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Cyprus Mail
Business Cyprus

Troika due next week for second review

A DELEGATION from Cyprus’ international lenders will be here next Tuesday for their second review of the island’s €10bn rescue package.

Technocrats from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary fund – known as the ‘troika’ – will be assessing the 2014 state budget ensuring that it sticks to deficit (and debt) reduction targets, the restructuring of the banking sector that began in March, progress in public administration reform and in plans for a national health system.

The Employers and Industrialists Federation, one of many groups that will be meeting with the troika people, will reportedly ask for an easing of the capital controls which they say are stifling entrepreneurship and investment.

The troika technocrats will most likely be asking for a list of the assets belonging to the central government (including public utility infrastructures as well as real estate) which the government has promised to draft as part of the Memorandum of Understanding.

They will also be evaluating how far authorities have advanced efforts toward the privatisation of certain state and semi-state enterprises – an area where progress has been slow.

A major item on the agenda of the talks will be the creation of a National Health System (NHS) in order to contain rising health expenses. The lenders expect the NHS be in place by late 2015.

Cyprus is the only European Union member state without a universal coverage system for its health. In addition to complying with the terms of the bailout memorandum, Cyprus must enact an EU cross-border directive – soon to come into effect – where patients will be able to get healthcare elsewhere in the EU that is equivalent to the health care they are entitled at home, whether free or paid.

An actuarial report by financial services consultants Mercer calculated that health expenditure savings by implementing an NHS would reach around €300m in the period 2016-2025.

But the funding of the scheme remains the key contentious point. Mercer has reportedly recommended an increase in contributions.

According to Politis, one scenario proposed by Mercer is an additional 0.67 per cent rise in contributions to the scheme by waged employees, pensioners and employers, plus a 0.25 per cent increase in contributions from the state.

Trade unions as well as employers associations have reportedly expressed reservations at raising contributions during times of austerity. Moreover, the Cyprus Doctors Association has yet to begin talks in earnest with the Health Insurance Organisation – the vehicle set up with the task of implement the NHS – on the matter of the doctors’ salaries under the new regime.

A recent report by the international lenders said that while the rescue programme had been implemented with determination so far, downside risks remained substantial.

The report identified a number of risks to the full implementation of the plan, including a difficult and uncertain economic outlook, risks of lower-than-expected privatization proceeds and continued low confidence in banks.

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