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Our View: Hold your horses, Harris

THE economy has been in desperate need of positive, confidence-boosting news for quite some time now, but when it arrives it will not be announced by a minister or civil servant but by the markets which operate independently of governments and offer a more objective take on reality.

The Anastasiades government, understandably, has been trying hard to build confidence by identifying signs of improvement and citing the positive reviews given by the troika, with regard to the implementation of the MoU and the progress being made. We may have been getting good reports but there is no denying that the economy is still failing the real tests.

Confidence in the banks remains low, the issue of NPLs is nowhere near being resolved, businesses are struggling and pay the highest interest rates in the EU, banks are illiquid, unemployment continues on its upward path and thousands of people are depending on charity to feed themselves and their families. Admittedly, this was expected and there are no quick fixes as opposition parties have been dishonestly claiming.

Perhaps it is because of the opposition’s criticism that finance minister Harris Georgiades has been attempting to offer some hope. In an interview he gave to Sigma TV on Wednesday night, he said that Cyprus could return to the markets, from which it has been excluded since April 2011, before 2016 – the end of the assistance programme. “At the pace things are moving, the target is perfectly achievable (return to the markets in 2016), but a prospect we have been examining is the speedier return of Cyprus to the markets,” he said.

“If we manage to regain access to the markets it would mean that we had met the challenge of standing on our own feet again,” he concluded. It would be fantastic if this happened sooner rather than later, but the minister does not need to make such forecasts, because things might not turn out as planned. Perhaps nobody would remember his prediction if 2015 passes and Cyprus still had no access to the markets, but it was still an unnecessary thing to say.

Whereas most of the time Georgiades is a voice of caution and reason, he sometimes gets carried away, as was the case on Wednesday night. He did not have to make any prediction on something that depends on a host of factors beyond his ministry’s control. He made a similar mistake when he was predicting that capital controls would have been lifted last year, but that never happened. On Wednesday, he said all domestic capital controls would be lifted by the end of spring.

There is no need for Georgiades to make any prediction he is not 100 per cent certain about. It reflects badly on him and undermines his standing as a sensible, down to earth, finance minister.

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