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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-12-09
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From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Tuesday, December 9, 1997
 Government to curb borrowing from Central BankBy Bouli Hadjioannou
THE government is lowering the ceiling on how much it can borrow from the Central Bank, and in the longer term it aims to rely only on the free market, a senior official said yesterday.
Finance Ministry Director-general Antonis Malaos told the House Finance Committee that since 1994 the government has been lowering its borrowing limit from the Central Bank with a view, as a first step, to bringing it to 1979-1989 levels.
"The second and final stage will be the total elimination of the borrowing ceilings, and in line with Cyprus' European orientation, turning to the free market," he said.
Borrowing limits from the Central Bank are set by laws which are subject to the approval of the House of Representatives.
Since 1994 the government has been moving to lower this ceiling to pre-1989 levels. Its proposal for this year, discussed in the committee yesterday, is for the ceiling to be lowered by some two percentage point or £40 million.
Malaos said there will still be surplus credit of some £230m available because the government plans to borrow £130m from abroad. The foreign loan is necessary to maintain the island's foreign currency reserves, he said.
But if the government's proposal is not approved, then the ceiling reverts to the 1989 limits automatically. This would mean a slash of £223m, thus forcing the government to turn to the private sector to make up the shortfall.
Akel deputy Kikis Kazamias wanted to know why the government wanted to restrict its borrowing possibilities. "Why do we want to get rid of an option, by legislation in fact? Why not just retain it as an option?" he said.
And he queried whether the longer term plans of relying only on the private sector for loans would force the state into a the position of depending on commercial banks.
The reply from acting committee chairman Nicos Moushouttas of Diko was that the majority in the House had felt that it was best to bring the borrowing ceilings to those in force between 1979 and 1989.
Malaos said that it was not a question of dependence on the banks, but allowing the free market and the laws of supply and demand to regulate the issue.
And he said lowering the ceiling by law, therefore with the approval of the House, sent a message of the government's clear commitment to enforce self- control.
 Engineer to be extraditedEXTRADITION papers are today expected to be served on the Greek ship's engineer arrested on Spanish drugs charges on Saturday.
Vassilis Vassiades, 58, was remanded in custody by Larnaca District Court on Sunday, to be held until the extradition papers arrive.
He was arrested in Larnaca on suspicion of smuggling 52 packets of cocaine into Spain in 1991.
 Deputies in tangle over contract workersBy Bouli Hadjioannou
DEPUTIES are again all in a tangle over contract workers, despite new laws and promises to end the issue once and for all.
The new mix-up arose yesterday when the House Finance Committee was asked by fellow deputies to agree to changes in the law.
This would effectively mean extending the contracts of more than 100 contract workers - including employees in the social welfare department, the accountancy office and the island's hospitals.
Pending this period the government must examine its needs for permanent staff and take them on, they said.
Under recent legislation initiated by the House contract workers can hold their posts for six months only. These contracts are due to expire at the end of the year.
Ever since the law was enacted different proposals have come to the House to extend the contracts of different groups who would otherwise face dismissal.
But there was considerable confusion yesterday as to how many people would be affected.
Disy deputy president Panayiotis Demetriou suggested that contracts be extended for a further six months to give deputies time to examine the whole issue in depth after February's presidential elections.
Nicos Moushouttas of Diko noted that step by step the House was eroding its own law. Edek deputy Doros Theodorou was more scathing.
"Why don't we just abolish the law, come out with a statement mea culpa that our efforts to introduce meritocracy failed, and leave it at that?" he said.
That was too extreme for Demetriou. He said the law did not need to be abolished, but to be 'updated' to weed out the weaknesses.
 CyBC overspent budget by £1.3mBy Bouli Hadjioannou
THE CYPRUS Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) overspent its budget by £1.3 million last year as cost-cutting pledges went hopelessly awry.
Now a reluctant Council of Ministers is asking the House of Representatives to give belated approval to the move.
The extra money went on television programmes, links with Eurovision (to pay for football matches), pensions and interest on loans.
The lion's share involves money spent on Greek programmes that the CyBC board had initially planned on cancelling - only to find that it would have to pay compensation if it did so.
Costas Hadjipavlou of the Interior Ministry told the House Finance Committee yesterday that CyBC's budget for 1996 had been unrealistic.
"The CyBC board set objectives that were not realistic in terms of savings, and was forced to ask for supplementary sums in December 1996," he told deputies.
When the request was put to the Council of Ministers, the cabinet was not too pleased. It asked for clarifications, and told CyBC to be more realistic in its planning in the future.
"The fact the Council of Ministers did not approve the budgets until October 16, 1997, shows its own concern about the issue. It too looked for alternatives," Hadjipavlou said.
But Deputies themselves were not so diplomatic. Diko's Nicos Moushouttas spoke of "frivolous planning", Edek's Doros Theodorou said that the budgeting was "totally outside any professional rationale", while independent deputy Marios Matsakis spoke of "blackmailing tactics".
