Cypriot finance minister to step down at end of year,"but not because of criticism"

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-16 04:46:06|Editor: yan
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NICOSIA, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Cypriot Finance Minister Harris Georgiades, who has been blamed by an investigation panel for the collapse of a bank, said on Friday he will step down at the end of the year, but not because of the panel's conclusion.

"I think completing almost seven years at the finance ministry is enough for every person who assumed a responsibility to help during difficult times," Georgiades told a news conference at his office.

Georgiades is generally credited for leading Cyprus out of chaos after it was hit by an economic and banking crisis in 2013.

The investigation panel said he was to blame for the compulsory sale of Cyprus Cooperative Bank (Co-op Bank) to Hellenic Bank in August, 2018, because he had appointed an incompetent CEO to lead the bank after the nationalized lender was further recapitalized.

Georgiades and the government dismissed the panel's finding, saying it found out that the bank had amassed 7.5 billion euros of non-performing loans, but failed to recognize that it went down under the burden of the delinquent loans.

He said that his departure from the ministry after seven years was not related to the findings of the probe.

"My departure from the finance ministry was not expedited because of this report. In fact, the co-op matter probably kept me here more than I would want," he said.

"I have achieved most of what I had set as my targets and what had been set as the objectives of the government's economic policy," he said.

Georgiades commented for the first time on the probe's findings, saying they were unfair and wrong.

He said the committee's key position was that the failed bank had faced problems in the past but in 2013, due to the state assistance, it became viable and it should have never needed fresh capital again, but its board had failed to manage the NPLs because it was incompetent.

"In reality, across Europe, in banks burdened with NPLs like the Co-op Bank was, there were successive capital increases because supervisory requirements constantly changed. That was what happened in Spain, Greece and Cyprus," he said.

Georgiades added that the investigating committee ignored the fact that viability of a bank is one thing and another thing is adjusting to the supervisory requirements that do not remain static.

He also said that criticism for the sale of Co-op Bank failed to see that the action saved the deposits of its customers, mostly village people and low income workers and self-employed businessmen, amounting to 10 billion euros.

Georgiades added that the probe had also failed to establish that banking requirements rose after the establishment of the European Banking Union and that the European Banking Authority had established a need of 600 million euros in fresh capital, which the government could not provide. (1 euro = 1.13 U.S. dollars)