As the President of Cyprus proclaims to his people that “we’ should all take responsibility as his historic decision will “lead to the permanent rescue of the economy,” it appears that the settled-upon 9.9% haircut is a ‘good deal’ compared to the stunning 40% of total deposits that Germany’s FinMin Schaeuble and the IMF demanded. This action, his statement notes, enables the rescue of 8,000 banking sector jobs and ensuring the liquidity of the banks, “allowing the economy to proceed decisively to a new beginning.” Ekathimerini reports,” this is the first time in the eurozone that a levy has been imposed not on the interest of bank accounts but on the capital itself,” and was the only way to bridge most of the the gap between the EUR17bn Nicosia needed and the EUR10bn the ESM was offering, though tax on interest in Cypriot banks will also rise to 20-25%. It is the 40% haircut requirement that concerns us the most as clearly going forward that means other nations, starting Monday (or Tuesday given national holidays) see deposit outflows surge, as the willingness to take such steps is now painfully clear.
It is well known that the deep economic crisis and the state of emergency in which the country has found itself did not come about in the last fortnight since we have undertaken the administration of the country.
The state of emergency and critical nature of the times do not allow me, as they do not allow anyone, to embark on a blame game.
In the extraordinary meeting of the Eurogroup, we faced decisions that had already been taken and came across faits accomplis through which we were faced with the following dilemmas:
On Tuesday, March 19 we would either choose: the catastrophic scenario of disorderly bankruptcy or the scenario of a painful but controlled management of the crisis, which would put a definitive end to the uncertainty and restart our economy.
A possible choice of the catastrophic scenario option would have the following consequences:
- On Tuesday, March 19, immediately after the holiday weekend, one of the two banks in crisis would cease to operate, since the European Central Bank, following the decision already taken, would terminate the provision of liquidity. The second bank would suspend its work, and neither could avoid collapse. Such a phenomenon would instantly lead 8.000 families to unemployment.
- The State would be obliged to compensate depositors in response to the obligation regarding guaranteed deposits. The capital required in such a case would amount to about 30 billion euros, which the State would be unable to pay.
- A proportionate amount corresponding to the deposits of thousands of depositors for deposits over 100.000 Euro, would be led to a vicious cycle of asset liquidation, and these depositors would suffer losses of over 60%.
- Such an uncontrolled situation would push the whole banking system into collapse with all the attendant consequences.
- Thousands of small and medium enterprises, and other businesses would be driven to bankruptcy due to their inability to trade.
As a result of the above, the service sector would be led to a complete collapse with a possible exit from the euro. That, in addition to the national weakening of Cyprus, would lead to devaluation of the currency by at least 40%.
The second choice was the controlled management of the crisis, through the decisions taken and which can be summarized as follows:
- Ensuring the liquidity of the banks and the rescue of the banking system through their recapitalization.
- Rescuing 8.000 jobs in the banking sector and thousands of others which would be lost as a corollary of not maintaining the operations of banks.
- Total rescuing of deposits, with just the exchange of a small percentage of savings with shares of the two banks. Currently, these shares do not have their full value, but with the economic recovery they will repay most it not all of the amount that will be cut.
- This option results in a drastic reduction of public debt, makes it manageable and sustainable and relieves future generations from the burden of repayment.
- It saves provident and pension funds and avoids taking other tough measures such as wage and pension cuts that were put on the negotiations table.
- It avoids further recession and the risk of the vicious circle of a second memorandum.
We are not aiming to gloss over the situation. The solution chosen may be painful, but it was the only one that would allow us to continue our lives without adventures. It’s a decision that leads to the historic and permanent rescue our economy.
In the next few hours we will all have to take responsibility. Tomorrow I will address the Cypriot people.
Already bank customers are gathering outside major and cooperative banks, Skai television reported on Saturday morning, as angry depositors demand their money.
This is the first time in the eurozone that a levy has been imposed not on the interest of bank accounts but on the capital itself. In addition to that there is a levy on interest, too, and an increase in the 10 percent corporate tax that has been one of the main driving forces behind Cyprus’s financial progress after the 1974 Turkish invasion, generating growth by attracting foreign direct investment.
Notably, the account haircut does not affect bank accounts in Cypriot bank branches based in Greece, according to sources from the Greek Finance Ministry.
Tax on interest will amount to between 20 and 25 percent.
Cyprus state broadcaster CyBC reported on Saturday that German Finance Minister actually entered the Eurogroup meeting on Friday proposing a 40 percent haircut on Cypriot bank accounts. Sarris stated on Saturday that this had also been the proposal of the International Monetary Fund.
Sarris stated in Brussels that in view of the threat from the European Central Bank for banks in Cyprus to shut down and chaos to ensue, the increase in interest taxation and the haircut to bank accounts became necessary. “A disorderly default, that was a genuine possibility, has been averted,” he said.
“It allows our economy to proceed decisively to a new beginning.”
Opposition leader Antros Kyprianou, the General Secretary of leftist AKEL, accused the government of not consulting the other parties, saying that “the government bears full responsibility for developments in the economy as instead of choosing the road of consensus it has decided to go it alone.”