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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-01-21

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Friday, January 21, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Turkey lists Cyprus pound ‘for first time since 74’
  • [02] State Department welcomes restoration plans
  • [03] Klerides pleads with deputies to back his fiscal reforms
  • [04] Government to fight court order halting work on desalination plant
  • [05] Orphanides apologises for misleading detergent ad
  • [06] House adopts asylum law
  • [07] Market ends the week down slightly
  • [08] Used car importers lash out at government plans
  • [09] New smart identity card to be introduced from June
  • [10] Speed trap concern was just a cabinet joke

  • [01] Turkey lists Cyprus pound ‘for first time since 74’

    By Jean Christou

    TURKEY has included the Cyprus pound in a list of exchange rates in what is thought to be the first official acknowledgement of the island's currency since 1974.

    The move, although not important economically for Cyprus, is seen as politically significant as Turkey does not recognise the Republic.

    The Cyprus News Agency (CNA), quoting an article in the Turkish daily Milliyet, headlined "Money Transcends the Green Line", said the decree issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry had been published in Turkey's official government gazette.

    The rate was quoted at 952,000 Turkish Lira (TL) to one Cyprus pound and is the first such official decree since 1974, the paper said.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday he could not confirm if it was the first time Turkey had officially listed the Cyprus pound, but welcomed the development.

    "As far as I know there is no precedent, but I can't confirm it for sure," he told the Cyprus Mail, but he added the pound's official inclusion was "positive news".

    "It means indirect recognition of Cyprus," he said.

    Papapetrou added that steps towards Turkish recognition of Cyprus had begun in December when President Clerides attended the conference of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Istanbul as head of state.

    "With this, and now with the exchange rate, it is a sign of indirect recognition," he said.

    Milliyet said the decision had been taken because many Turkish Cypriots - including Turkish Cypriot staff at the British bases and British High Commission - worked in the south of the island and got paid in Cyprus pounds.

    The paper said the only outlet for these workers was to exchange the money on the black market in the north, but diplomatic sources in Nicosia said this was not accurate.

    "Most hold Cyprus-pound accounts in Turkish Cypriot banks," the source said. "It's not officially recognised there but they can change the money in the banks."

    Cyprus pounds are in big demand in the occupied areas and are widely accepted in shops and restaurants.

    "It is free-flowing in the north," the source said. "In some ways they prefer the Cyprus pound because it doesn't lose value as quickly as the Turkish Lira."

    A Central Bank official said many Turkish Cypriots hoarded the Cyprus pound because of its value. He could not, however, confirm whether it was the first time since 1974 that the pound was officially listed in Turkey. Economically, he said, the development was not important for the Republic. "They could be doing it because of trade with the occupied areas, as an indication for the Turkish Cypriots of how much they should get for their Cyprus pounds," he said. "There is no other economic reason to recognise the Cyprus pound since we don't have any trade with Turkey."

    A Greek Cypriot analyst urged caution on the political front.

    "I don't expect any fundamental changes from Turkey on Cyprus," he said. "If that was the point I would have expected something bigger".

    The diplomatic source agreed. "I don't think it’s a political thing. It's just acknowledging that the Cyprus pound exists," he said. "However it is interesting that they referred to it."

    Friday, January 21, 2000

    [02] State Department welcomes restoration plans

    By Jean Christou

    THE US State Department has welcomed the proposed renovation of the Apostolos Andreas Monastery in occupied Karpasia and the Hala Sultan Tekke on Larnaca's Salt Lake.

    "The preservation of Cypriot cultural heritage through practical projects such as this is a further expression of our long-standing commitment to improving understanding between Cypriots," State Department spokesman James Rubin told journalists in Washington. The United States S is funding the project.

    "This project will ensure that those two historic sites each of which is suffering from deterioration will be preserved for future generations," Rubin added.

    Outgoing Russian ambassador Georgi Muratov on Wednesday accused the UN and the US of stealing Russia’s ideas on possible bi-communal projects.

    He said the idea had been first proposed by Russia last year.

    The UN announced on Monday that the first phase of the project was under way. This will involve surveying both sites to assess what needs to be done and what the cost might be. The process is likely to take several months.

    US ambassador Donald Bandler also hailed the project yesterday after a meeting he had with President Clerides.

