The Cypriot banking system is insolvent and desperately in need of a bailout. Like Ireland, this island banking system has expanded rapidly over the years and currently has assets equal to almost 7 times its GDP, making the system too big to fail, but also "too big to save." Funding needed to recapitalize the banks is currently estimated to be around 17B euros (almost 100 percent of Cypriot GDP) making it impossible for Cyprus to resolve its crisis alone. A 10B euro rescue package was recently negotiated, but the bailout package proposed by the Troika — made up of the IMF, the EU and the ECB — still leaves Cypriots to come up with a sizable sum. The question is what to do.
The recent bailout plan proposed by the government (yet rejected by the Cypriot parliament) sparked significant controversy globally because it required a depositor levy to "bail in" all depositors to help pay for the bailout. On the one hand, the proposal is seen as violating the deposit guarantee and risk leading to bank runs elsewhere in the Euro Area and beyond. On the other hand, the Cypriot government felt the need to turn to depositors because a full bailout is out of the question given their debt burden will already reach unsustainable limits even with the partial bailout; most of their sovereign debt is under English law and cannot be restructured; their banks have few bonds to be written down; and about half of their depositors are rich Russian depositors attracted by their favorable tax system.