ECONOMY

Cypriot finance minister saw Greece ‘heading for the rocks’

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Cypriot Finance Minister Harris Georgiades says that he could sense Greece was “heading for the rocks” from the Eurogroup meeting held after SYRIZA was first elected in January.

In an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, Georgiades describes how it immediately became clear to him that the tactics adopted by then Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis would not pay off.

“I felt a deep responsibility being the only person with a connection to Greece that could see what was happening behind the closed doors at the Eurogroup, where a strategy was being followed that would undoubtedly put Greece in a difficult position,” he said. “I could see Greece heading for the rocks.”

At the time, Georgiades had expressed concern about Varoufakis’s stance and complained that he was not sure what the new Greek government was trying to achieve.

“Fortunately, difficult but correct decisions were taken,” he said in reference to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras deciding to agree a third bailout in the summer. “Even though I continue to be troubled, I am glad that the worst has been avoided and that there is another path for Greece.”

Georgiades said that there is communication between the teams at the Greek and Cypriot finance ministries but that each is focused on their own tasks. He declined the opportunity to offer any advice to the Greek government but suggested that Cyprus’s gradual recovery from the crisis might serve as an example.

“When you achieve targets based on your own planning, the interventionary role of the troika is limited,” he said. “At the same time, you boost your trustworthiness.”

Georgiades, though, stressed that although the Cypriot economy is expected to grow by around 1.5 percent this year, the country still has a long way to go.

“We have confronted the worst but we are not satisfied,” he said.

“There is still a lot to do: Unemployment is still close to 15 percent, there is a problem with nonperforming loans and there is a need for more reforms to improve the competitiveness of our economy.”