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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 03-06-12

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Thursday, June 12, 2003

CONTENTS

  • [01] Private school fees could rise as government eyes liberlaisation
  • [02] Rubber yo-yos being withdrawn after safety scares across Europe
  • [03] NHS will cost £295 million a year
  • [04] Parliament to be asked for extra £300 million today
  • [05] CyTA sponsors expansion of recycling charity
  • [06] Parliament seeks legal aid for market victims
  • [07] Concern at fourfold rise in drug use
  • [08] Refinery could be shut down next year
  • [09] Shadow boxing over the economy
  • [10] Not up to EU specs

  • [01] Private school fees could rise as government eyes liberlaisation

    By Sofia Kannas

    FEES at private schools and colleges across the island could be liberalised in the new academic year, Education Committee Chairman Prodromos Prodromou said yesterday.

    Private secondary and tertiary education institutions have called for a relaxation of government fee control mechanisms, claiming present fee regulations are making it difficult for schools and colleges outside the public sector to make ends meet.

    Speaking after an Education Committee meeting on the subject, Prodromou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that while no specific proposal had been drafted yet, Education Minister Pefkios Georgiades had responded positively to calls for liberalisation.

    “We wanted to generate a discussion on this issue and the Minister was very positive,” he said.

    Prodromou noted that several private secondary schools -- including the American Academy -- and particularly colleges, had expressed concerns that the present restrictions on annual fee increases were problematic.

    Currently, higher education institutions are restricted to a five per cent fee increase per year, while private secondary school fee increases are usually set at around the same percentage.

    “Private schools are saying that they cannot follow the present fee structure because of teachers’ pay rises, which follow those of civil servants.”

    Chief Education Officer Christos Pantelides also stressed that in 2002 a civil servant pay rise of about five per cent was compounded by inflation of 3.5 per cent.

    Prodromou added that the present situation was contradictory.

    “If you create a new school in 2003 you can fix any fees you like, and only the annual fee increase is regulated,” he said. “This is also a good reason to reform the system.”

    The Chairman stressed that even if full liberalisation was not adopted in September, a more flexible system with room to grant different fee increases was necessary.

    “The Ministry will prepare a different system with some special criteria and we will see what the result is,” he added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    [02] Rubber yo-yos being withdrawn after safety scares across Europe By Sofia Kannas

    RUBBER yo-yos are being withdrawn from shops and kiosks on the island after the toys became entangled around children’s necks in France, Britain and Greece, causing them to choke.

    The Commerce Ministry has called on the imported toys to be withdrawn from the market after 12 dangerous incidents involving children playing with the yo-yos were recorded in several EU countries.

    The toys, which have already been banned in France, have an elastic cord which stretches up to two metres in length and can become wrapped around a child’s neck.

    Commerce and Industry Services Officer Marios Droushiotis confirmed yesterday that the Ministry’s Competition and Consumer Protection division had called for Cypriot importers to stop distributing the Chinese-made toys. The Ministry has also warned parents of the dangers of the toy for children.

    “The scare started in France, where the first accident occurred, but the yo- yos were sold for six months in the EU before there was any problem,” Droushiotis said. “The toy actually conforms to EU standards,” he added.

    He reassured that the government had tracked down importers of the toy in Cyprus and counted the number of toys in stock, forbidding their future sale in shops and kiosks.

    “Our next move is to ascertain how to go about removing these toys from shops and warning families who have already bought them of the potential dangers.”

    But Droushiotis stressed it was impossible for the Ministry to ensure the removal of all such toys from store shelves.

    “It is not possible for us to go around removing all the yo-yos from the shelves - we don’t have enough manpower to do this,” he said.

    In Britain, trading standards officers called for the withdrawal of the toys in April, after two girls almost choked to death while playing with the yo-yos.

    According to the toys’ packaging, the ‘Yo-yo Lifes Water Ball’ and ‘Yo-yo Miraculus Super Ball’ are games designed to “build hand-eye co-ordination.” The packaging for one of the yo-yos warns consumers of a “choking hazard” due to “small parts”, advising that the toy is not suitable for children under three. The instructions on the box of the second yo-yo warns that the toy is unsuitable for children under six, though one importer’s (Greek- language) label reads “not suitable for children under three”.

    Droushotis stressed that shops and importers found selling the toys despite the Ministry’s warning could be fined up to £5,000 or jailed for two years.

    A Ministry press release said the authorities had confiscated 4,752 yo-yos since a temporary sales ban on the toys was issued on May 22.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    [03] NHS will cost £295 million a year

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE NATIONAL Health Scheme will cost £295 million a year - an estimated 9.1 per cent of the Gross National Income - a senior Health Ministry official confirmed yesterday.

    But despite the cost the ministry’s Dr Andreas Polynikis said the scheme would be fully implemented in three years’ time.

