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Troika: reforms must accelerate

Following the troika’s recent mission to the island, the ECB and EC have urged Cyprus to accelerate the reform programme in a number of key areas including setting up a sustainable and efficient title deeds transfer system.

Cyprus must accelerate reforms says TroikaFOLLOWING its first post-programme surveillance mission to Cyprus, staff of the EC and the ECB made the following statement:

“The reforms undertaken by Cyprus during the programme have started to bear fruit with robust economic growth and positive developments in the financial sector. Fiscal consolidation has been crucial for strengthening the credibility of the policy framework and facilitating market access of the sovereign. It is important to safeguard these achievements, including by withstanding the increased expenditure pressure. We note that the reform momentum has significantly weakened, with crucial legislation still awaiting adoption. Therefore, the mission encouraged the authorities to renew their efforts on this front to improve Cyprus’s growth potential and attract more foreign investment.

Economic growth in 2016 has been stronger than expected, supporting fiscal performance.  Growth has been driven by tourism and private consumption, which was supported by the effect of declining prices on real income and improving labour market conditions. Real GDP growth in 2016 is expected to exceed 2½%, and to remain strong in 2017. Unemployment is perceptibly declining, albeit long term and youth unemployment remain very high. Fiscal consolidation has continued and the government’s 2016 primary surplus target for 2016 is within reach. With the improved economic environment, the pressure for fiscal relaxation has increased. This should be resisted as fiscal risks remain significant; and because the downward path of public debt still remains to be firmly anchored. It is essential that legislative steps with a budgetary impact, such as the abolition of the immovable property tax, be compensated through well-specified measures at all government levels. In light of the fiscal risk, the mission underlined that fiscal discipline needs to be pursued, including by containing the public sector wage bill.

Accelerated loan restructuring efforts and the more supportive economic environment have led to a decline in the outstanding stock of non-performing loans (NPLs). However, NPLs remain at a very high level. The return of confidence has allowed banks to broaden their deposit base, improve liquidity and capital buffers. Their profitability, however, is constrained by a declining net interest margin and the need for additional provisioning. While new lending is strengthening, total credit to the economy continued to contract due to necessary balance sheet deleveraging, including through loan write-offs and restructurings. The mission underlined the need to pursue more forcefully the loan restructuring efforts, by making full use of all available tools, in order to accelerate the pace of reduction of NPLs.

The new insolvency and foreclosure frameworks are important achievements, but their implementation has to be stepped up. These tools are essential to help reduce the high levels of private debt and NPLs, as they provide debtors and creditors with diversified and efficient means to resolve unviable debts and reallocate economic resources to more productive uses. Their use has been limited so far due to the increasing recourse to debt-to-asset swaps, which is welcome; but also due to slow administrative capacity building and the reluctance of some stakeholders to engage in time-consuming procedures. The mission highlighted the need to increase administrative capacity and strengthen the efficiency of legal proceedings, in order to facilitate the use of the insolvency and foreclosure frameworks.

The pace of structural reform has considerably slowed. In the view of the mission, it is crucial to renew the reform momentum, including by legislating critical, but much delayed reforms. This includes key areas, such as public administration and the national health system. To further improve the business environment and attract more investment, progress needs to be achieved in key areas such as setting up a sustainable and efficient title deeds transfer system, modernising the justice system, and pursuing the efforts towards privatisation and the reform of the electricity market.

“The mission would like to thank the Cypriot authorities and the IMF for their constructive and open discussions. The next PPS mission will take place in spring 2017.”

(Cyprus is now subject to six-monthly post-programme surveillance (PPS) until at least 75% of the financial assistance it received has been repaid.)

Readers' comments

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  • Jill says:

    After telling us that we could apply for our Title Deeds last year, and being told by Land Registry that it would take about 3 months for them to be available, we now find ourselves a year later still waiting…and hearing nothing. We now understand that, actually, we will have to apply for the plots to be divided (about two years this will take!!!) and that a completion certificate will be required also. As we have a developer who absolutely refuses to complete our site, once again, we find ourselves going backwards and, of course, the developer continues on his merry way laughing all the way to the bank.

    We don’t know of anybody who has bought from this developer who has received their Title Deeds. How can this be?

    Ed: The Land Registry cannot issue Title Deeds until a Certificate of Approval has been issued by the the District/Municipality Planning Department. If the developer is unwilling to sub-divide the land and obtain the Certificate of Approval I’m afraid the residents will have to club together to have this work done. They can then sue the developer to recover their costs.

  • Rip Doff says:

    Such a shame that Troika mentions nothing about the continued denial by the banks of any wrongdoing in granting CHF loans based on massively over-valued properties and continuing to charge interest at as much as three times the rate in the original loan contract.

  • Roy says:

    We made the decision, or mistake, of entrusting the purchase procedure to our developer (a very large, strong organisation) and since receiving the fee from us have delayed buying them despite promises to complete the procedure month after month. Beware.

  • Who Gives says:

    Soon be talking about a Cyexit which may be a real blessing in disguise.

  • Deanna says:

    Not a very heartening review, just endorses what we all thought. It’s a good job they visit and prod periodically otherwise we’d soon be back at square one.

  • Mike says:

    No chance! If anything the reforms will slow further then go into reverse to reach a pre adjustment programme status quo so we can stumble along as normal.

  • Who Gives says:

    Nigel was effective framework process for issuing title deeds not part of the key deliverables on this TROKIA review which is still not happening.

    Ed: There are no key deliverables now that Cyprus has exited its three-year Economic Adjustment Programme. The Troika were here to review progress.

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