- BRUSSELS - Cyprus has announced a roadmap to eventually lift capital controls in the eurozone country, but the process could take some years. The finance ministry Thursday (8 August) laid out a four-step plan by the end of which capital will be able to move freely both inside and outside Cyprus.
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“Cypriot authorities are committed to removing the restrictive measures and ensuring free movement of capital, as soon as conditions allow,” said the ministry. The eurozone’s first ever capital controls were introduced on the island on March amid fears of a massive bank run.
The concerns followed a decision by international lenders to impose losses on large depositers as part of a €10 billion bailout, that included the shutting down of its second largest bank Laiki and the restructuring of the Bank of Cyprus. Amid the political turmoil that surrounded the negotiations on the deal – which originally was going to target all depositers – the Cypriot government set restrictions on bank money transfers and withdrawals, with a daily cash withdrawal limit of €300. No deadlines were set for the removal of the controls – although they have since been relaxed a little.
Experience from other parts of the world show that such measures can be difficult to remove. Iceland in 2008 imposed controls after the collapse of its financial system. They are still in place today. The Cypriot plan foresees a series of targets with the Stage one target reducing the “risks emanating from the large sums of cash currently held by households and businesses.” In stage two it should be possible to freely transfer funds in the Cypriot banking system; stage three should see the lifting of controls on the free movement of capital within the island while the last stage would see the “re-establishment of the cross border free movement of capital.”
Each stage comes with a series of specific milestones such as restructuring the Bank of Cyprus. The ministry said the roadmap had been agreed during a recent visit by international lenders but noted that “removal of the restrictive measures could also be accelerated if conditions allow.”Although the island has been hard-hit by the crisis and the subsequent austerity measures demanded by its lenders, this has not stopped outside interest in Cyprus.
The Cyprus Mail reported that there has been a surge in Chinese nationals applying for permanent residency in Cyprus. Last year, 29 Chinese applied to live on island. So far this year there have been 445 applications. The Hong Kong-based China Glory National Investment recently announced it is planning on investing €290 million in a golf resort on the island. This has been hailed as proof that the cash-strapped island can still attract foreign investment.