    The cost estimate was calculated by a team of statisticians at Harvard University, who examined the results of detailed surveys on the planned scheme.

    The results will be presented to health authorities tomorrow morning and are based on a detailed questionnaire, which was handed out to 7,500 people at random, he said. The questions addressed patient and medical supplier behaviour, down to ‘consumer moral hazards’ and ‘induced demands’ - in other words, to what extent patients would seek more medical treatment knowing it was free of charge. Doctors and medical practitioners were also questioned in the survey and asked to answer separate questionnaires. The cost of medical facilities, including hospital beds, treatments and medication, was also assessed.

    The first such costing survey was carried out in 1992, followed by a second one in 1996.

    The cost was calculated according to the Gross National Income. In 1992 it was estimated at 10.5 per cent of the GNI and in 1996 at 9.1 per cent. The government wanted to see it if was the same, more or less on the basis of medical expenses in 2002, he said. “The cost, based on the GNI, was estimated at 9.1 per cent, the same as in 1996. Although £295 million is more in monetary terms, income has also gone up since then,” Polynikis told the Cyprus Mail.

    The NHS will operate with three social partners: the government, employers and employees. These three sections of society will contribute financially towards establishing a fund, which will buy health care from all providers (private and public) for the entire population. The government will contribute 4.55 per cent of everyone’s salary, employees will contribute two per cent of their salary and employers would pay 2.55 per cent for every two per cent their employees pay. The self-employed will pay 3.55 per cent of their income. All other sources of personal income will contribute two per cent to the fund.

    House Health Committee Chairman, Antonis Karas of DISY, also called for the NHS to be set up as soon as possible.

    “The financial indications, at a first glance, are not forbidding. We can go ahead and implement the NHS,” he said. However, he expressed concern that when the scheme had been voted on at the House, Tassos Papadopoulos - then a deputy and now President - and his party DIKO had expressed reservations over the project.

    “I wonder if this scheme has prospects for being implemented or not,” Karas wondered, adding DISY would do everything to ensure it went ahead.

    Health Minister Dina Akkelidou said yesterday the current health system had to be overhauled because it was falling apart and in some cases was worse than health systems in developing countries. Even if the NHS was not implemented, the current health system must improve or there would be serious consequences in the quality of exiting services, she warned.

    “There is a need for the current health system to change, whether the NHS is implemented or not… The existing one must change or we will have serious consequences in the quality of services,” she said. Health services will no longer be capable of coping financially and patients will suffer because the quality of care will become increasingly unsatisfactory, said Akkelidou, adding methods of improvement were already being discussed.

    The minister also took a dig at her predecessor, Frixos Savvides, who she said had spent £12 million on sending patients abroad for treatment.

    “A large portion of this money was not spent on patients sent abroad by the medical association, but by the minister. These types of exemptions need to be revised and the medical association needs to take the doctors’ opinion into consideration as well,” she said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    [04] Parliament to be asked for extra £300 million today

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE Government Spokesman said yesterday that the £300 million supplementary budget earmarked for covering debts left by the previous government would be submitted to the House for approval today.

    The budget was tabled before the Cabinet yesterday and covers various expenses including pay rises to civil servants, defence expenditure and installments for ongoing infrastructure projects.

    The issue has been the point of conflict between the opposition and government, which accused its predecessors of mismanagement of public funds, resulting in Cyprus deviating from the Maastricht criteria for membership of the single European currency.

    Finance Minister Marcos Kyprianou said the economy would improve in the last quarter of the year, stressing it was time to put order in the public finances.

    He reiterated that no new taxes would be levied and that the people would not be asked to pay for DISY’s failures.

    Kyprianou added that the government would place emphasis on development projects and tackle consumer and investment expenditure later on.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    [05] CyTA sponsors expansion of recycling charity

    By Tania Khadder

    THE CYPRUS Telecommunications Authority is sponsoring the expansion of Cans for Kids, the charity’s vice president Rosie Charalambous has announced.

    “It is a good cause that is compatible with our aims to improve society,” CyTA spokesman Paris Meneleou said yesterday. “We are proud to be associated with it.”

    Cans for Kids was formed in 1990, and promotes environmental consciousness while raising money to buy medical equipment for children in need. Can banks are situated at hospital parking lots, where people can drop off empty aluminium cans to be recycled and exchanged for money. Charalambous emphasised that anyone interested in helping out should make sure they only drop off aluminium cans because anything else slows down the process.

    So far, Cans for Kids has donated medical equipment worth over £100,000 to the children’s wards of Makarios Hospital - a big deal considering each can is only worth half a cent.

    But, until now, the charity has not been able to meet its financial goals due to the high cost of keeping the programme running. They are now working to equip the newly opened post intensive care ward, a project that will eventually cost £50,000.

