Cyprus appoints banker Shiarly as finance minister

Cyprus on Monday appointed banker Vassos Shiarly as finance minister, replacing Kikis Kazamias, whose resignation on health grounds was announced on Friday, the government spokesman said.

President Demetris Christofias also replaced the commerce and industry minister, Praxoulla Antoniadou, with Neoclis Sylikiotis, until now interior minister. The portfolio is responsible for administering natural gas reserves recently discovered off Cyprus.

Shiarly, 64, held until last year the group chief general manager position in Cypriot lender Bank of Cyprus and is an accountant. He starts his ministerial job on Friday.

With regulators he will have to oversee recapitalisation efforts of the island’s two largest banks, including his former employers, which are heavily exposed to Greek sovereign debt.

Moody’s rating agency last week followed Standard and Poor’s in downgrading Cyprus’s sovereign debt to junk, saying there was a heightened risk the government would have to prop up the banks.

Cyprus itself has been shut out of debt markets since May 2011, and averted a bailout after receiving a 2.5 billion euro loan from Russia.

The resignation of Kazamias removes the one known ally of central bank governor Athanasios Orphanides, a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council. The government is due to decide by April 30 whether to reappoint Orphanides, whom Kazamias publicly defended on several occasions over the island’s exposure to Greek debt. [Reuters]

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