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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-02-24

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, February 24, 2000


  • [01] Paralimni to get a desalination plant
  • [02] Cabinet backs down on petrol prices
  • [03] Military hospital claims ‘exaggerated’
  • [04] EAC defends provision for coal power generation
  • [05] Doctors call off overtime ban
  • [06] Bourse up but tensions still high
  • [07] Government ‘doing nothing’ for the children of the enclaved
  • [08] Running out of paper in the north
  • [09] Turkish Cypriot party leaders to visit Disy on Friday
  • [10] Are growth and conservation compatible in Cyprus?
  • [11] Window of opportunity for business ties with Israel

  • [01] Paralimni to get a desalination plant

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE COUNCIL of Ministers yesterday let stand a House of Representatives vote killing a desalination plant planned for the Limassol suburb of Zakaki, opting instead to build a plant in Paralimni on the east coast. Limassol will not benefit from any of the fresh water produced by the new facility, which it is estimated will take two years to complete.The Cabinet decision was announced by Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous, whose ministry oversees the Water Development Department (WDD).The decision will mean tighter water rationing throughout the island, especially for the Limassol area since the Zakaki plant was to have gone on line by June to help the island through the summer drought.Last month deputies yielded to a vocal campaign by Zakaki residents, and refused to fund the desalination plant planned for the area. The residents feared the plant would interfere with tourism on Lady's Mile Beach and lower their land values.Some deputies also accused the government of failing to carry out the required environmental impact studies on the Zakaki site before seeking tenders. They also argued there were more suitable sites nearby, one of them at Akrotiri.But Akrotiri residents wanted none of this, and last week reiterated their opposition to siting a desalination plant anywhere near their homes.Themistocleous yesterday denied the Paralimni decision was an attempt to blackmail Limassol into accepting a desalination plant. Last month he did say the House vote on Zakaki "means the people of Limassol will suffer more if we don't have the desalination plant ready" before the summer.But yesterday he insisted the Paralimni unit was not being seen as replacing the now-dead Zakaki plant. It "has to do with the unit we had originally decided to build in Ayios Theodoros, in Larnaca, in order to complete the 100,000 cubic metres per day of water needed by the three districts@ (Larnaca, Famagusta and Nicosia), he said.

    As in Zakaki, opposition by Ayios Theodoros residents to a desalination unit ultimately killed the project.

    Themistocleous noted that Limassol would still need its own desalination unit, capable of producing 20,000 cubic metres of water per day, if current water rationing is to be lifted: "Therefore this is not blackmail, and we will continue the effort to achieve consensus to create a unit in Limassol, " he said.

    Of the several water decisions Themistocleous said the Cabinet unanimously reached yesterday, the Paralimni plant led the list.

    While he admitted it would not cover Limassol's needs, the Minister said it would one day cover Paralimni's needs the way the plant being built in Larnaca will cover Larnaca's needs, and the Dhekelia plant, the island's only such unit, will ultimately cover most of Nicosia's needs.

    The Cabinet yesterday also decided to continue studying what went wrong with planning the Zakaki facility, and to see how to site a plant there that would ultimately meet everyone's needs.

    Meanwhile, the Cabinet agreed to sink more bore-holes and even commandeer some private wells to provide the island with water for the summer, since the Paralimni plant will not be on-line for at least two years, Themistocleous said.

    Many of the island=s coastal aquifers are tainted by seawater and unusable, however, others are bone-dry, and the rest are in danger of being overpumped, with no rainfall to recharge them.

    With rainfall at only 46 per cent of normal this winter, reservoirs are a mere 10 per cent full with 24 million cubic metres of water, where they held twice that amount this time last year.

    The Dhekelia desalination plant, the only one in Cyprus, can produce 40,000 cubic metres of fresh water per day. The Zakaki and Ayios Theodoros plants were each to have produced 20,000 cubic metres.

