A small minority will not be allowed to tarnish Cyprus’ reputation, which has been built over many years, President Nikos Christodoulides said on Saturday.

Addressing the bank worker’s union, Etyk, conference, he referred to the issue of corruption and Cyprus’ image abroad, saying that the negative image is something everyone must work to change.

“It is for this reason that the government from the first moment reacted in the specific way it reacted to the issue of the American and British sanctions that were announced,” he said.

The president said that the government has already launched an action plan to improve the country’s name, stressing that he is here to capitalise on a strategy of economic diplomacy and intends to capitalise on diplomatic missions.

“Our economy, like the banking sector, has recovered and demonstrated resilience in recent years in a very difficult international environment, having to face unprecedented challenges, such as the pandemic, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine, with all the consequential effects we are experiencing,” he said. “And despite these difficult conditions, the performance of our economy has proven its potential, while in the medium term it is expected to continue to show positive growth rates, despite the expected slowdown, due to mainly external factors.”

He added that public finances are expected to stay sustainable, and while high inflation remains a challenge, its gradual de-escalation has begun.

In relation to the ageing population, Christodoulides said that the birthrate it is of great concern, noting that “we are currently at 1.3 per cent, we need 2.1 per cent to be able to replenish the population in 25 years.”

Commenting on the developments in the field of the dual transition, digital and green, the president said that they present serious challenges, but also opportunities, which should ensure that Cypriot businesses and their employees will survive and to grow even more and create new jobs.

Regarding the Cypriot banks, he said that “they have made remarkable progress in relation to Non-Performing Loans, reaching a single-digit rate in 2022, at approximately 9.5 per cent of total loans.”

However, he added that this number continues to be higher than the EU average of 1.8 per cent.

He added that high inflation, combined with rising interest rates, is expected to reduce the disposable income of borrowers, which may lead to difficulty repaying their loans.

He called on the banks to follow restructuring procedures when and where applicable, giving special priority to vulnerable citizens.

The conference, which took place at the Central Offices of Etyk in Nicosia, was attended by Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou, Finance Minister Makis Keravnos, representatives of banks, trade unions, employers’ organisations and veteran trade unionists of Etyk.