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Cyprus

Harris Georgiades, ‘The Responsible Steward’

By Angelos Anastasiou

In the inaugural instalment of what is to be an annual publication, US political magazine Politico has named Finance Minister Harris Georgiades one of the 28 individuals “who are shaping, shaking, and stirring Europe”.

‘Politico 28’, as the list is called, features “men and women of consequence” such as Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and Greek investigative journalist Alexis Papahelas.

Georgiades ranks 18th in the list, under the headline “The Responsible Steward”.

“As Greece teetered on the brink of ‘Grexit’ during the summer, Cyprus’s mild-mannered finance minister, Harris Georgiades, must have feared he was backing the wrong horse,” the piece presenting him started.

“Georgiades, 43, who has helped make his island nation a star pupil in Europe’s bailout class, had little support from fellow finance ministers when he urged them to extend emergency aid to Greece and ease its debt burden.”

But the Cypriot Finance minister’s solidarity with Athens was not “born of conviction”, the report said, referring to his strong allegiance with free-market theory.

“He had earlier questioned the negotiating tacticsc of Yanis Varoufakis, his maverick Greek counterpart, drawing the ire of the opposition,” Politico noted.

“As Cyprus prepares to exit its €10 billion rescue program, the last thing he wanted was a meltdown on the mainland scuttling his efforts to turn a final page on the financial crisis.”

Referring to Georgiades’ strong-gripped steering of the Cypriot economy back to fiscal health, Politico lauded his “disciplined stewardship”, with close associates of his crediting him with “readiness to meet or even beat the demands of Cyprus’ creditors”.

The report argues that Georgiades exceeded expectations since his appointment in April 2013.

“In his favour, expectations were low: the hated bailout – which imposed losses on savers – had already been agreed to, and none of his three predecessors lasted more than 11 months in the job,” Politico said.

“Georgiades has faced criticism for heavy-handedness. High rates of unemployment and nonperforming loans suggest Cyprus is not out of the woods yet. But its biggest sacrifices may be in the past. Next year should be its last under the watchful eye of the Troika.”

The report on Georgiades signs off with two of his quotes.

“I believe in rationality, making non-dogmatic decisions far from prejudice and obsession. And I insist that in the end, decisions have to be made. Procrastination is a characteristic that has had a significant cost,” was the first, with the second referring to his hectic schedule.

“When I don’t have a dinner engagement at the ministry, I go to bed very early, at 10 p.m. at the latest. But every day, even at the weekend, I wake up at five in the morning or earlier. I write, think and read in peace… At the moment of course, I’d like to have more time with my daughter.”

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