new cyprus finance minister sworn in
Last Updated : GMT 19:15:16
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New Cyprus finance minister sworn in

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today New Cyprus finance minister sworn in

Nicosia - AFP

Cyprus's new Finance Minister Haris Georgiades was sworn in on Wednesday following his predecessor's resignation hours after a probe was launched into how the island was pushed to the verge of bankruptcy. President Nicos Anastasiades cautioned him of the "difficult days ahead." They would require "firstly, collectivity and, secondly, consistency and fiscal discipline and all those measures that will contribute to kick-starting the economy as soon as possible," he said at the swearing in ceremony. "I have no doubt that you will not only accomplish your task to the full, but in the best way possible that is worthy of your predecessor," Anastasiades said. Georgiades, a 40-year-old economist who had been labour minister, formally took up his new post a day after Michalis Sarris said he was stepping down to cooperate with judges investigating the failure of Laiki Bank, where he was chairman for much of last year. The bank's collapse was a major contributor to the island's near financial meltdown and need for a crippling eurozone bailout. Also sworn in on Wednesday was Zeta Emilianidou, permanent secretary at the commerce ministry, who becomes the first woman in the Anastasiades cabinet, taking over from Georgiades at the labour ministry. "The ministry you are undertaking certainly requires great sensitivity. It is a ministry that deals with the government's social policy for vulnerable groups" and with industrial relations, the president told her at the ceremony. Anastasiades said Tuesday he had accepted Sarris's resignation with "sadness" and lauded his "high political ethos" for stepping down. Sarris said he believed stepping down was "the right thing" to do to facilitate the investigators' work. His departure came as the government wrapped up talks with international lenders that will open the way for Cyprus to receive a 10-billion-euro ($12.8 billion) bailout, said government spokesman Christos Stylianides. "We have completed the forming of the memorandum, which is a precondition for the loan agreement," with the period to implement the deal extended by two years to 2018 to "ease pressure on the economy", he said. Cyprus is already in recession, and as he resigned Sarris said that "2013 will be a very difficult year, and the beginning of 2014 will also be difficult. Beyond this I believe the prospects are positive." The central bank eased restrictions imposed last week to prevent a bank run, raising the limit on business transactions from 5,000 euros to 25,000 and allowing people to write cheques of up to 9,000 euros. With public anger mounting, Anastasiades said no one would be immune from the new judicial inquiry into the banking collapse, and called on the commission -- headed by former Supreme Court judge George Pikkis -- to investigate him and his relatives with "extra vigour". This is seen as a move to counter so far unsubstantiated allegations that family members used privileged information to get money out of the country before deposits were locked down. Other leading politicians and business figures have also been accused of taking advantage of their positions to protect their assets from a hit on bank deposits imposed by EU-led creditors last week. Under the bailout deal with the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, those with savings larger than 100,000 euros in the Bank of Cyprus face losing up to 60 percent of their deposits over that amount. Those in second lender Laiki will have to wait years to see any of their money over 100,000 euros as the bank is shuttered. Banks have been operating under stringent capital controls since they reopened last Thursday, after a near two-week lockdown prompted by fears of a run on deposits.

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