Cyprus finance minister goes to private sector

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus Finance Minister Makis Keravnos, credited with reining in bloated budget deficits and steering Cyprus toward membership of the eurozone, resigned yesterday to take the helm of a major commercial bank, he said. Keravnos’s resignation had been rumored for months. «Provided it is endorsed by the board of directors, I am taking up the chief executive officer position in Hellenic Bank,» he told journalists. Government sources said a successor to Keravnos was likely to be appointed prior to a scheduled cabinet meeting today. They also said that President Tassos Papadopoulos had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Keravnos to change his mind. «Among the scenarios discussed with the president was for the minister to remain at his post,» said Nicos Kleanthous, vice chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, after a meeting with Papadopoulos and Keravnos. Keravnos was appointed finance minister in early 2004, taking on a budget deficit which then exceeded 5 percent of GDP and public debt exceeding 70 percent. An economist who specialized in human resources training, his first public appointment was as labor minister in 2003. His deficit-busting gameplan included an agreement by civil servants to increase retirement ages and cut down on pension bills, government outsourcing and slashing overtime pay in the civil service. Based on the pledges to cut the deficit to 1.7 percent by the end of 2006 and show declining public debt, Cyprus entered the European Exchange Rate (ERM 2) mechanism in April.