Small Cypriot savers’ hope

NICOSIA — Cyprus’ government proposed on Tuesday to spare small savers from a divisive levy on bank deposits but said it expects parliament to reject the measure, needed to secure an international bailout and avoid default and a banking collapse.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Wed 20 Mar 2013, 10:48 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:08 AM

Unless parliament accepts the levy on deposits, EU countries say they will withhold a bailout, plunging one of the smallest European states closer to financial oblivion with potentially severe consequences for the rest of the troubled eurozone.

“The feeling I’m having is that the house is going to reject the bill,” President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters. Asked why, he added: “Because they feel and they think that it is unjust and it’s against the interests of Cyprus at large.”

Asked what he would do next, he said: “We have our own plans.”

Europe’s demand at the weekend that Cyprus break with previous EU practice and impose a levy on bank accounts as part of a €10 billion ($13 billion) bailout sparked outrage among Cypriots and unsettled financial markets. Anastasiades refused to accept a levy of more than 10 per cent on deposits above €100,000, which meant taxing smaller accounts too. That hurts ordinary savers with deposits that they thought came with a state guarantee.

Stunned by the backlash and fearing rejection by Cypriot lawmakers, eurozone finance ministers urged Nicosia on Monday to avoid hitting accounts below €100,000, and instead increase the levy on big accounts, which are unprotected by the state deposit-insurance system. The European Union and International Monetary Fund are demanding Cyprus raise €5.8 billion to secure its bailout, needed to rescue its financial sector.

A revised draft bill seen by Reuters would exempt savings under €20,000 from the planned 6.75 per cent levy on deposits of less than €100,000. The government has not explained how it would fill the funding gap this would create.

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said the eurozone could not lend Cyprus any more, since the country’s debt would become unmanageable.

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