Greek Cyprus needs no bailout for the moment and must do all it can to avoid one in the future, new Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias said on Friday, while the EU's top economic official called for faster reforms.
Kazamias was appointed in a cabinet reshuffle on Friday to spearhead the island's fight against bankruptcy. The central bank and Greek Cyprus' largest lender have warned that it could become the fourth euro zone economy to seek an international bailout unless there is urgent action to correct fiscal imbalances.
"There is no such issue at the moment," Kazamias said of the possibility of a bailout. Asked whether the country would need one in a few months, he told reporters: "We should avoid it".
Concerns over Greek Cyprus' financial woes have accelerated since a massive blast of decaying stored munitions on July 11 that destroyed the island's main power station and caused an unprecedented energy crisis.
The reshuffled cabinet replaces a cabinet which resigned on July 28, bowing to public pressure over the blast, which sharply aggravated financial difficulties.
"We have every reason to be optimistic from the moment everyone assumes their share of responsibility," Kazamias said. The government is in talks with unions over austerity measures.
The island has suffered a series of ratings downgrades because of fiscal slippage and the exposure of its banks to debt-burdened Greece.
"Cyprus has overall sound fundamentals," EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters, adding that the island's banks have sufficient capital buffers to absorb losses from their exposure to Greece.
"In parallel, Cyprus should accelerate the structural reforms included in the country's reform programme," he said during a news conference on the euro zone's debt crisis.
Kazamias was previously communications minister in the administration of the late President Tassos Papadopoulos between 2003 and 2004. He was also a member of the European Court of Auditors for six years up to November 2010.
Although Kazamias is not the high-profile figure some investors had wanted, economist Stelios Platis said he had the advantage of both being a member of the ruling Communist Party, and thus able to negotiate better with trade unions, and having experience of the EU.
"Given his background and political involvement in Cyprus it is much easier for him, rather than anyone else I could ever think of," he said.
All three major credit rating agencies have downgraded Greek Cyprus in the last few months because its banks are sitting on an estimated 5 billion euros in Greek sovereign debt and its economy is heavily exposed to Greece through trade.
Since the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis erupted last year, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have announced multi-year bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
A rescue of Greek Cyprus, a euro zone minnow which accounts for only about 0.2 percent of the region's economy, would not strain Europe's resources.
But it would add to a fevered atmosphere in the euro zone where markets this week have turned their sights on Italy and Spain, the zone's third and fourth biggest economies.
The junior partner in the previous two-party coalition government quit on Wednesday, making agreement on vital economic reforms more difficult and potentially complicating reunification talks on the island, which has been split between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
The centrist Democratic Party, coalition partners with the Communist AKEL since 2008, said they were leaving government after exhausting all room for further cooperation.
Greek Cyprus has a presidential system and the pullout is not seen as endangering the survival of President Demetris Christofias, whose term expires in 2013.
But passage of essential economic reforms largely depends on parliament, where Christofias' party does not have a majority.
Christofias brought six new ministers into the 11-member cabinet. Outgoing Communications Minister Erato Kozakou Markoullis was moved to the foreign ministry -- a post she held for around eight months under the previous administration.
ReutersLast Mod: 05 Ağustos 2011, 15:39