By Angelos Anastasiou
TROIKA officials kicked off their fourth review of the island’s economic adjustment programme on Tuesday by discussing progress on the controversial National Health Scheme with Health Minister Philippos Patsalis.
Last Friday, the Health Ministry submitted the roadmap to self-sustainability for public healthcare facilities and the overall implementation of the NHS.
Patsalis explained to the troika that the roadmap “records detailed steps to be made, legislation, decrees, regulations and other actions relating to the NHS, as well as the reform of public healthcare facilities and the ministry, so that the timeframe for the gradual implementation of the NHS in 2015 to full implementation in 2016 can be met.”
The troika delegation also met the Cyprus Association of Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies (KEFEA), the association representing multinational pharmaceuticals in Cyprus. This meeting focused on the implementation timeframes of the NHS, drug pricing under the new health scheme and patients’ access to medicine.
Speaking after the meeting, KEFEA board member Kyriacos Mikellis said opinions were exchanged on these issues, adding that “we don’t want Cyprus to implement something that is not implemented anywhere else.”
“We want something workable that can work in favour of patients,” he said.
On the issue of drug pricing, Mikellis said that under the NHS there will be a list of drugs that will be reimbursed from the health system’s budget.
“We believe that this list should be prepared by an independent body that will follow transparent procedures,” he said.
The Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) delegation also had a session at the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC), the first in a series of meetings which are scheduled to last until May 12.
CBC spokesperson Aliki Stylianou said Tuesday’s meeting was to “review developments in the banking sector as well as the oversight framework governing the operation of banks.”
Additionally, developments relating to the restrictions on capital flow and commercial banks’ adherence to the CBC’s new directives were on the table, as well as progress made by lenders in arrears management.
Further meetings were held with the Consumers’ Association and the Borrowers’ Protection Association, who would be given the chance to express their opinions and observations with regard to restrictions on capital flow and loan restructuring.
She added that meetings throughout the week will focus on issues of implementation of loan restructuring options in financial institutions, under the caveat that the agenda may be adjusted on a daily basis.
The troika delegates also met employers’ groups. Non-performing loans (NPLs), scarce liquidity and efforts to revitalise the economy were discussed, with the troika stressing the need for the urgent voting of comprehensive legislation governing repossessions of primary residences and insolvency.
Speaking after the meeting, the chairman of the employers’ association (OEV) Filios Zachariades said growing unemployment was discussed as it related to “the scarce liquidity in the market that inhibits the expansion of businesses, or the starting up of new ones, thus creating new jobs.”
Asked whether the prospect of a legislative initiative to counter the growing number of NPLs was discussed, Zachariades said that this was not a matter of legislation.
“There will be a Europe-wide directive on the calculation of NPLs in November, which we will implement,” he said.
OEV’s director Michalis Pilikos said the troika focused on expediting the passing of comprehensive – as opposed to fragmentary – legislation on NPLs, noting that the troika made a “special mention to protecting primary residences, an issue of great importance to them.”
Asked about the issue of splitting the Bank of Cyprus into a good and bad bank, Pilikos said the troika’s view is that “regardless of what happens, or how, the NPLs are there and splitting the bank will not resolve the issue.”
“The point is to find a way for these loans to be repaid somehow,” he said.