    And thanks to the recent commitment by CyTA to sponsor 20 new can banks around the island, Charalambous said the charity was confident it would reach its objective.

    “It is heartening that a semi-government organisation has taken the lead in terms of promoting a community project which benefits so many sectors of society,” she said.

    Charalambous thanked Lefkaritis Bros for underwriting the fuel the mobile crushers use, UNICARS for donating a van, and the Shacolas Group for servicing the lorry free of charge.

    “The benefits are twofold: a cleaner environment and better medical care for the sick children of Cyprus,” she said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    [06] Parliament seeks legal aid for market victims

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE House Watchdog and Finance Committees yesterday decided to ask the government to submit a bill creating of a legal aid fund to enable debt- ridden stock market investors to claim their rights.

    Thousands of small investors lost their lifesavings during the 1999-2000 stock market (CSE) crash.

    Late in 1999 the CSE index soared to a record high of 849. It is now hovering at around a tenth of that value. Daily volume in the summer of 1999 averaged £50 million, a far cry from around £600,000 today.

    In a written statement after a joint closed-doors meeting yesterday, the two committees, which this time last year published a damning report on the CSE, decided to continue looking into the 1999 debacle.

    As an interim measure to relieve investors, the committees will ask the government to create a legal aid fund to give them the chance to claim their rights in court.

    Among other measures, they decided to ask the investigating committee to issue its report or interim findings on matters that have already been investigated in order for the necessary measures to be taken by the state.

    The committees also decided to ask the legal service to prepare a report on its actions concerning CSE matters, as well as request a report from the Securities and Exchange Commission on its findings into the affair.

    The statement said the committees found that experts were needed to look into practices used by companies in their prospectuses to inflate the price of their shares.

    Transactions, behaviour and omissions, which might have misled investors would also be investigated, the statement said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    [07] Concern at fourfold rise in drug use

    By Alex Mita

    THE NUMBER of drug users has quadrupled in the past four years, according to a study carried out by the Centre for Education about Drugs and Treatment of Drug Addicted Persons (KENTHEA).

    According to the study, the number of people who have tried marijuana has increased from five per cent in 1999 to 17.9 per cent this year.

    Out of 1,000 people between the ages of 15-65 interviewed by KENTHEA, 0.5 per cent said they had tried heroin. The percentage in 1999 was 0.2.

    But KENTHEA was particularly concerned over the dramatic rise in ecstasy users. According to the study, only 0.3 per cent of those asked I n1999 said they had used ecstasy, a percentage that has increased to 4.3 per cent this year.

    The issue of the spread of drugs on the island was discussed at the House Crime Committee on Tuesday. KENTHEA president, Bishop Chrysostomos of Kiti, said the number of people using a variety of hard drugs at a younger age had increased over the years.

    Committee chairman Costas Protopapas said the authorities were concentrating more on arresting drug users than drug dealers.

    His comments were backed by DISY deputy Nicos Tornaritis.

    Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday Tornaritis said the authorities had failed to deal with drug pushers.

    “On my visit to the central prisons I was shocked to discover that there were more drug users than pushers,” he said.

    “Instead of concentrating on catching the big fish, the authorities are catching the small time pushers and users. In my opinion, the government has failed and something has to be done to put a stop to the continuous increase of drug trafficking on the island.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    [08] Refinery could be shut down next year

    By Alex Mita

    CYPRUS PETROLEUM Refinery (CPRL) General Manager George Lambrou yesterday confirmed the government was considering shutting the refinery in 2004 and using the premises as a fuel import terminal with a storage capacity for 65 days.

    According to Politis, Commerce and Industry Minister George Lillikas is considering the move after a financial study is thought to have convinced the ministry that turning the refinery into a fuel terminal would be the best option, expected to save the taxpayer millions of pounds.

    But there was confusion yesterday as to whether the move would be approved by the Larnaca municipality, which is strictly opposed to the presence of the refinery in the area as well as the storage of fuel.

    The refinery has long been a thorn in the side of residents in Larnaca and the decision to move it was taken after the Municipality declared war on the government over the issue, refusing to issue building permits to the CPRL for the construction of additional fuel storage tanks.

    They eventually relented after striking a deal to have the refinery relocated and £500,000 paid to the municipality.

    The results of the latest financial study were said to coincide with another study carried out by a major oil company in 1993, which suggested the refinery ought to be decommissioned, saving the government around £5 million a year.

    The last government had promised a £300 million storage facility would be built before the refinery was shut down in 2010. The storage facility would be a part of the government’s harmonisation to EU regulations calling for 90-day emergency fuel storage.

    But speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, Lambrou said the EU had agreed to decrease the island’s emergency storage limit to 65 days until 2008, meaning that storage tanks around the refinery could be used until that time.

    Lambrou said the government was looking into every aspect of the refinery’s future and did nor rule out the possibility that the refinery might still be upgraded.

