Test drilling begins in block 12

PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias yesterday appointed former banker Vasos Shiarlis as finance minister, replacing Kikis Kazamias, whose resignation on health grounds was announced on Friday, the government spokesman said.

Christofias also replaced the commerce and industry minister, Praxoulla Antoniadou with Neoclis Sylikiotis, until now interior minister.

His portfolio will be taken over by former Nicosia mayor Eleni Mavrou.

Sylikiotis and Mavrou will be confirmed today.

Shiarlis, currently the head of the health insurance organisation, will be confirmed on Friday as he needs to resign from there first.

Shiarlis, 64, takes over at a particularly difficult time for the Cypriot economy.

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

Moody's rating agency last week followed Standard and Poor's in downgrading Cyprus’ 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 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.

Source: Cyprus-Mail

Published on March 20, 2012
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