the Cypriot economy.”

He also gave high marks on the recent bond issuance by the Republic, which demonstrates the positive impact from Cyprus entering the international capital markets.

Georgiades warned that “our economy is at a crucial turning point either we shall continue on the course of economic reform and recovery or we shall fall victims once again to the dead end policies of populism and inaction”.
Source: in-cyprus

Nireas triathlon returns to Larnaca on Sunday, 24th May

The annual Nireas-Larnaca Triathlon – the largest of its kind in the town — will be taking place this Sunday, May 24. This year, the event is expected to attract record numbers of participants.

Organised by Nireas Triathlon and Larnaca Municipality, the event consists of two distances; Triathlon & Relay – 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run, and Sprint Triathlon & Relay – 750m swim, 20km Bike, 5km run. The races are open to men, women and juniors (ages 14-18 for the Sprint Triathlon only), with participation from a mix of individuals, groups and corporate teams.

Following the success of the 2014 Larnaca race last September, the event is considered to be significant, not only in terms of athletics, but also for boosting business along the Finikoudes promenade, thanks to the high number of spectators who sit at the area’s venues.

Larnaca mayor, Andreas Louroutziatis said the municipality is thrilled to see the return of the event.

“We are really pleased to be hosting this race again. Larnaca is a fantastic place for a triathlon and with Nireas we plan to make this an international annual event,” he said. “Athletes compete to a backdrop of the open sea, the mediaeval fort and palm tree lined Finikoudes, while spectators can relax with a coffee and enjoy the excitement unravelling along the seafront.”

The Larnaca Triathlon is the second of three races to be hosted in 2015 by Nicosia-based Nireas Triathlon, which has been hosting triathlon races for more than 20 years. The organisation felt that the time was right ‘to move the races from rural locations into city centres, where visitors can enjoy the atmosphere and athletes benefit from additional facilities’.

Panagiotis Ntais, Nireas’ treasurer, said of the event: “The course in Larnaca is flat, making it an excellent opportunity for newcomers to give the sport a try, combined with a fast race for experienced athletes. Last year’s Larnaca race was the first after many years to be hosted in a city centre in Cyprus and has shown how the thrill of triathlon attracts not only the athletes who make the race, but a crowd of spectators making for a better race and great business for the shops nearby.”

For more information about the race, including the race course and race briefing, visit: www.nireas.org.

Source: in-cyprus
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