    “They are carrying out financial studies about it but nothing is for certain yet,” he said.

    “The government has agreed with the EU to be allowed to have a 65-day storage capability instead of the 90 days until 2008.

    “The refinery will not be able to supply the market with fuel in 2004, meaning it would be closed down. But the government is still studying all possibilities, even the upgrading of the refinery.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    [09] Shadow boxing over the economy

    By George Psyllides

    THE row between government and opposition over the state of the economy yesterday degenerated further with the two sides accusing each other of incompetence.

    But the argument yesterday was more a case of shadow boxing with no talk of substance, but rhetorical exchanges over shadow government, shadow socialists and shadow theatres.

    It started with a written statement issued by DIKO, charging that opposition DISY was confusing its role as shadow government with shadow theatre.

    The big and critical issues faced by Cyprus “dictate that all political forces, governing or in opposition, should carry themselves with seriousness and good sense, and speak a responsible language and political discourse, realising that our common opponent is the people’s and the country’s problems,” the DIKO statement said.

    DIKO suggested there was great confusion among DISY ranks, and its rhetoric in recent days showed “they are not in a position to realise that a shadow government is different from a shadow puppet theatre”.

    DIKO wondered whether DISY leadership would manage to step out of the shadows and play a responsible opposition role while admitting their huge responsibility for the “big shadows that their administration left in the country’s economy”.

    It didn’t take long for a reply to come from DISY chief Nicos Anastassiades - not one known for missing chances to snipe at his opponents.

    “Shadow socialists and especially those participating in a shadow government are the last people who should speak about shadows,” Anastassiades said, making a jibe at DIKO’s recent conversion to social democracy.

    He also took a shot at President Tassos Papadopoulos, accused of taking the back seat and letting AKEL leader Demetris Christofias govern the country.

    “You have everyone talking about the government’s shadow and not the government,” Anastassiades added.

    “After three months, they decided to start examining the visions of each minister; I hope that at some point the Cypriot people will realise the nightmare, which follows the vision of change,” the DISY chief said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    [10] Not up to EU specs

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE Commerce Ministry yesterday launched a nationwide cleanup of sunglasses after a University of Cyprus survey revealed that over 90 per cent of those on the market did not meet European Union standards.

    The study, instigated by the Ministry’s Competition and Consumer Protection service and carried out by the University, sought to determine whether or not sunglasses on the local market fulfilled the EU’s conditions for ‘Personal eye protection - Sunglasses and sun glare filters for general use’.

    The EU in fact has safety prototypes on 50-60 points concerning sunglasses - how easily they break, if they lose shape in the sun, if they form sharp edges when the lens breaks, to name just a few - but the university did not have the equipment to test all criteria, so began with this one, said commercial and industrial officer, Marios Droushiotis.

    The results were handed to the Ministry on Tuesday.

    A sample of 22 sunglasses was gathered from supermarkets, souvenir shops and kiosks all over Cyprus - none of them well-known brands. Of the 22 samples tested, 20 did not fulfil all the prerequisites on the ‘Personal eye protection’ test, Droushiotis told the Cyprus Mail.

    However, he added, only eight of the models tested had to be withdrawn. The remaining 12 could be sold as long as they were accompanied with clear warnings informing consumers that they were not suitable for driving and road use and that they were not suitable in reduced light (late afternoon, early evening).

    “These sunglasses could cause someone to drive through a red light because they cannot see the signals clearly, or to trip on the pavement. In 2001, there were 200 road accidents at traffic lights. We have no evidence that some of them were due to wearing such sunglasses, but it is worth further investigation, because it is possible a few of them were down to that reason,” he said.

    The problem was a lot of consumers did not know they were being misled when purchasing a pair of sunglasses at the supermarket.

    “People do not know that sunglasses from these kinds of places are unsuitable because they are sold with a sticker certifying their suitability for all uses and without any warning.”

    The faulty sunglasses are currently being removed from the market and it will take two to three months to complete the task, Droushiotis said.

    Asked whether anyone would face charges, Droushiotis said: “The goal is not to take anyone to court or to throw them in jail. We are trying to get everyone involved to co-operate and solve the problem. If, once the new measures have been implemented, there is no co-operation, then we will take them to court.”

    “People should look for a series of signs before purchasing a pair of sunglasses. They must contain the European safety standard number 1836/97; the category of the sunglasses (from 0-4 determining the darkness of the lens) with a small description of each category and what sort of use they are suitable for,” said Droushiotis.

    From now on, all imported sunglasses will also have to be accompanied by laboratory certificates so the Ministry can check if they are from a reliable source, he added.

    The same tests will also shortly be carried out on optical houses. “Even though we do not believe they will fail to meet the EU criteria, we won’t know for sure until we’ve tested them,” said Droushiotis.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003


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