    Thursday, February 24, 2000

    [02] Cabinet backs down on petrol prices

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE COUNCIL of Ministers yesterday acquiesced in the five parliamentary parties' refusal to raise the pump price of petroleum products, and instead to use government funds to subsidise the soaring price of crude oil imports to the island.

    The state will subsidise imported oil for an initial period of three months, as insisted by the ruling Disy party last week, when the matter first came before the Council of Ministers, and revisit the issue at the end of that period.

    "The cabinet considered it appropriate, taking into account the instability of the price of the world market oil price, to adopt one of the choices put before it by relevant minister," Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis said, "and not increase the sale price of petroleum products for a period of up to three months, and to cover the losses from public funds."

    The state subsidy bucks the trend in most of the rest of the world, where countries are raising the pump prices of petrol, diesel fuel and home heating oil in the wake of Opec's production cutback and price rises. Greece is raising its pump prices today.

    However, the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry backed the House leadership in insisting on state subsidies for fuel prices instead of a pump price hike, claiming a price rise would hurt the economy by triggering an increase in the CoLA (cost of living allowance), and therefore increase wages.

    The oil price subsidy decision was announced by Rolandis after the Cabinet’s regular Wednesday meeting, at which ministers also discussed government policy concerning seawater desalination plant construction.

    Yesterday's Cabinet decision merely validated the refusal of the five parliamentary parties, on February 18, to consider raising the pump price of petroleum products to make up the difference between the $30 per barrel that crude oil costs to import and the price the oil companies are getting at the pump.

    House party leaders had rejected day-long attempts by Rolandis and Finance Minister Takis Klerides to persuade them to raise petrol pump prices instead of dipping into state revenues, and throwing Cyprus farther out of line with EU Maastricht Treaty guidelines for participating in European monetary union.

    The Maastricht Treaty says a country's annual deficit may not to exceed three per cent of GDP, and its total debt must be less than 60 per cent of GDP. Cyprus exceeds both thresholds.

    Rolandis said three months of state oil subsidies would cost the government £15 million, but he assured that the public money would not be coming from the Defence Fund.

    It was to the Defence Fund and consumers' electricity bills that the government applied the windfall profits it made when oil was $10 per barrel a year ago. At that time, the state refused to lower pump prices, preferring windfall profits to consumer rebates.

    However, those windfall profits were not put aside against the prospect of the kind of huge Opec price rises the world is currently reeling from.

    Rolandis said, "The government will be watching the whole issue and will have to recoup the amount it will have to give out from surpluses, in the event that prices go down."

    "(But) in the event that there is no such reduction in the crude price, the government will look at other ways of restricting the fiscal deficit," he said.

    Other alternatives to state subsidy before the Cabinet were raising the pump price of petrol and a combination of pump price hikes and government subsidies. In the end, the parties won out.

    Thursday, February 24, 2000

    [03] Military hospital claims ‘exaggerated’

    By George Psyllides

    DEFENCE Minister Socratis Hasikos yesterday dismissed as exaggerations statements by House Health Committee members that conditions at the military hospital in Nicosia were appalling

    Hasikos also refuted reports that many conscripts had sued the state because they were allegedly suffering from health problems caused by the lack of equipment at the hospital.

    Members of the Health Committee on Tuesday visited the hospital and described conditions there as unacceptable.

    Furthermore, military doctors told deputies that the families of conscripts were suing the state because they claimed to have developed problems from belated or inexistent medical help.

    Hasikos rejected the claims, saying: "there is only one law suit against the state by a conscript; only one."

    He said a soldier was suing the Republic because he had allegedly sustained an ear problem from the shots fired during an exercise.

    "There is a standing order, especially concerning artillery fire, for crews to wear ear-protection," Hasikos said.

    "The court will decide who is at fault if it is found that the particular soldier had not been using ear-shields," he added.

    He repeated there was only one lawsuit pending, out of 48,000 cases examined by the hospital every year.

    Hasikos said the issue of the military hospital had been tabled at a recent House Defence Committee meeting.