    "We are working across the island on practical areas of co-operation; for example, the recent announcement of phase one of the project to restore Apostle Andreas Monastery and the Hala Sultan Mosque," Bandler said.

    He said that practical co-operation between the two communities was very important and went on all the time, even though it was not directly connected to the talks in the political sphere.

    The second round of UN-backed proximity talks is due to begin in Geneva on January 31.

    Bandler said the US was optimistic that 2000 would provide the opportunity to make progress. He said that at the end of 1999, some "significant, positive things happened".

    He was referring to the first round of proximity talks, held in early December in New York, and to the outcome of the EU Helsinki summit, which guaranteed Cyprus’ unhindered candidacy irrespective of political developments and accepted Turkey as an official candidate.

    "There is an ongoing effort, in which we will be engaging with the parties working with the UN and other interested countries to identify areas of convergence and to narrow the differences," he said.

    Friday, January 21, 2000

    [03] Klerides pleads with deputies to back his fiscal reforms

    By Athena Karsera

    FINANCE Minister Takis Klerides yesterday urged the House to adopt fiscal reforms to prepare Cyprus for EU accession and bring economic indicators back into line.

    During his Budget Speech in the run-up ahead of a three-day debate on the government's proposals next month, Klerides said progress had been made in 1999, but that key economic indicators were still lagging behind European monetary union guidelines.

    With the debate beginning on February 2, Klerides said, "It is my responsibility and obligation to stress that a continuation of high fiscal deficits could negatively affect the economy, standards of living, but also the (EU) accession course."

    He said that the economic situation was "a cause for concern, but it is not irreversible."

    Klerides added that indicators would carry on deviating from desired levels this year due to corrective measures to boost public revenue but that the heart of the economy remained healthy.

    "The European course dictates a change of mentality and approach to economic and social issues," he said, adding that the government was prepared to return 20 per cent of revenue raised from an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) to those in society that needed it most.

    A bill for an increase of VAT from 8 to 10 per cent is pending before the House, as is an increase in vehicle road tax and an abolition of duty exemptions for semi-government organisations.

    Klerides also said that priority would be given to the carrying out and completing major construction works, such as sections of the Limassol to Paphos highway and the new Nicosia general hospital.

    On predictions for the year, Klerides said that indications for increases in tourism were encouraging and that unemployment was expected to stay at its current level of 3.5 per cent.

    The 2000 Budget is the first to be presented as a unified budget, and sets spending at £2,007 billion and net revenue at £1,348 billion.

    The redefined 1999 Budget provided for £1,608 billion in spending against £1,088 billion in revenue.

    The fiscal balance, which has been in debt since 1995, fell to 5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GPD) in 1999, lower than initially predicted. Public debt, meanwhile, rose to 61.3 per cent of GPD in 1999.

    Friday, January 21, 2000

    [04] Government to fight court order halting work on desalination plant

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE GOVERNMENT will oppose in court Larnaca's successful court action this week to halt construction of the desalination plant being built on the outskirts of the municipality, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.

    Papapetrou acknowledged Larnaca Mayor George Lycourgos had successfully obtained an interim order - without even the contractor's presence in court - ordering that work halted on what is planned as the island's second major desalination plant.

    The island's sole desalination facility, at Dhekelia, turns out 40,000 cubic metres of water per day - about the summer needs of Nicosia - and the Larnaca plant is planned to an identical output capacity.

    The Larnaca Court order was apparently granted on grounds the contractor lacked a building permit for the desalination plant, according to Water Development Department (WDD) Senior Water Engineer Nicos Tsiourtis.

    But Papapetrou agreed with Tsiourtis that the government "does not need" a building permit for projects of a national nature.

    After conferring with Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous, ultimate boss of the WDD, Papapetrou said: "The government will oppose the order in court."

    "It will not terminate the contract" with the Israeli consortium building the desalination plant. "It will object to the order, which is an interim order," Papapetrou said.

    "I think," Papapetrou added, "that the employer in this case is the government itself, so the government will be a party in the process" of defending the contractor against Lycourgos' suit.

    Tsiourtis said the matter was under study by Attorney-general Alecos Markides, whose schedule did not permit his comment on the matter.

    Lycourgos, who is planning to go abroad today, was also unavailable for comment.

