By Stelios Orphanides
Finance Minister Harris Georgiades has said that Cyprus’ reputation as a financial centre needs to be further improved to take advantage of opportunities caused by geopolitical upheavals.
“Maintaining the positive prospect of the services sector and its expansion into new areas such as investment fund management requires complete compliance to strict international and European standards,” Georgiades told delegates at the annual meeting of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus (ICPAC) on Wednesday night, speaking on behalf of President Nicos Anastasiades.
“I would like to stress the need of further improving Cyprus’ reputation and good name as an international business centre,” he said. “Geopolitical developments generate additional challenges and opportunities”.
His comments come more than a month after Cyprus launched a PR campaign to improve its image abroad on combatting money laundering, tarnished by allegations in the past. In May, days after Marshall Billingslea, a high-ranking US Treasury official held meetings with Georgiades, Central Bank of Cyprus head Chrystalla Georghadji and Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides, encouraging Cyprus to continue taking action against illicit funds, ICPAC which supervises accountants, advised its members to better evaluate risks before entering new business relationships and consult lists of sanctioned persons. The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, the Cyprus Bar Association and the Central Bank of Cyprus, which supervise investment firms and fiduciary services providers, lawyers and banks respectively, issued similar circulars.
“ICPAC has been traditionally a valuable advisor and credible partner,” the finance minister continued. “The state worked together with ICPAC on a number of issues, including taxation policy, promoting double taxation avoidance treaties and compliance to European and global standards on tax evasion, money laundering and exchange of tax information, in a determinant way”.
Billingslea’s visit was a month after the US announced additional sanctions against Russian companies, officials and oligarchs, as the US steps up its efforts to restrict the use of the greenback in transactions by its adversaries.
Georgiades said that the accounting and auditing sector proved it was resilient and robust to withstand the impact of the twin fiscal and banking crisis five years ago.
“The strong recovery, to be more precise, is to a large extent a result of the contribution and good performance of the services sector,” he continued. “Maintaining this positive prospect for the economy must be our common goal”.
“As far as I am concerned, I would like to assure you also on behalf of President Anastasiades and the government, we remain consistent in promoting policies ensuring macroeconomic stability and confidence,” he said.
“Our commitment to avoid new tax hikes remains unchanged in the face of the considerable but once-off increase of public debt in recent days, made necessary to finally address uncertainties in our banking system and have banks operating in our country” without being plagued by mistakes of the past, he said in an apparent reference to the government’s decision to inject another €3.5bn into the Co-op to facilitate the take over of its operations by Hellenic Bank.