Sarris gives nod to CyTA privatisation [Cyprus Mail]
(Cyprus Mail Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Author: Stefanos Evripidou
NEW FINANCE Minister Michalis Sarris yesterday left open the door to the privatisation of telecommunications company CyTA, arguing that this could help in getting Cyprus out of its financial crisis. On his first day in the job and asked about possible privatisations, Sarris said many state or semi-state organisations were not really in a position to be privatised. He suggested it would be easier to attract a strategic investor for an organisation like CyTA, which could help Cyprus in its effort to get out of its current predicament. "What we all must understand is that in these very important areas, the real test is not how many persons work in these organisations and how many jobs we have created, but what we offer to the Cypriot citizen," he said.Sarris said Cyprus is one of the few countries in the world where important and productive sectors are still in the hands of the state.Regarding German press reports of a possible haircut of Cyprus-based bank deposits, Sarris said: "There is nothing more foolish than talking about a haircut on deposits," adding, "this is something unprecedented, not only for Cyprus but also the world economy and the eurozone". Outgoing finance minister Vassos Shiarly yesterday handed over the reins to Sarris just three days before a key Eurogroup meeting in Brussels on Monday. President Nicos Anastasiades held his first meeting yesterday at the Presidential Palace to discuss ongoing negotiations for an international bailout, including Sarris, new Labour Minister Haris Georgiades, Undersecretary to the President Constantinos Petrides and DISY number two Averof Neophytou. Speaking at the handover ceremony, Sarris said Cyprus must convince Europe and others of its determination to implement the terms of a bailout agreement, while dealing with unreasonable demands and accusations against the Cyprus model of economic development.The new minister said the "conditions are very different" from the last time he was finance minister under the Tassos Papadopoulos government: "We are facing serious problems as our friends are getting fewer and the challenges have multiplied."He added however that Cyprus has paved the way for a return to growth and reduction of unemployment, by agreeing on fiscal and structural changes.Sarris referred to "positive developments" following the discovery of natural gas in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone but also to serious challenges, adding that "if we manage both well, we can be optimistic". Sarris thanked outgoing minister Vassos Shiarly for his work and for reaching a draft agreement with the troika for an international bailout. For his part, Shiarly expressed hope that by the end of March, Sarris will succeed in getting a loan agreement signed with the troika. Handing over the reins, he said: "Be sure that patience and persistence are necessary and inexhaustible elements to achieve the goal set, and we must never forget the goal," adding that Cyprus was "within reach of the final target" of signing a loan agreement.Shiarly expressed trust in Sarris and his ability to make "a big contribution in Brussels where he is known in the corridors very well". "Dear Michalis, I offer you the baton. Hopefully by the end of the month you will end the race as a winner and I will be the first to come to the airport to welcome you and with all of Cyprus enjoy the success," said Shiarly. The outgoing minister apologised to ministry officials for the "absolutely necessary" cuts in wages and benefits. Accountant-general Rea Georgiou noted that Shiarly worked "tirelessly and selflessly" day and night from the moment he took over the ministry, refusing to take a wage or benefits for his work. "I assure you that not only did he not take anything from the state, but many times he took on various work expenses himself," she said. Meanwhile, the Central Bank yesterday announced that it will officially inform the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank of the amount needed for the recapitalisation of each bank, as stipulated by PIMCO, on Monday.The US auditing firm PIMCO delivered its final report containing the capital needs of the banks on the basis of a baseline and an adverse scenario on February 2. The central bank had to ask for permission to inform the two local banks of the results as the agreement with the troika was that the information would only be made available on the signing of a bailout agreement. The banks needed the estimations on their capital needs to complete preliminary financial reports for 2012. From next week, they will also be able to proceed with drafting their restructuring plans, with a view to cover their capital deficit by the end of the year.
Finance Minister Michalis Sarris
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