Update: There is a plan to revise the deposit tax, from Matina Stevis “Exclusive: plans to revise #cyprus deposit tax on wires: under 5% for €0-100k, under 10% for €100-500k, around 13% for €500k+”
A must read account of the Cyprus negotiations by Peter Spiegel at the Financial Times: Cyprus depositors’ fate sealed in Berlin
The European Central Bank had another shock for [Cyprus’s new president Nicos Anastasiades]: the island’s second-largest bank, Laiki, was in such bad shape that it no longer qualified for the eurosystem’s emergency liquidity assistance … The message … meant that if no deal was reached, Laiki would collapse … saddling Nicosia with a €30bn bill to reimburse accounts covered by the country’s deposit guarantee scheme. It was money Nicosia did not have. All of the island’s account holders would be wiped out.
So basically the offer was: accept a levy on depositors or all depositors would be wiped out.
A couple of interesting posts from Pawelmorski, Cyprus: A Brutal Lesson in RealPolitik and Cyprus: What Were They Thinking? and some other notes. “Don’t need a European bailout in a German election year”
From the WSJ: Cyprus Races to Prevent Bank Crisis
Uncertain it has the votes to pass the measure, Cyprus’s government postponed an emergency parliamentary session on Sunday that had been called to vote on the levy, while the cabinet petitioned the central bank to extend Monday’s bank holiday by at least another day, a move that was likely. …
Anastasiades—sworn into office just a little over two weeks ago—directly controls 20 seats in Parliament through his center-right Democratic Rally party. He is supported by the Democratic Party with eight seats as well as the European Party with two seats and third environmental party—which has balked at the levy-with another one seat.
To pass, the measure must have at least 28 votes in Cyprus’s 56-seat Parliament, with a tie vote going to the government under Cypriot parliamentary rules. But with some coalition lawmakers wavering, others demanding some sort of compensation for deposit holders, and at least one parliamentarian currently out of the country and unable to vote, passage is by no means assured.
A final comment: This points out several problems with deposit insurance (especially since Cyprus doesn’t have their own currency). First, if the largest Cyprus banks failed, all depositors would be wiped out (in effect, there really isn’t any deposit insurance from Cyprus). Second, in the US, problem banks are restricted on the interest rate they can pay on insured deposits (to avoid weak banks trying to draw in deposits by offering excessively high yields). As a few people have noted, Cyprus banks have been paying very high interest rates on deposits. I found a 5 year jumbo CD yielding 11% per year. To solve these problems they really need Euro Zone wide deposit insurance and to restrict yields on insured deposits held by problem banks.