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The Financial Mirror reported recently that the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Cyprus’ three biggest commercial banks had signed a € 228 million loan agreement, which aims to offer cheaper, long-term loans to the island’s small and medium-size businesses (SMEs). The loan is part of a broader policy on the part of the EIB to boost the liquidity of SMEs across Europe.

The business community on the island was encouraged by the move, saying that it will help Cypriot SME’s by providing them with much-needed additional funds at better rates than are currently available in the Cypriot lending market. € 120 million of the funds will go to the Bank of Cyprus, € 50 million to the Marfin Popular Bank and another € 58 million will go to the Hellenic Bank. The three banks will also have to match the EIB loan with their own funds and funding will be available to SMEs across a range of sectors including agriculture, industry, commercial services and tourism.

The agreements were signed in the presence of Cypriot Finance Minister, Charilaos Stavrakis, EIB Vice President, Plutarchos Sakellaris and the chief executives of the three Cypriot commercial banks. Stavrakis described the signing of the agreements as “extremely important”, emphasising the importance of cheap funding and liquidity for Cypriot businesses, especially the small and medium-size enterprises, which he said are the backbone of the Cyprus economy. He also talked about the impact of the global financial crisis on the Cypriot economy, noting that Cyprus is still the best performer in the EU and the only member state to record a positive growth rate and the second best unemployment rate.

Author: Anne Hall

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