By Angelos Anastasiou
The Troika’s Cyprus mission kicked off its fifth progress review of the country’s adjustment programme on Tuesday with back-to-back meetings and the issue of non-performing loans on the table.
At 9am delegation chiefs Delia Velculescu from the International Monetary Fund, Martin Verwey from the European Commission and Francesco Drudi from the European Central Bank held a three-hour high-level meeting with Finance minister Harris Georgiades and governor of the Central Bank Chrystalla Georghadji.
The key issue on the table is the huge number of non-performing loans, which totalled 45 per cent of all loans, or €27.1 out of a total €60 billion.
Immediately following the meeting at the Finance ministry, the three technocrats took the short walk to the adjacent Labour ministry, where they met minister Zeta Emilianidou. Discussions revolved around the imminent launch of the GMI bill.
Health minister Philippos Patsalis was next on their schedule at 3pm. Patsalis announced on Monday that for the first time five actions relating to the implementation of the National Health Scheme (NHS) would be reviewed.
A last-minute addition saw the mission heads meet DISY leader Averof Neophytou at 5pm.
Meanwhile, lower-level Troika mission teams also held consecutive meetings with programme stakeholders at the Directorate General for European Programmes.
First in line were representatives of the Land Registry relating to the issue of property title deeds, followed by a meeting with the management and the Dean of the University of Cyprus, who laid out their plan to borrow €150 million to complete the University campus project, hoping to convince the Troika that they can cope with a €6 million annual repayment scheme. The total cost of the project is €250 million.
Dean Constantinos Christofides said to materialise the university’s vision, it was necessary to have infrastructure that would allow it to host 10,000 students, 2,000 researchers, 500 academics and other staff.
He said the European Investment Bank would give its final answer for the €150 million in mid-November and that the loan should be paid off within 25 years from University revenue.
The plan, he said, includes the creation of a photovoltaic park, which would save the university around €4 million, and that another €1.5 million would be saved on rents.
This plan, he pointed out, would create hundreds of new jobs for many years.
At 2pm the Troika team met with employee unions SEK and DEOK, who argued that any co-operatives that can afford to extend credit should be allowed to.
AKEL-affiliated union PEO declined to attend the meeting as previous meetings had proven pointless.
“Experience has shown that these meetings are merely a courtesy,” PEO head Pambis Kyritsis said. “They listen to us but the discussion produces nothing. Therefore we don’t want to give people and workers false impressions, and participate in a media circus set up by others.”
Later in the day, the Troika team met the Cyprus Tourism Organisation and the hoteliers’ association to understand the performance of the tourism industry.
The progress review is scheduled to last until July 22, at which point political discussion will commence, aiming at a negotiated update to the Troika’s bailout loan agreement with Cyprus. The updated memorandum is scheduled to be finalised by July 25.
By Angelos Anastasiou