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Cabinet reshuffle after finance minister quits

Following the resignation on health grounds of Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias last Friday, a mini-reshuffle of the Cyprus cabinet was announced earlier today with Neoclis Sylikiotis taking over as the minister for Commerce And Industry.

THE COMMUNIST-LED Cyprus government underwent a mini reshuffle on Monday with banker Vassos Shiarly replacing Kikis Kazamias as finance minister, whose resignation on health grounds was announced on Friday, while the outgoing trade and energy minister fired a parting shot saying she was often undermined.

President Demetris Christofias replaced Commerce and Industry Minister Praxoulla Antoniadou with Neoclis Sylikiotis, until now Interior Minister. The portfolio is responsible for administering natural gas reserves recently discovered off Cyprus.

Antoniadou refuted the government spokesman that she had resigned earlier this month, saying in a statement that the president’s advisors misled him.

She added that members of the cabinet and other technocrats has pressed her “to follow different policies to those indicated by the President … on issues such as golf courses, relations with (natural gas explorer) Noble Energy, photovoltaic parks and a hostility towards (public power utility) EAC.”

Antoniadou said that she was working under extremely difficult circumstances at a ministry that needs to undergo major changes and that she was left to work on her own without the necessary number of expert assistants.

Sylikiotis is replaced at the Interior Ministry by Eleni Mavrou, former mayor of the capital Nicosia.

Taking over at the Finance Ministry is Shiarly, 64, an accountant and until last year the group chief general manager at Bank of Cyprus in charge of branch networks.

With regulators he will have to oversee recapitalisation efforts of the island’s two largest banks, including his former employers, which are heavily exposed to Greek sovereign debt.

Moody’s rating agency last week followed Standard and Poor’s in downgrading Cyprus’s sovereign debt to junk, saying there was a heightened risk the government would have to prop up the banks.

Cyprus itself has been shut out of debt markets since May 2011, and averted a bailout after receiving a €2.5 billion loan from Russia.

The resignation of Kazamias removes the one known ally of central bank governor Athanasios Orphanides, a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council. The government is due to decide by April 30 whether to reappoint Orphanides, whom Kazamias publicly defended on several occasions over the island’s exposure to Greek debt.

Press reports suggest that the government is leaning towards Leicester University economics professor Panicos Demetriades.

Readers' comments

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  • Gavin Jones says:

    I have to echo Denton Mackrell.

    Have the more than 41,000 expatriates received their title deeds as a result of Sylikiotis’ efforts? NO. That means he’s failed. Period.

    The next Interior Minister, the ex Mayor of Nicosia, will fare no better. Until and unless the €6 billion plus mortgages are either set aside (fat chance) or paid, nothing will happen. EVER.

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    Hold on a minute with all this praise for Sylikiotis. Granted he did try to do something but it was far too little, of the wrong kind and far too late. Moreover (and I think was his biggest sin) he made braggadocio public statements that his new amnesty laws would (no, actually had!) ‘solved’ the whole Title Deeds problem.

    Further, we are left not knowing whether his statements that a buyer who lodges his contract with the Land Registry is fully proptected were (a)correct, (b)incorrect because of his poor knowledge and incompetence, or (c) incorrect because of a deliberate and cynical lie. The judge in the Conor O’Dwyer case in effect said he was wrong on this aspect. I understand that subsequently another government official has also back-tracked on Sylikiotis’ assurance.

  • Alex says:

    @Peter, You miss a nice Cypriot tradition – president cannot be punished here. If Christofias is beyond any criticism now, then we may safely assume that any criticism of him (or country) from the 1st July would be considered utterly unpatriotic if not high treason. So no punishments and no discipline. However, the island may still steal the limelight if it manages to default while being President of the EU.

  • Alex says:

    @Nigel, I agree with your assessment of Mr. Sylikiotis’s work. The greatest concern now is whether the new minister will be as good as the one leaving and the disruption in the work of ministry’s machine this abrupt change inevitably brings.

    By the way, Sylikiotis also had some success in sorting out immigration issues. What makes him really unique among Cypriot politicians, however, is that he openly says from the start what are the problems he faces, what needs to be done and then really tries to implement necessary changes. The ultimate success, unfortunately, is not dependent on his efforts alone.

    After all, we have Ministry of Interior responsible for immovable property, while police is under Ministry of Justice, which does not look like a healthy arrangement. And now Ministry of Commerce and will manage gas :)

  • Peter says:

    Well, when Cyprus joins the EU we will be able to rely on EU help to sort out this problem with title deeds……….Right?

    Of course when Cyprus takes over the Presidency it will be able to reprimand then discipline and then punish itself for failing to comply with EU Laws.

  • @Alex – As far as I am aware, Neoclis Sylikiotis is the only minister who did anything to try and resolve the Title Deed issues and he should be congratulated for his efforts.

    We all know that the measures he introduced do not go far enough, but as you say he needed the support of parliament to get the law changed.

    The Title Deed problems have been around for a long time – I know of cases dating back to the mid 1980s.

    Previous Interior Ministers should have acted years ago, before the problem got totally out of hand.

    I hope that the new incumbent to the post, Eleni Mavrou, has the Title Deed issues high on her agenda.

  • Alex says:

    Let’s not confuse different branches of power. If there is something patently wrong in Cyprus law, concerning immovable property, the minister cannot change it on his own. This is the work of the parliament.

    We may lament, of course, that little has been done under current minister to address title deeds issue, but he at least was the man who (I believe) sincerely tried to clean these stables. He really managed to get through the parliament the package of new legislation related to property that he had promised within a year – a break neck speed by local standards. So now at least you can avoid developer when selling property without title deed.

  • Frank says:

    Neoclis Sylikiotis is leaving the Interior Ministry! Oh No! Who can the poor property buyer now rely on to untie the Gordian Knot of Cyprus Property Law? Where is the man (or woman) who can take on the mantle of such greatness?

    Let me list the achievements of Neoclis Sylikiotis in helping non-Cypriot buyers to acquire legal title to properties for which they have paid in full. Er! The end!

  • Mike says:

    It must be reassuringly comforting to have yourself surrounded by yes men and women who will agree with anything and whatever you decide or say no matter how disasterous it might be for the Country on the international stage or the citizens represented.

    The BOC must be where the obligatory apprenticeships are completed, an AKEL training camp no less, perhaps.

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