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Put first-home bill on hold, Anastasiades tells House leader

By Angelos Anastasiou

PRESIDENT Anastasiades has urged the House not to insist on voting on a bill protecting primary residences and small business premises and assured its president, Yiannakis Omirou, that the government is awarding the issue the proper social sensitivity as a matter of utmost urgency.

In a letter he sent to parliament yesterday, Anastasiades expressed his concern at the risks raised by the new governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus, Chrystalla Georghadji, as well as technocrats, government officials and other stakeholders, and said that the bill – tabled by opposition parties AKEL and EDEK – should be revised.

“I feel that the issue must be re-examined in cooperation with the government, so that we do not bring our economy before irreversible predicaments,” Anastasiades said.

He went on to explain the government’s plans on preparing comprehensive legislation that would address issues of insolvency, helping distressed borrowers and protecting primary residences from foreclosure. In this context, he confirmed that the government is looking into a ‘rent-for-mortgage’ scheme for dealing with the issue of non-performing loans, on which the government should be ready to make an announcement within three weeks.

Anastasiades also sought to assuage the public’s fear of home foreclosure by banks, by expressing the view that since financial institutions do not engage in forcing property foreclosures and are not likely to do so in the near future, there is sufficient time to prepare the necessary legislation soberly, without jeopardising economic stability.

“Moreover, in light of the fact that the Memorandum of Understanding [with the Troika of international lenders] mandates the submission of a bill that will disallow foreclosure in less than 30 months by December 2014, I feel that the panic caused among borrowers whose primary residence has been used as collateral is unwarranted,” he said.

Meanwhile, the row over postponement of the AKEL-EDEK bill debate continued unabated yesterday.

Bringing the AKEL-EDEK bill to the plenum was defeated at the House Legal committee last Monday, following a tumultuous session that reversed the previous Friday’s decision by imposing further discussion at committee level.

But AKEL deputy Yiannos Lamaris insisted on the need to put the bill to the plenum and argued that although it was not submitted yesterday, there will be “no excuse for anyone if it is not submitted to the next plenary session on May 8.”

To this, ruling party DISY’s spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said that the issue calls for establishing reliable and effective mechanisms and could not possibly be resolved by a single bill.

“It would require an entire mechanism which would address the issue of non-performing loans while simultaneously disallowing abuse,” he said.

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