Matsakis was particularly scathing. He said operations had been put on hold at Limassol hospital because the existing budget could not cover an extra £4,000 lamp - but CyBC could just overspend as if nothing was up.
CyBC Director-general Pavlos Soteriades, who was appointed this February, said that CyBC had set "excessively ambitious cost-cutting targets as part of efforts to send a clear message to staff on the need to save money".
"The commitments as regards contracts signed the previous year were not correctly evaluated. This year we are operating within our budget," he said.
 Markides sits on the fenceBy Martin Hellicar
THERE was little movement on the presidential election front yesterday, with all parties sticking to their positions.
And Attorney-general Alecos Markides was still giving no indication about whether he would be wooed by the promise of Diko's support into announcing his candidacy.
Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades, speaking after a morning meeting with President Clerides, reiterated that his party was rejecting Diko's proposal that the two parties jointly back Markides in the February poll. Anastassiades reiterated that Disy was fully behind Clerides's re-election bid.
Apparently questioning why Markides - a former Disy deputy - would ever want to stand against Clerides in the elections, Government Spokesman Manolis Christofides said the attorney-general agreed with the president's handling of the Cyprus problem.
This comment was also seen as a dig at Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou, who pulled his party out of a government coalition with Disy, complaining that he could not trust the president's handling of the national issue.
"The attorney-general is by nature and position a close associate of the president," Christofides told his daily press briefing.
Markides accompanied Clerides to both rounds of UN-led Cyprus settlement talks last summer. In an interview published in Simerini newspaper on Sunday, Markides said he would never have attended these talks had he disagreed with Clerides' policy.
Christofides echoed Anastassiades yesterday, saying there was no chance of Clerides stepping aside to make way for Markides.
Meanwhile, Clerides' candidacy was endorsed yesterday by the Movement for Political Renewal group. It called a press conference to sing the incumbent's praises, saying he had "contributed" to the Cyprus problem being in its "best framework" since the invasion, had enhanced co-operation with Greece, and had brought Cyprus close to EU accession.
Akel leader Dimitris Christofias again made advances towards Diko. He said Akel was in "daily and constant" unofficial contact with Kyprianou's party.
Communist Akel, the main opposition party, has so far failed to secure any other party's support for its chosen candidate, former Foreign Minister George Iacovou.
United Democrats chief and former President George Vassiliou called a press conference to state his candidacy was non-negotiable.
He said he believed he would secure support from members of all parties in the February elections.
 Last again: a testing time for educationCYPRIOT primary and secondary pupils have again come almost last in the third part of an international maths and science test.
The results, published yesterday by the University of Cyprus, show that in practical tests Cyprus students were second from the bottom in both subjects.
In all 900 pupils were tested, 450 in 50 secondary schools and the same number in primary schools.
In maths the second-year secondary pupils scored only 44 and in science only 49. Singapore came tops with 70 and 72 respectively.
Other countries ahead of Cyprus included Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Portugal and Iran.
Primary pupils showed the same low level with regard to results although they did significantly better in science than maths, scoring 42 and 26 respectively.
The results were obtained from 12 different practical tests which formed part three of the overall test carried out by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).
In the first part of the study for secondary school students, which was published a year ago, Cypriot students again came almost bottom, just before Colombia and South Africa, which was last.
The average maths score was 474 while the world average was 513. In science Cyprus scored 463 compared to the world average of 516.
The IEA study on reading also put Cypriot students, especially at primary school level, among the lowest categories of literacy.
The study, which is one of the most comprehensive ever done, was compiled with the participation of 500,000 students in 45 countries.
According to a report published earlier this year by Unesco on the state of Cypriot eduction, school buildings, while satisfactory on the whole, do not have adequate accommodation for practical subjects.
The report said it was clear the number of science laboratories visited were unsuitable for individuals and group experiments. Libraries were also lacking, the report concluded.
 UN protests to Turks over buffer zone shotsBy Jean Christou
UNFICYP has lodged an official protest with the Turkish side for entering the buffer zone and firing warning shots at a Greek Cypriot farmer.
Spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski yesterday confirmed Cyprus police reports that Turkish soldiers had fired warning shots at Akaki farmer Andreas Andreou, 32, on Saturday.
The incident happened near the buffer-zone village of Denia in the Nicosia district.
Rokoszewski said Andreou had allegedly crossed the Farming Security Line (FSL) when Turkish soldiers entered the buffer zone and fired a number of shots.
The UN spokesman said Andreou should not have crossed the FSL, and accused the Turkish soldiers of "excessive over-reaction".
"Warning shots or not, it is not an advisable reaction and entering the buffer zone is really something that has to be protested," Rokoszewski said.
He added that an official protest has already been lodged and that Unficyp has also called on the Turkish side to show more restraint in such incidents.
"It is not the first time the farmer in question has crossed the FSL, even though he knows perfectly well how to behave," Rokoszewski said.
"The FSL was created by Unficyp to maintain the security of the farmers who work in the buffer zone. Crossing it and going closer to Turkish army positions is not advisable," he said.
