New Cypriot finance minister Michalis Sarris has left the door open to the privatisation of national full-service telco Cyta to help pull the country out of financial malaise, reports the Cyprus Mail. On his first day in office (Friday 1 March 2013), Sarris responded to questions about possible privatisations by saying that it would be easier to attract a strategic investor for Cyta than many other state-owned or part-owned organisations. He argued his case for privatising public sector companies, saying: ‘What we all must understand is that in these very important areas, the real test is not how many persons work in these organisations and how many jobs we have created, but what we offer to the Cypriot citizen,’ while pointing out that Cyprus was unusual in that so many of its sectors remained in state hands.
Outgoing finance minister Vassos Shiarly handed over the reins to Sarris just three days before a key Eurogroup meeting in Brussels today (Monday). Sarris attended a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades to discuss ongoing negotiations for an international debt bailout, and at the handover ceremony, the new finance minister said Cyprus must convince Europe and others of its determination to implement the terms of a bailout agreement, while dealing with unreasonable demands and accusations against the Cyprus model of economic development. The new minister said the ‘conditions are very different’ from the last time he was finance minister under the Tassos Papadopoulos government: ‘We are facing serious problems as our friends are getting fewer and the challenges have multiplied.’ He added however that Cyprus has paved the way for a return to growth and reduction of unemployment, by agreeing on fiscal and structural changes, and referred to positive developments stemming from the discovery of natural gas in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.