    "We discussed whether we should have an independent military hospital, or if it was better to house it in one of the state hospitals," he said.

    He said his ministry, along with the Health Ministry, had already discussed the possibility of sheltering the military hospital within the new Nicosia General Hospital, and added the issue would be re-examined today.

    Diko deputy and member of the House Health committee Marios Matsakis yesterday called on the Defence Ministry to shut down the military hospital because.

    "Now is the time for courageous decisions, and there is only one choice," Matsakis said.

    "We do not need a separate military medical facility in Cyprus," he added.

    Matsakis maintained military hospitals were for countries like Russia and the USA, which have massive armies.

    "Here we have a small army and hospitals which are close to the units," Matsakis said.

    "I suggest we abolish the army hospital and place its doctors under the Health Ministry where they can serve in state hospitals."

    On Tuesday, Matsakis also lambasted the state of the army’s ambulances, saying they had no medical equipment. "It’s a shame to spend so much money on missiles, and not to have proper ambulances," he said.

    The Defence Ministry assured deputies the National Guard would be taking delivery of 10 state-of-the-art ambulances by the end of the year.

    Thursday, February 24, 2000

    [04] EAC defends provision for coal power generation

    By Athena Karsera

    THE ELECTRICITY Authority (EAC) yesterday denied it had wasted £11 million on a coal-fired boiler for its Vassiliko power station, saying it had been purchased in an effort to protect electricity production.

    The denial came after Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis told yesterday’s Politis the boiler was "useless".

    Rolandis said the EAC "essentially threw away the money because the facilities will not be used and so are useless."

    The minister said he had been informed about the blunder last year and had enquired how it had come about.

    Rolandis told Politis the answer he had received was that "there had been thoughts on having a dual-firing station."

    The EAC yesterday defended its decision to buy the boiler: "The Authority's decision to install dual-firing boilers was taken on December 14 1993 and was announced at a news conference on December 17 1993. The relevant Minister, the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives were informed about the issue and approved the necessary EAC budget."

    It said the decision had been based on "serious financial and environmental reasons as well as a national strategy on fuel."

    The statement also quoted a speech by the EAC's then board president, which said that while oil was the preferred electricity generating substance of the time, Cyprus should not become prisoner to only one fuel.

    The EAC added that the current high level of oil prices indicated the need for dual-firing stations and "confirm the seriousness with which the EAC and the government face the issue."

    The authority added many countries still preferred to use coal, and that this trend did not seem likely to change, especially in the light of high oil prices.

    Rolandis had told Politis that using coal to produce electricity would cost an additional £15-20 million to transport the coal to the station and to modify the plant to take advantage of the new fuel.

    Politis reported these preparations would entail making the area's harbour deeper, building storage houses for the material and purchasing coal-grinding machinery.

    "It seems that burning coal is not feasible," Rolandis said. "Today coal is used mostly by countries that produce it. In addition to everything else, burning coal also causes many environmental problems."

    The Vassiliko plant on the outskirts of Limassol uses oil to produce electricity.

    Thursday, February 24, 2000

    [05] Doctors call off overtime ban

    GOVERNMENT doctors yesterday called off their overtime ban and began three- day negotiations with the Health and Finance Ministries on the introduction of an on-call system.

    Government doctors belonging to the Pasiky union began the ban on February 14 over delays in implementing the on-call system to resolve disputes about overtime.

    A proposal put forward by Health Minister Frixos Savvides on February 1 suggested doctors sleep at hospitals when on call and be paid a fee every time they carried out a duty. Pasiky agrees with the proposal on principal, but the Finance Ministry failed to agree rates of pay, sparking the walkout.

    Government doctors agreed to handle emergency cases and less severe instances were diverted to the private sector at the Health Ministry's expense.

    The Finance Ministry has since suggested a fee, which has not been made public.

    Pasiky president Dr Stavros Stavrou yesterday said the decision to stop the overtime ban had been independent of the start of negotiations.

    But he added the action was a sign of good will.

    Stavrou said that the Ministries' final proposal would be presented to the union's members at a special general meeting on Monday.

    Thursday, February 24, 2000

    [06] Bourse up but tensions still high

    By Michael Ioannou

    THE STOCK market managed to reverse three straight sessions of decline yesterday, climbing 2.08 per cent, but there tense undercurrents remained over allegations of fraud involving stock exchange transactions.

    Bourse chairman Dinos Papadopoulos angrily denied claims -- aired on state- run CyBC on Tuesday night -- that the CSE had been turned down as a member of the European Stock Exchanges Association because of allegations of money laundering.

    The Europeans were also perturbed at reports of "a mini crash" on the market, the unsourced CyBC report said.

    Cyprus is a correspondent member of the European association and its application to become an associate member would be reviewed in May, Papadopoulos said.

    The Eurobourses submitted a progress report in December, which praised the sound legal infrastructure in place for the stock exchange to operate, but did note problems with delays in settlements -- the reason the market shut down for three weeks in September.

    In no case did they make any reference to money laundering or fraud. Its only reference to the actual performance of the bourse was mention of the upswing in transactions last year, which was put down to the restrictions on capital flows in, but mainly out of the country.

    "We really shot ourselves in the foot on this one," Papadopoulos said. "This (CyBC) allegation is wrong -- for lack of a stronger word."

    Brokers, who have been seething for days after disclosures that police are investigating allegations of fraud in some transactions, also grasped the opportunity to pour scorn on claims of laundering.

    Deputies first made the allegations in parliament last Friday during a meeting on crime.

    "This meeting should have been held behind closed doors since it was only speculation," brokers union chairman Chris Ellinas told reporters.

    Ellinas said the information -- which he said had been broadcast abroad -- was used by people with "bad intentions to harm Cyprus and the Cyprus stock exchange."

    It is not the first time that speculation has surfaced of the bourse acting as a washing machine for ill-gotten gains.

    Brokers insist that their transactions are on a "know your client" basis. Ultimately though, everything goes through the banking system, which is supervised for suspect transactions by the Central Bank.

    "We are no better or worse than the stock exchange in London, Athens or New York," said a bourse official. Ellinas also scoffed at reports police were investigating 13 legal violations in stock transactions in which brokerages were allegedly involved. "Our information is that these 13 cases also relate to investors and people posing as stockbrokers," he said.

    While the speculation sent brokers and officials into a flap, investors moved in on the lows yesterday, snapping up shares across the board after three days of declines.

    The market opened about one point lower than Tuesday, but rebounded very early into the session and steadily climbed to a close of 617.28, the intraday highest. Traded volume was light at £17.4 million on 3,474 trades.

    "It was a bit on the thin side but buyers have started to come out after the opportunities created by selling pressure over the past few days," said a trader.

    Of 88 securities traded, 60 advanced, 19 declined and nine remained unchanged. Louis Cruise Lines was as usual the most actively traded stock with 683,888 shares changing hands, followed by Avacom Computer, which had about half that amount.

    Agros Proodos company led decliners with a 14 per cent net loss, while Severis and Athienitis Financial Services, which announced a five-way split on Tuesday, topped climbers with a four per cent jump.

    Thursday, February 24, 2000

    [07] Government ‘doing nothing’ for the children of the enclaved

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE GOVERNMENT is failing the enclaved of the Karpas peninsula, and their children in particular, the House refugee committee heard yesterday.

    Such accusations are nothing new, but yesterday's virulent attack by the Association of children of the enclaved was made more biting by its timing.

    It came the day after a pregnant 19-year-old became the first Greek Cypriot from the government-controlled areas to be allowed to move to the Rizokarpaso enclave by the occupation regime. Every newspaper and TV channel gave broad coverage to Giorgoulla Achilleos crossing north with her husband of two weeks, Andreas, on Tuesday.

    In an impassioned statement to the committee yesterday, Katerina Zaoura, of the Association of children of the enclaved, said the state was doing "nothing" to support enclaved children in their school studies.

    Enclaved children of secondary school age attend gymnasiums and lyceums in the free areas during the week.

    "The younger deputies among you will know that your wives or you yourselves will sit and help your children with their homework," Zaoura told committee members.

    "For the children of the enclaved, whose parents are in the occupied areas, who checks on them?" she demanded.

    "Do we have a teacher appointed to help them in the afternoons? The state, the Education Ministry, has it got a teacher to help them?"

    Zaoura said the government refused to pay for children of the enclaved to attend private tutorials in the afternoon, which would make up for this lack of homework supervision.

    The homework load at gymnasiums and lyceums is such that most students attend afternoon private tutorials in an effort to keep up.

    Zaoura also said the government had consistently failed to keep its promises to find teachers to go to Rizokarpaso and to increase financial support for the enclaved.

    She was particularly critical of President Clerides, saying promises he made in the run-up to the 1998 Presidential elections had proved hollow.

    "When we had a meeting with the President and gave him a petition, he said our problems would be solved immediately."

    "We came over (from the north), and we voted for him, but nothing has happened."

    Refugee committee deputies rushed to express sympathy for the plight of the enclaved.

    "The problems of the enclaved should have been solved long ago," Lefteris Christoforou, of governing Disy, said.

    Meanwhile, Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides yesterday said his ministry would soon be announcing the appointment of a new teacher to be posted to Rizokarpaso.

    Ioannides said the state was only waiting for the occupation regime to allow a new teacher to cross north.

    There is currently only one husband-and-wife team teaching in the Rizokarpaso enclave and the government has had a hard time finding more teachers willing to live under occupation, despite dangling incentives of quick promotion and extra pay.

    But the chairman of the Karpas Co-ordinating Committee, Nicos Falas, yesterday said the problem was not lack of will on the part of teachers, but rather lack of movement on the state's part. He said the government was simply not pushing hard enough to get permission for teachers to go north.

    The 500-or-so mostly aged enclaved claim they are routinely harassed by the occupation regime, a claim backed up by repeated Unficyp reports.

    Thursday, February 24, 2000

    [08] Running out of paper in the north

    NEWSPAPERS in the occupied north are fast running out of paper to print on and the occupation army is reportedly blocking the arrival of relief supplies from the government-controlled areas.

    According to Turkish Cypriot papers yesterday, the situation is desperate.

    Yeniduzen, in a front-page article, reported that it would be out of paper by the end of the week.

    The paper said occupation regime authorities had given the go-ahead for paper supplies to be brought over from the south, but the occupation army had put a spanner in the works.

    Avrupa informed its readers it had had difficulty coming out yesterday - so low were its supplies of printing paper.

    Avrupa reports that Arif Tashin - a candidate for the Patriotic Union Movement in the upcoming elections in the north - had sent a telegram to Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit asking him to intervene to end the printing paper crisis.

    The paper questioned the right of the army to intervene to block the occupation regime's decision to allow paper deliveries from the government- controlled areas.

    Thursday, February 24, 2000

    [09] Turkish Cypriot party leaders to visit Disy on Friday

    A DELEGATION of the Turkish Cypriot Patriotic Unity Movement will on Friday visit the offices of Disy in Nicosia, it was announced yesterday.

    The Chairman and three members of the party's political office will visit Disy at 11.30am.

    The visit was an initiative by the Turkish Cypriot party, and aims at exchanging views over recent developments in the Cyprus issue.

    "As the Movement of Patriotic Unity, we wish to support a solution leading to a common motherland," an announcement from the party said.

    The Turkish Cypriot officials will cross the Ledra Palace checkpoint at 10.30am, and will be shown around Nicosia before the talks, which will be followed by lunch.

    [10] Are growth and conservation compatible in Cyprus?

    By Noah Haglund

    IT IS possible to achieve economic growth while preserving Cyprus' natural qualities, participants attending a conference on EU environmental policy yesterday agreed.

    Yesterday’s session marked the final day of the two-day seminar, entitled 'European Union environmental policy and implications for Cyprus'.

    Nevertheless, the political process looms as the biggest obstacle to achieving goals, which, according to all experts present, are technologically and financially within reach.

    "Sustainable development" was the buzzword heard over and over again yesterday to refer to a balance of economic growth and environmental conservation. The term was applied to such diverse topics as creating liveable cities, reducing energy needs and promoting environmentally friendly industry.

    Managing tourism and natural parks on the Akamas peninsula also figured prominently in the discussion. Varnavas Lambrou, from the technical Chamber of Cyprus, stressed that, "promoting tourism and preserving environment and quality of life for locals are not incompatible goals and yield positive economic results."

    The chamber is looking for a scheme of development that would avoid what Lambrou referred to as the "sea, sex and sun" type of tourism. Such luxury hotel, big-infrastructure development is disastrous for the environment as well as the tourism industry itself, since it eventually destroys the natural beauty that most attracts visitors in the first place.

    He presented the Delta de l'Ebre Park in Spain as a healthy alternative example. Despite the absence of luxury hotels or extensive infrastructure, this 320 square kilometre natural park is able to attract two million tourists a year. Many small tracts of land are set aside as conservation areas, small in size, but valuable for scientific and environmental interest. At the same time, all indication was that the project improved the economic well-being of the local population while keeping their culture intact.

    While many present criticised this comparison with the Akamas as inexact, Lambrou insisted it did show some ways to develop the peninsula. The area of Akamas is in economic decline, prompting villagers to plead for tourism development and officials to grant building relaxations for hotels. Many are worried that if this trend continues, short-term profits will ruin the natural beauty of the area and threaten endangered species.

    The challenge, said Lambrou, was to get the various groups with a stake in the peninsula's development to sit down to find a solution, a suggestion easier said than done when supporters of tourism and natural reserves currently find themselves at odds.

    The example of Akamas begs the question of how larger frameworks such as those offered by the EU can help resolve community issues. The ability for supra-governmental organisations to provide ideas and guidance suggests the cliché "think globally, act locally", as one speaker argued yesterday. This means that ultimate responsibility will, as before, fall on local governments to take the toughest decisions. As one member of the conference stated, "It is up to local authorities to act; agencies can only think and attain a global view of the situation".

    Thursday, February 24, 2000

    [11] Window of opportunity for business ties with Israel

    CYPRUS' EU accession and improved opportunities for a Middle East peace "will pave the way for enhancing commercial ties in the region," Israeli Ambassador Shemi Tzur told a conference of Israeli and Cypriot businessmen this week.

    New peace moves in Israel-Arab relations are "already changing the political situation in the region, and creating a window of opportunity for renewed economic relations between Israel and its neighbours," he said.

    In this light, Cyprus takes on extra importance, Tzur said, as it moves towards membership in the European Union, as "new business opportunities will open up for Cyprus."

    "This will make Cyprus all the more attractive for Israelis and create greater possibilities for joint-ventures," Tzur said, at the two-day Israeli Business Forum at Nicosia's Hilton Hotel.

    With Cyprus in the European Union, Tzur noted, it will bring Europe "as close as a 40-minute flight from Israel, with all the benefits that will come with it."

    The ambassador said Cyprus-Israel trade has been upgraded over the past few years, and assured this guests that Israel placed a high priority in enhancing its commercial ties with the island.

    "We are confident that the potential is great and, more importantly, that there is mutual interest for the advancement of business ties," he said.

    The Israeli delegation to the trade conference was headed by the director of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, Yore Blizovsky; the Director- general of the Israel Export Institute, Amir Hyek; and the Deputy Director- general of the Israel Ministry of Industry and Trade.

    Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis, Finance Minister Takis Klerides and Central Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou addressed the bilateral gathering of businessmen in search of joint-venture opportunities, especially high- technology fields.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

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