He warned that unless Andreou behaves more responsibly for the sake of his own security, he could face cancellation of his buffer-zone farming permit, issued by Unficyp.
Unficyp's policy is to make use of use of as many areas as possible along the 180-km buffer zone.
"We don't want this land to be deserted, but we are guided by two provisions, ownership and security," Rokoszewski said. "Both have to be in place at the same time and if we want these provisions to remain we will have to react (when they are violated)."
 Maronites held for hunting 'illegally'By Jean Christou
TWO MARONITES from the government-controlled areas have been detained for 'illegally' hunting in the occupied areas.
A third who was arrested has been released, Unficyp said yesterday.
A UN spokesman said the three were 'arrested' on Sunday when, while visiting relatives in occupied Kormakitis, they began hunting with a group of others.
The spokesman said whether the entire group of hunters was Maronite or whether there were some Turkish Cypriots involved was unclear.
The three have ben named as Petros Violas, 37, from Tseri, Elias Yousellis, 53, from Lakatamia and Elias Fenek, 22, from Strovolos.
The spokesman said they had been detained because they did not have a licence to hunt in the north. He expected they will be released today.
"We (Unficyp) have been in touch with the Turkish Cypriot authorities and expect them to be released soon," the spokesman said.
Police said they had been made aware of the arrests by Maronites returning from the north.
It was also reported yesterday that the Turkish Cypriot side was refusing to allow Kormakiti village leader Michalis Araouzos to come to the government-controlled areas for medical examinations. Unficyp said it has no information on this.
 NGOs 'becoming more and more important'NON-GOVERNMENTAL Organisations (NGOs) will become increasingly important as political agenda-setters in the next century, according to US Ambassador Kenneth Brill.
Opening a three-day regional conference on NGOs at the Ledra Palace Hotel yesterday, Brill cited the recently-signed landmine treaty and the ongoing Kyoto summit as examples of how NGOs are positively affecting the political world.
This, he said, will help "further advance civil society".
The Nicosia conference is intended to examine the role of NGOs in the development of democracy. Around 200 specialists in the area are participating, including delegations from Greece, Turkey and the US.
The foreign delegations are expected to lead the seminars, providing those less-experienced in the field with the benefit of their training.
 MPs question police account of Limassol shootingBy Martin Hellicar
THE HOUSE human rights committee has questioned police claims that an Egyptian illegal resident wounded by bullets from a policeman's gun in Limassol last month was the victim of an accidental shooting.
Amateur boxer Atef Elsayed Mitwali, 25, was hit in both legs on November 23 after being involved in a struggle with a plain-clothes police officer who had asked him for his papers in Heroes' square.
The committee yesterday heard the results of an internal police investigation into the incident. The report cleared the officer involved, concluding that Mitwali had been shot by accident.
But deputies were far from convinced.
Akel deputy Doros Christodoulides said he had heard the Egyptian was shot deliberately as he tried to escape the officers.
"Two officers in civilian dress saw an Arab phoning and went up to him and roughed him up a bit to try and get his particulars. The Egyptian, probably not even understanding enough Greek to know who these people were, ran off and one of the two officers shot him," Christodoulides said.
The police representative rejected this version of events.
"Two plain-clothes officers on patrol saw a man calling from a phone-box in a foreign language. Given the level of crime in Limassol they decided he was suspect and decided, quite rightly, to check him," he told the committee.
"The suspect ran off and then hit one of the officers when he caught up with him. The officer saw him searching in his pocket for something and, fearing he might be reaching for a gun or knife, decided to draw his pistol, " the officer said. "A struggle ensued and the gun went off. All witnesses speak of one shot being heard, but strangely enough there were two wounds," he said.
He backed up the police line by saying a pathologist's report spoke of burns on Mitwali's injuries which, he said, were the result of a gun discharging at point-blank range. He presented photographs showing the scratches he claimed the police officer had suffered at the hands of Mitwali. He also said the only witness to the incident to come forward supported the police line.
But the police interpretation of the forensic evidence was disputed by deputy Marios Matsakis, a trained pathologist. After examining a copy of the pathologist's report he borrowed from the police representative, he said the burning on the wounds was caused by the heat of the bullets and not by contact with the gun barrel.
He said the report made no mention of traces of gunpowder by the entry wounds, as one would expect from a point-blank discharge.
Matsakis also doubted the two wounds, one in the upper right thigh (with the entry hole from behind) and one below the left knee (with the entry hole from the front) could have been caused by a single shot, as police claimed.
Committee chairman Yiannagis Agapiou queried the wisdom of getting police to investigate allegations of police misconduct.
He also said police believed they had the right to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant and to hold them indefinitely without a remand order. "When I pointed out to a senior police officer recently that this was not true he expressed surprise and thanked me for putting him straight on the matter," Agapiou said.
Agapiou postponed the debate for a later date, but the committee asked that Mitwali, currently under police guard in Limassol general hospital, not be deported before the committee had had a chance to "get to the bottom" of the matter.
Mitwali is due before Limassol District Court today to answer illegal residence charges.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1997
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