    Tsiourtis painted a gloomy picture of Cyprus' water prospects if the Larnaca desalination plant was not allowed to be completed.

    He noted winter rains had so far been patchy, much less than expected or needed to get the island safely through another year without even stricter rationing, as it enters its fifth straight year of drought, the worst in its history.

    He said water levels behind state dams yesterday were identical to what they were one year ago - 29 million cubic metres, or about 10.6 per cent of total reservoir capacity.

    He said if the island continued to draw those levels down, and winter rains did not replenish them, the situation this summer could be "very bad."

    Friday, January 21, 2000

    [05] Orphanides apologises for misleading detergent ad

    ORPHANIDES supermarkets have publicly apologised for a television advert considered misleading by many of their customers and by the state Consumer Protection service.

    Customers complained that the ad - plugging a one-day offer of half-price detergent - failed to make it clear that you had to spend £19 on other goods before the offer was valid.

    Supermarket chain boss, Christos Orphanides, appeared on Sigma television on Wednesday night to offer an apology to customers for the advert. He said the cost of television spots was such (a prime-time television advert can cost £45 per second) that the chain did not want to extend the ad by explaining the terms of the offer.

    A message across the bottom of the screen during the advert said only that further information was available at stores.

    Consumer protection service chief George Mitides said earlier this week the Orphanides ad would be one of the first things he would look at if the House plenum approved tough new advertising standards legislation yesterday afternoon.

    Friday, January 21, 2000

    [06] House adopts asylum law

    THE HOUSE of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed a law providing for asylum to refugees.

    The law was passed to bring Cyprus into line with European Union law and could lead to the release of a number of ‘illegal' immigrants from prison.

    Akel deputy George Agapiou said that the change in law had also been specifically requested by the United Nations and said that people currently being held for illegal entry could now be classified as refugees, pardoned and released.

    Acting House president and Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades, however, noted that the opinion of the Attorney-general had to be obtained before such an assumption could be made.

    The lack of legislation was exposed last year when the government had to deal with boatloads of migrants washing up on its shore, several of whom were classed by the UNHCR as political refugees.

    Friday, January 21, 2000

    [07] Market ends the week down slightly

    By Michael Ioannou

    THE EQUITY market ended flat yesterday after a weak opening on light trading dominated by transactions in small-caps and to a lesser extent the heavyweight banking sector.

    Opening some 10 points weaker than on Wednesday, the market built on a small recovery in mid-session to close 1.3 points, or 0.21 per cent, lower at 643.64 with buyers entering as the session was drawing to an end.

    Trading fluctuated in a narrow band between 634.42, the lowest point of trading, and 643.64, which was the highest peak of the day. The value of transactions was marginally higher than on Wednesday at £19.9 million, albeit on a lower volume of 4,035 trades.

    Four of the sub-sectors fell and three rose. Traders said the market was not following a particular direction and some investors were maintaining hold positions.

    "The financial results reporting period coming up is a very important factor but I would think that with some companies these results are already priced in," said a trader at a Nicosia brokerage.

    "There are still other companies though where investors will be surprised by the very good results for 1999 and I would expect some interesting announcements," he added.

    The heavily-capitalised banking sector, which represents more than half of the market's £8.5 billion capitalisation, slipped in tandem with the general index, closing 0.3 per cent lower.

    Bank of Cyprus slipped nine cents to £9.80 on a volume of 143,363 shares while the Cyprus Popular Bank closed 22 cents higher to £13.47. Hellenic Bank, bolstered by a spate of buys earlier this week, retreated 15 cents to £4.70 on a volume of 223,942 shares.

    Universal Life Insurance continued to climb, adding £1.83 to close at £24.25 pounds, hitting a new year-high and propelling the insurance sub- sector up 3.2 per cent. Commercial shares also rose marginally by 0.3 per cent. In the volume ranks, Leptos Calypso dominated with 798,052 shares changing hands, climbing 19 cents to £1.48. Louis Cruise Lines was also heavily traded on mainly institutional investor buying with a volume of 437, 093, followed by Malloupas & Papacostas with 388,035 shares.

