- Population – 0.84m (2004)
- Total labour force – 0.34m (2004)
- % of labour force in agriculture, forestry and fishery – 4.7% (2004)
- Average lending interest rate – 7.66% (2004)
- % change in consumer prices – 2.3% (2004)
- GDP at constant 1995 prices – C£5.6bn (2004)
There are 11 so-called Cyprus-incorporated banks, of which Bank of Cyprus Ltd is by far the largest, followed by Laiki (Popular Bank) and Hellenic Bank. There are also two Cyprus branches of foreign banks (Arab Bank and National Bank of Greece), a further 27 international banking units, formerly known as offshore banks, and one Cyprus representative office of a foreign bank (UBS of Switzerland). In addition, there are several institutions providing specialised banking services, such as medium- and long-term financing for housing, tourism and industrial projects. The co-operative movement, with more than 300 credit societies, 54 co-operative savings banks and seven other credit institutions and a share of total deposits of 32%, is also important. In May 2005 the commercial banks had deposits of C£13.7bn (almost double the annual GDP); co-operative banks had C£4.4bn; while international banking units had deposits of C£4.4bn.
The banking system is over-branched, and European Central Bank (ECB) data show that cost-to-income ratios in Cyprus are higher than the EU average. Strong unions have made it almost impossible for any bank to cut staff to reduce costs. However, a combination of cutbacks elsewhere in the system and a reduction in the ratio of non-performing loans has helped to improve profitability in 2005. Normal commercial banks are supervised by the Central Bank, while co-operative credit institutions are audited by a special unit that falls under the co-operative commissioner. In its 2005 Staff Report the IMF raised concern about limited prudential data and reliable information on non-performing loans. The co-operatives will apply in full the EU banking directive from the end of December 2007. The Co-operative Central Bank acts as their lender, although in practice most credit co-operatives are net lenders to the Co-operative Central Bank. The 2005 IMF Staff Report criticised the fact that for the co-operatives the "the locus of lender-of-last resort responsibilities remains unclear".
Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit