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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-08-06

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

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


Thursday, August 6, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Deputies back one per cent rise in defence tax
  • [02] Deep satisfaction all round at defence levy hike
  • [03] Police probe new allegations against Bishop Chrysanthos
  • [04] Onoufriou found guilty of bombing judge
  • [05] Minister's technological vision
  • [06] The most conservative society in Europe
  • [07] 'Russian girl raped at knife-point'
  • [08] Four held on drugs charges
  • [09] July was the one of the worst in 60 years
  • [10] First quarter imports and exports up
  • [11] UN working to solve dispute over city walls
  • [12] Minister promises potato help

  • [01] Deputies back one per cent rise in defence tax

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE plenum yesterday approved a bill raising the defence levy from three to four per cent.

    The tax increase is to be reviewed when the House reconvenes in the autumn, in an effort to lessen the burden on low income groups.

    The controversial bill, pending since 1996, was put to the vote at midday, despite party leaders failing to achieve much sought-after unanimity during last minute back-room wrangling before the vote. The bill was passed by an overwhelming majority.

    The 31 Disy, Diko and Edek deputies present at yesterday's extraordinary plenum session voted for the bill. Eighteen deputies for left-wing Akel voted against, while the two United Democrat (UD) deputies abstained.

    Two amendments - one tabled by Akel proposing that the contribution be income-related, and the other by the UD proposing that VAT be increased from eight to nine per cent with the extra being creamed off for defence - were rejected.

    Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou and National Guard commander Dimitris Dimou watched proceedings.

    In a mild-mannered and brief debate before the vote, speakers from all parties unanimously endorsed the need to raise defence contributions. The only disagreement was on how this should be done.

    First to the podium was Akel leader Dimitris Christofias, who said a strong army would help efforts towards a peaceful Cyprus solution. But he said his party supported income-related contributions as fairer. "The new blanket one per cent increase will lead to knock-on increases in all factors affecting the cost of living and prices, with serious consequences for the economy," Christofias argued.

    Diko parliamentary spokesman Tassos Papadopoulos countered that the defence levy legislation was in any case due for review before the end of the year. "Therefore, any proposal for a fairer contribution system can be examined when the whole law is examined. This bill is a temporary one with temporary application," he said.

    Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades said the new levy would only apply for four months before it would be reviewed.

    Defence contributions became compulsory in 1985. The relevant law comes up for review later this year.

    Both Papadopoulos and Anastassiades said that Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou had promised the government would review the levy to reduce the burden on poorer sections of society.

    Christodoulou confirmed this later in the day. "I want to assure that before the end of the year, as we have promised, we will make sure that weaker social classes and even businesses that are facing very serious problems are helped to meet this small additional burden," he said.

    Anastassiades told the plenum that all parties agreed on the need for a strong defence, and that "some sort of taxation is needed further to support this."

    UD leader George Vassiliou agreed that increased defence contributions were "necessary and justified", but argued VAT increases were a better way to do this.

    The bill was originally on the agenda for the last scheduled summer session of the plenum in late June. But deputies were loathe to put it to the vote in the absence of unanimity and decided to sacrifice a day of their Summer break to consider the bill afresh in yesterday's extraordinary session.

    In between times, efforts had been made to achieve party consensus. President Clerides chaired a meeting of the country's political and military leadership to consider the bill and the House Defence and Finance committees held a joint meeting to look at it.

    But Akel and the UD did not budge, so deputies bit the bullet and put the bill to the vote anyway.

    The defence contribution increase is backdated to apply from the beginning of this month.

    [02] Deep satisfaction all round at defence levy hike

    By Martin Hellicar

    PARLIAMENT'S approval of a bill upping the defence levy by a third was welcomed by both government and opposition.

    Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou said yesterday's decision to approve an increase in compulsory defence contributions from three to four per cent showed the country was united when it came to defence issues.

    Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said the tax hike would help combat the economic burden of the public deficit.

    House president Spyros Kyprianou, leader of opposition party Diko, described the approval as "deeply" satisfying.

    Omirou said he was pleased all parties had supported the increase in defence contributions.

    "The House sent a clear message to friends and foes that the sum of the political leadership, which I believe expresses a climate of national unity, decisively supports defence," he said.

    Opposition parties Akel and the UD did not vote for the bill in yesterday's plenum session, but made it clear this was because they disagreed with the method rather than the principle of increased contributions.

    Omirou said people recognised the need for "continuous upgrading" of the country's military capability. He said a stronger army would deter any Turkish aggression and strengthen the government's hand in settlement negotiations.

    "The fact that the House today has given a further push for defence will help us have the weapons systems which are necessary for our defence," the minister said.

    The government is planning to take delivery of a 200 million Russian-made ground-to-air missile system in the autumn.

    Christodoulou said the levy increase would serve two purposes.

    "First, it will help us achieve our aim of expanding our armaments programme and secondly it will help in the reduction of the gap between income and expenditure in the public sector, which has created the deficit in the defence fund."

    The public deficit is predicted to hit seven per cent this year, while arms purchases in previous years have created a multi-million pound deficit in the defence fund. This deficit is expected to be between 320 and 350 million this year, Reuters quoted defence sources as saying yesterday.

    Defence expenditure is earmarked at 205 million for 1998. The tax hike is expected to add 40 million to the 170 million collected annually.

    Christodoulou said increased defence spending was not a sign of aggression. "Defence expenditure is increasing and will increase further, not because we are preparing for military adventures but because we are faced by... the forever expansionist policy of Turkey," he said.

    Kyprianou, whose party voted for the bill despite being in opposition, expressed "deep satisfaction with the fact that there was a climate of unity and finally unanimity (in the House) concerning the need to reinforce defence."

    "The House today sent the message that the people of Cyprus and their representatives are determined to back all efforts for the island's defence for as long as Turkey continues to occupy part of Cyprus and continues its threats and ethnic cleansing policy," Kyprianou said.

    [03] Police probe new allegations against Bishop Chrysanthos

    By Elias Hazou

    WITH LIMASSOL bishop Chrysanthos left out in the cold by the Holy Synod, it looks like the floodgates of allegations against the embattled cleric have opened.

    Police were yesterday looking into another fraud case implicating Chrysanthos, after a group of Portuguese businessmen claimed the bishop had swindled them out of $1.5 million.

    The Cyprus Mail yesterday obtained confirmation that the complaint had been filed and that CID headquarters were investigating the matter. Police sources also confirmed television reports that the businessmen had provided them with various documents allegedly implicating the bishop.

    According to reports, the Portuguese businessmen are claiming they have documents of business transactions bearing the bishop's signature.

    On Tuesday, their lawyer contacted the Attorney-general, who later confirmed that the Economic Crime Division would be looking into the case.

    According to the allegations, Chrysanthos had promised the businessmen he would invest the $1.5 million in US bonds, guaranteeing a high return.

    These latest allegations could signal a new turn of events, as it would now be possible, under certain circumstances, to issue an arrest warrant for the bishop.

    The Attorney-general, Alecos Markides, has confirmed that an arrest warrant could be issued if there was "reasonable" suspicion that the suspect might flee, or that evidence might be tampered with. But he added that this would be the investigating officer's decision.

    If an arrest warrant is in fact issued, it would mean Chrysanthos would for the first time be obliged to testify on his business transactions, although the constitution does offer defendants the right to remain silent.

    The other case implicating Chrysanthos, involving a $3.7 million fraud originating in Britain, cannot proceed unless the bishop agrees to testify or if concrete evidence comes up against him.

    The consistently laconic bishop refused on Monday to answer questions from police investigators on his alleged involvement in the affair, confining his testimony to a written statement that denied he had received any money from the alleged $3.7 million fraud.

    Another way for the investigation to proceed would see the extradition of suspects from Britain to Cyprus. Four people have already been arrested in the UK in connection with the case. They have named Chrysanthos as their accomplice in the $3.7 million scam.

    On Tuesday the Holy Synod ruled that Chrysanthos had "entered agreements of a financial nature without the prior approval of the Holy Synod and the Financial Council."

    This suggested the bishop had broken ecclesiastical law and that he could be defrocked, although he has not yet been suspended.

    The Church's governing body decided that a committee should be set up to investigate the matter.

    The Archbishop is rumoured to be disappointed with his bishop. On Saturday he had met with Chrysanthos who had seemingly convinced him that the allegations against him were unfounded.

    [04] Onoufriou found guilty of bombing judge

    A MAN was yesterday found guilty by the Assizes court of the 1996 bomb attack on a Limassol district judge and his young daughter.

    Andreas Onoufriou, 48, was found guilty of the attempted murder of judge Michalis Mavronicolas and his five-year-old daughter, Marina, on October 29, 1996.

    Sentencing will take place today and the accused could face up to ten years in prison.

    Mavronicolas lost a toe in the car bomb explosion, which went off as the judge left his home and approached his car that was parked outside, accompanied by his daughter, who suffered superficial burns.

    A few weeks before the blast, Mavronicolas had presided over a case involving Onoufriou, to set the level of regular payments on an outstanding loan.

    Onoufriou left Cyprus on the day of the bombing, but six months later was extradited from the UK to stand trial in Limassol.

    Onoufriou conducted his own defence in the year-long trial after he found difficulty in finding a lawyer of his choice willing to defend his case.

    [05] Minister's technological vision

    By Athena Karsera

    FINANCE Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou yesterday announced that the government was promoting plans to make Cyprus an international information centre providing a link between Europe and the Middle East.

    The Minister admitted that the success of this venture would depend greatly on the private sector, and urged it to show "bravery, imagination and dynamism".

    He also advised the private sector to "use the opportunities" of a growing information society.

    Following Europe's example, he said the government was "proceeding with the implementation of a national strategy to create the information society, in order to use the rapid advances that are evident in the sectors of information and telecommunications".

    Proposed changes include the introduction of a citizen's "smartcard" that, among other things, would incorporate identity information, hospital papers and the driving licence of its holder.

    Information points are planned which would give citizens information on issues such as taxation.

    Christodoulou also said the computerisation of the entire public sector was planned, a move that would contribute to the "more efficient operation" and "upgrading" of social services.

    The Income Tax, VAT and Social Security sectors have almost been completed. The aim is to give individual government departments and officials access to documentation across the whole public sector.

    Referring to the 'Millennium Bomb', Christodoulou said a special investigation into the size and best way to deal with the problem had been carried out.

    He added that public services in Cyprus would not be affected and that every possible assistance would be available to the public, including a 24- hour hotline giving advice on the issue.

    [06] The most conservative society in Europe

    By Andrew Adamides

    CYPRUS may be moving ever closer towards Europe, but we're still lagging behind in one area: while Europeans are increasingly shying away from marriage, and more babies are being born out of wedlock, Cyprus is sticking to its conservative values, with just 1.4 per cent of children born to unmarried parents.

    According to the results of an EU survey announced this week, this is the lowest figure for births outside marriage in the whole of Europe. Cyprus' figure is also far lower than those of the next two countries on the list, Malta, with 7.4 per cent and Italy with 8.3 per cent.

    Sociologist Antonis Raftis puts this down to Cypriots' strong adherence to the concept of the two-parent family unit, as handed down from generation to generation.

    "We think of having children as the major reason to have a family" Raftis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday. "In Cyprus, we haven't yet adjusted to the idea of having children without having a family."

    But even here, the trend is now changing. The survey also found that Cyprus' current figure was more than double that reported in 1980, a trend Raftis says will continue.

    As Cyprus moves ever closer to the EU, he says, values and ideas will change. This is already happening as more and more Cypriots travel abroad and tourists visit the island, both factors which affect people's values.

    "As we go on, it will definitely increase," he concludes.

    The survey, carried out by the European Union statistics agency Eurostat, covered 46 countries with a combined population of 810 million. Out of these, it found that Icelanders had the highest number of children born outside marriage, almost two out of three. Close on its heels were Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Sweden, with approximately one in two babies born to unwed parents.

    Marriage on the whole is also in decline across Europe according to the survey results. Surprisingly, tiny Andorra topped the list of countries with the fewest marriages, with just 2.2 per cent per 1000 people in 1997. In comparison, Cyprus had a huge 10.6 per cent, second only to Liechtenstein, with 12.4 per cent. Divorce rates were highest in Finland, Sweden and Britain, where nearly half of all marriages end in divorce.

    Another significant find was that the infant mortality rate has halved in many EU countries over the past 20 years. The lowest 1997 figure infant mortality was posted by Sweden, which had just 3.6 deaths per 1000 live births. Girls born in Europe can still expect to outlive boys, with a life expectancy of over 80 in many countries, while males can expect to live between five and seven years less. In terms of life expectancy, the survey concludes that the best situation to be born in would be that of a Swiss female, who should live to the ripe old age of 82.

    However, according to the survey's findings, the EU will eventually not need to worry about polling its people for anything, because Europeans are not replacing themselves at the rate needed to keep the population constant. The level of fertility needed to replace the population is about 2.1 children per woman. The 1997 birth rate, however, was just 1.44.

    [07] 'Russian girl raped at knife-point'

    LIMASSOL police are searching for a knife-wielding intruder after a teenage Russian girl claimed she was raped and abducted from her home.

    Police said yesterday that the 17-year-old girl had filed a complaint alleging that a masked man, brandishing a knife, forced his way into her bedroom and raped her twice on Tuesday morning.

    The woman was then blindfolded and abducted from her family residence in Yermasoyia.

    According to the girl's police statement, the masked attacker spoke in broken English.

    Police say the girl was then driven to an isolated farmhouse and raped again.

    However, she managed to run off when her attacker went to get some cigarettes.

    She was found by a passing motorist, who took her home.

    Police said the victim had been checked by a state pathologist, who confirmed that she had been sexually abused.

    A man was questioned in connection with the incident and later released without charge, a police statement said.

    Subsequent investigations at the farmhouse discovered that a window had been forced open.

    Limassol CID are continuing their investigation.

    [08] Four held on drugs charges

    FOUR people were yesterday remanded on drug charges in two separate cases.

    All four were remanded in custody for six days.

    On Monday night, Christos Fantousis and Vahen Makamian, both 30, were arrested on charges of drug possession and supplying and conspiracy to commit a felony.

    Police had staked out Fantousis' Larnaca shop after receiving a tip-off.

    An unknown person was seen visiting the shop and apparently asked Fantousis for drugs. Later that night Makamian delivered a suspicious object to Fantousis, which later turned out to be 1.5 grams of cannabis resin.

    The court heard that as soon as police intervened Fantousis tried to swallow the plastic bag containing the resin. He was stopped by police.

    Makamian's car was then searched, leading to the discovery of 0.5 grammes of a dry organic substance believed to be cannabis. He then admitted that he was supplying Fantousis, police told the court.

    In a separate case, police yesterday arrested Artemis Hadjivarnava, 22, and Panayiotis Panayiotou, 26.

    The drugs were found during a routine identity card check on the Limassol to Larnaca road. When Hadjivarnava's car was stopped, police noticed Panayiotou hiding a packet of cigarettes under the dashboard. The car was then searched and 26 grammes of hashish was found in the cigarette packet. The two admitted to buying the drugs from an unknown Lebanese man in Limassol, police said.

    [09] July was the one of the worst in 60 years

    By Rita Demetriou

    JULY 1998 has become the second hottest July on record, with an average daily maximum temperature of 38.4 degrees Celsius.

    Over the last 60 years, only one other July topped this year's temperatures.

    July 1978 was recorded as having an average temperature of 39 C. And that month saw 20 days with temperatures of over 40 C, the Meteorological Service said yesterday.

    The highest temperatures this month were recorded on July 4 with 42.8 C in Nicosia and 41.1 C in Larnaca (the highest for that town since 1976). And what has made this July particularly painful is the high humidity that has been plaguing all areas of Cyprus, coastal and inland.

    And if the high humidity and temperatures of July were not bizarre enough for this year, then the opening days of August are even stranger. It actually rained in some parts of Troodos and the foothills in the last two days, a strange phenomenon for any August, and even stranger in these times of drought.

    But the Water Board has said the freak rain does nothing alleviate the island's water shortage, unless a whole lot more comes along. Unfortunately that is not the case as the outlook remains very hot and sunny, with high humidity and poor visibility in the coastal areas.

    [10] First quarter imports and exports up

    THE ISLAND'S imports and exports rose in the first quarter of 1998 compared to the same period of last year, with imports (including goods placed into bonded warehouses) registering a rise of 42.7 million to 465.8 million.

    The Ministry of Finance's Department of Statistics and Research said 51.1 per cent of the total imports came from European Union countries, while those from elsewhere in Europe and Arab countries accounted for 9.7 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.

    Of the total imports, goods for home consumption rose by nearly 40 million to 381.5 million during the January-March 1998 period compared to the first quarter of 1997.

    Exports in the same period of 1998 amounted to 157.5 million, up from 146.5 million in the first three months of last year, the department said. Of these, 36.3 per cent went to EU member states, 27.9 per cent to non-EU countries in Europe and 22.9 per cent to Arab states.

    [11] UN working to solve dispute over city walls

    UNFICYP is aware that there is a problem between the Greek and Turkish sides of the island with regard to the restoration of the Venetian walls in Nicosia, and is working towards a resolution, UN spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski said yesterday.

    According to the Antiquities Department, which has been working on the restoration of the sixteenth century walls, the Turkish side is blocking the completion of work on sections of the walls in the UN-controlled buffer zone. Antiquities department director Sophoclis Hadjisavvas said on Tuesday that the UN had given permission for repairs to the section in the buffer zone, but that the Turks were now blocking this and that the UN had backed out of the agreement.

    Rokoszewski confirmed that the Turkish side "had come up with certain considerations which are impractical," but said the UN was working towards solving the problems.

    He added that if Hadjisavvas wished to meet with UN Chief of Mission Dame Ann Hercus over the matter, she would be willing to do so.

    The repair work on the walls has currently reached the buffer-zone Roccas Bastion.

    [12] Minister promises potato help

    AGRICULTURE Minister Costas Themistocleous said yesterday the government would do everything possible to support the potato industry, but that the size of subsidies depended on the state of the economy.

    The statement was made after the Minister's meeting with Agriculture Union representatives and potato producers to discuss problems facing the industry.

    Themistocleous said difficulties in the potato industry were caused by the GATT free trade agreement, increased European competition and the continuing drought. He also noted that in spite of these difficulties, potato cultivation was actually higher this year than in previous seasons.

    The matter is set to go before the Council of Ministers as soon as a full investigation has been carried out.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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