    * Computer services firm Avacom announced yesterday its board would meet to debate a possible bonus issue to shareholders and the prospect of spinning off one of its units offering web services. At the February 8 meeting, Avacom said it would debate taking Avacom Net Services Ltd., public, and the possibility of giving preferential treatment to existing Avacom shareholders in a private placement. The company said it would also discuss a proposal for co-operation with a Greek company through subsidiary Avacom Hellas S.A., and the intention of associate company Intersys Ltd., going public. Avacom own 51 per cent of Intersys.

    Friday, January 21, 2000

    [08] Used car importers lash out at government plans

    By George Psyllides

    USED JAPANESE car dealers yesterday launched a bitter attack against the government, accusing it of trying to put them out of business and protecting the financial interests of new car importers.

    The outburst came after a government decision to amend used car regulations, making it compulsory for every imported used Japanese car to carry a road worthiness certificate before it can be registered.

    Speaking at a news conference yesterday, the Chairman of the Used Car Dealers Association, Michalis Constantinou, claimed the government was trying to stop the importation of used cars from Japan with the excuse that they did not meet European Union specifications.

    The government's intention to amend the regulations was clearly aimed at protecting the financial interests of new car importers, Constantinou accused.

    "Used cars had a market share of 67 per cent last year and 73 per cent in 1998. Did you think the new car dealers who had 100 per cent control of the market, but began to lose that share after 1995 would sit on the sidelines?"

    He maintained the EU did not have any regulations concerning used cars and that every country drew up its policy according to the national interest.

    EU members which also import used cars from Japan do not ask for a certificate, because, as he said, no car manufacturer gives certificates for used cars.

    "There is no way of getting this certificate because the cars have already been manufactured," Constantinou said.

    "Who will give us this certificate?"

    "It is the state's responsibility to create the necessary facilities to check the cars and if they comply, to register them. This is our demand," he said.

    "If the regulations are approved by the House, then the country's economy, consumers, and dealers will be affected," he added.

    Friday, January 21, 2000

    [09] New smart identity card to be introduced from June

    By Martin Hellicar

    A NEW identity card containing a computer chip is to be introduced as part of a government plan electronically to record the island's population.

    The new ID card, or Smart Card as it is to be named, will be issued from June and will contain the holder’s personal details, just like the current ID card does. The information on the Smart Card's computer chip will be read by a computers at all ministries and local authority buildings.

    In the future, the card could also contain additional information, such as the holder's family tree, driving licence, passport details, etc.

    George Theodorou, of the Interior Ministry's election service, said the card would not replace the current ID card, at least not for the time being.

    "We cannot force people to hand in their old ID cards," Theodorou told the Cyprus Mail, adding that instigating such a handover for the whole population would be an organisational nightmare.

    The new electronic Smart Cards will, as a first stage, be issued for newborns and to replace lost "old" ID cards.

    The smart card is part of a long-term state plan to computerise information on the local population and create information banks, which a Smart Card holder will be able to access.

    Measures are promised to ensure that people's personal details held on the government computers cannot be accessed without authorisation.

    The government line is that the Smart Cards will change peoples' lives for the better.

    Theodorou noted that no one would be issued with a card including the number 666, because of the "demonic" associations of this number sequence.

    [10] Speed trap concern was just a cabinet joke

    CABINET concern that speed-trap cameras photographing the fronts of cars might catch male drivers with their mistresses was "just a joke," one minister said yesterday, but the joke will be on speeders if the cameras bill passes the Parliament.

    Police Traffic Superintendent Alecos Michaelides yesterday said that the Council of Ministers on December 22, 1999, approved a bill that would permit installing cameras to catch speeders on highways, and signal-jumpers at city traffic lights.

    The measure, long advocated by the police department, now goes to the House of Representatives for approval as law.

    Reports this week suggested some in the Council of Ministers were concerned, lest placing the cameras so they photographed the fronts of vehicles might photograph a driver out with his mistress, and so suggested the cameras be placed so they only photographed vehicles from the rear.

    "It was a joke," the minister said yesterday. "Somebody said that with the installation of these cameras, people who were driving with a girlfriend might be in trouble. It was not an objection" to their installation, "not at all," the minister said, adding the measure "went through fully."

    If the measure passes the House, cameras on highways or at traffic lights will photograph the license plates of offending vehicles; the police will then mail the photograph to the driver, along with a ticket for speeding or signal-jumping and a £50 fine.

    The system is in wide use across Europe and in the United States.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

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