The Cabinet approved on Wednesday a €300-million package to enhance growth and create jobs, one week prior to the third visit by Troika representatives to Cyprus, comprising the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Announcing the decision, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said growth will be funded by a loan concluded with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the proceeds from the second licensing round of offshore blocks in Cyprus` Exclusive Economic Zone.
He noted that €100 million will come from the loan with the EIB for Small-Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), while the remaining €200 will come from the revenue from the second licensing round. Stephanou recalled that the government has established a guarantee mechanism which will enable funding for of SMEs.
Noting that the package will not be included in the Memorandum of Understanding to be signed with the Troika, Stephanou added that "the government believes that growth and employment should be promoted, a view already outlined to the Troika."
Noting that securing funds for growth is a problem under the current circumstances, Stephanou pointed out that funding has been secured for the package.
The Spokesman also noted that the package, which will create new jobs and combat unemployment, will give special emphasis on housing, energy and particularly renewable energy, research and education and will fund re-training projects for unemployed persons who in turn could re-enter the job market.
Cyprus has applied for financial support from the European Stability Mechanism, in a bid to recapitalize its banking sector heavily exposed to the Greek economy and to cover its refinancing needs. The adjustment programme is said to be concluded with the Troika representatives by the next Eurogroup meeting on November 12. The Troika representatives are expected to return to Cyprus in the second half of October.
Replying to a question with regard to the document for the supervision and regulation of the banking sector, Stephanou said that the Central Bank of Cyprus is preparing the document to be given to the Troika.
Responding to a comment on the Troika`s suggestions on the seizure and sale of property pledged as collateral for non-performing loans, Stephanou "this is one of the issues for which the government has a political position."
"There are some sensitive issues of mainly social nature for which the government has political positions," he said, without elaborating, adding however that these positions will be sent to the political parties in view of the new meeting they will have with the President of the Republic on Monday.
Cypriot banks have already expressed disagreement with the Troika`s proposals that the banks should raise their Core Tier 1 capital ratio from the current 8% to 10% for the duration of the adjustment programme, as well as the seizure and sale of properties pledged as collateral to non-performing loans after a period of 18 months.
Stephanou announced that the Cypriot President will meet the trade unions on Friday and discuss the government-proposed austerity measures.
Exploratory drilling, conducted by Huston-based Noble Energy in Block 12 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, revealed a gross natural gas reserve of 3 to 9 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Noble is expected to extract and transfer natural gas to Cyprus by late 2018.
The government approved on November 23, last year, the launch of a second licensing round for the remaining 12 offshore blocks, a decision published in the EU Official Journal on February 11, 2012 and expired on May 11, after a three-month bidding period. Fifteen companies and joint ventures, including energy heavyweights such as French Total and Korean KOGAS, have bided for 9 out of Cyprus’ 12 offshore exploration blocks. Bids are being currently evaluated by the government.