By George Psyllides
THE STATE – government and parliament — has failed miserably over the title deed issue, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said yesterday, as Cyprus scrambled to clear a backlog of more than 23,000 applications before the end of the year.
Speaking before the House Watchdog Committee, Hasikos said proof that the state had failed miserably were the thousands of pending applications that must be cleared by the end of the year under pressure from the island’s international lenders.
“There was no need for a third party, the lenders, to force us,” the minister said.
Clearing the backlog is part of the island’s bailout terms. Cyprus must cut down the number to around 2,000 by the end of the year.
Hasikos pledged that his ministry would do everything in its power to sort out the matter, stressing that a radical review of the procedures was necessary.
He warned that failure to do so could put the economy at risk since there was a possibility of the lenders withholding the next tranche of assistance.
But “we cannot intervene in private organisations like banks,” he said. “However, since it is for the common benefit, especially for the economy, we feel that they will also be serious and responsible and co-operate in issuing a title.”
Watchdog committee chairman said there were 23,417 pending applications at the end of 2013 and an additional 4,500 by May this year.
Deputy Giorgos Georgiou said sorting out the problem would mean a windfall for the state. In the past two and a half years, the state has collected around €156 million from transfer fees.
“This alone arms us with more will to provide solutions, provide proposals to stamp out a bad phenomenon, which has been stifling the state’s revenue collection ability,” Georgiou said.
EDEK MP Phidias Sarikas highlighted the bad publicity Cyprus received in recent years because of the matter.
“There are thousands of foreign buyers and compatriots who have been inconvenienced for years while trying to acquire an ownership title,” he said.
He added that it was very bad for Cyprus when foreign buyers and potential investors were trapped in lengthy procedures.