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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-01-09

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

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


CONTENTS

  • [01] Government promises tax concessions to offset new VAT rise
  • [02] Budget debate kicks off as opposition slams social inequalities
  • [03] US envoys arrive for talks
  • [04] Market gets the holiday blues
  • [05] Bomb in Limassol, car arson in Paphos
  • [06] Christmas period claimed two lives on the roads
  • [07] Pontians protest over racist attacks
  • [08] Licence to kill comes under fire

  • [01] Government promises tax concessions to offset new VAT rise

    By Melina Demetriou THE FINANCE Ministry is proposing to raise the tax-free threshold from 6,000 to 7,000 per annum and to scrap the defence levy in exchange for increasing VAT from 10 to 13 per cent.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides yesterday submitted his proposal on tax reforms to the House Finance Committee. The proposal is expected to gain parliamentary approval, though it is not clear whether the House will vote on it before or after the Parliamentary elections.

    "If implemented, the government-proposed tax package will benefit the average citizen who at the end of the day will have more money in his pocket, at the same time as bringing Cyprus into line with EU economic criteria," Klerides told reporters at the House yesterday.

    "An increase of VAT to 15 per cent must be implemented gradually in the space of the next two years for the island to join the EU in 2003 as planned," he added.

    Cyprus has also committed to adopting EU regulations on minimum consumer taxes, meaning bad news for drivers, smokers and drinkers, with diesel taxes expected to rocket.

    "By January 1, 2003, the diesel tax should have increased from 2 cents per litre to 14.2 cents, while petrol tax will have to rise by 30 per cent, coming up to 19.5 cents per litre. Pure alcohol tax will have to be 3.20 per litre, up from the current 1.19. Cigarette tax must increase by 2 per cent. But the increases will be coupled with duty reductions," Klerides said.

    The government will no longer subsidise the Social Security Fund, but employers will, if the government's proposal is adopted.

    "However, employers will benefit from the abolition of the defence levy," Klerides reassured.

    Plus, there is good news for companies, who will enjoy two per cent tax reductions.

    The Finance Ministry is also proposing an increase in the rate of interest charged on overdue taxes to nine per cent from the current five in an effort to act as a deterrent to tax evaders.

    Klerides promised that low-income earners would benefit from tax reforms with an increase in the tax-free threshold, but said the plan calling for relevant provisions was yet to be drawn up. The government passed similar changes in tax brackets to offset an earlier rise in VAT from eight to 10 per cent last year.

    The government is ready to implement the tax reforms as soon as it gets the House's go ahead and the Finance Committee is to decide within the next few days whether the Plenum will vote on the reforms before or after the Parliamentary elections due in late May.

    "We might decide to wait until after May to vote on the tax package to make sure no biased decisions are made on behalf of the government or the parties in the light of the forthcoming elections," Committee chairman Marcos Kyprianou of DIKO told reporters yesterday. He also said that a number of Committee members had questioned the tax package.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] Budget debate kicks off as opposition slams social inequalities

    By George Psyllides HOUSE PARTY leaders yesterday kicked off a three-day debate on the island's 2001 budget, which is expected to be approved on Wednesday.

    The state budget, approved by the Cabinet last August, provides for expenditure of 2.106 billion, while revenues were expected to fall short at 1.552 billion.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides predicted "encouraging prospects for 2001" with a potential growth rate of 4.5 per cent.

    Unemployment is expected to fall to 3.3 per cent from last year's 3.6 per cent, and inflation is expected to fall from last year's 4.2 per cent.

    The fiscal deficit is expected to reach 3.3 per cent of GDP, a slight improvement on 1999.

    Expenditure for development projects is expected to reach 293.5 million compared to last year's 287.7.

    Of this, around 55 million has been allocated to improve the road network, 22.5 million to water projects, 7 million for the development of Larnaca and Paphos airports, and 24.9 million to education.

    Speaking before the plenum last night, ruling DISY Chairman Nicos Anastassiades praised the economy's "positive course", which, he said, was reflected in the high growth rates, which surpassed the European Union's average.

    Anastassiades stressed the need to expedite EU harmonisation procedures, noting that accession was important for the island's future.

    AKEL Secretary-general Demetris Christofias said his party would abstain or vote against certain provisions, but would approve the defence and refugee budgets.

    Christofias slammed the government for "encouraging nepotism and failing to punish those involved in scandals".

    He said around 70,000 Cypriots lived under the poverty level, the majority of whom were pensioners.

    Most of them lived on pensions of only 150 a month and there was an urgent need for the creation of a state fund to support them, Christofias said.

    DIKO Chairman Tassos Papadopoulos accused the government of lacking vision and long-term goals, adding that the state mechanism should be decentralised in order to achieve faster and more efficient service.

    He said Cyprus spent around 30 per cent more in civil service wages than other EU countries, which provide more services.

    Civil service personnel should be redistributed and anachronistic procedures modernised to cut down on bureaucracy, he said.

    Announcing his party's intention to vote against the budgets, KISOS leader Vassos Lyssarides said the 2001 budget was just a repeat of past budgets.

    He lambasted the government for setting aims that accentuate disparities between rich and poor, adding that social services were deficient and retirement funds poor.

    United Democrats deputy Androulla Vassiliou said suggestions heard during budget debates apparently "fell onto deaf ears", since many proposals were repeated every year without results.

    She added that many scandals under investigation have been hushed up without explanation.

    Many cases have found their way to the Attorney-general's office, but then "the silence of the lambs prevails."

    Vassiliou claimed there were at least two cases concerning the medical field, in which even the Health Minister did not know what was going on.

    "Is this transparency?" she asked.

    Vassiliou said her party would nevertheless approve the budget.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] US envoys arrive for talks

    By a Staff Reporter U.S. DIPLOMATS Alfred Moses and Thomas Weston flew into the island yesterday for contacts with both sides in a bid to break the deadlock in the settlement talks process.

    Moses, the US presidential emissary for Cyprus, and Weston, the State Department co-ordinator for Cyprus, are the first of a series of foreign officials due to visit Cyprus ahead of the sixth round of UN-led proximity peace talks, scheduled to take begin in Geneva late this month.

    Britain's Cyprus envoy, Sir David Hannay, is expected to arrive tomorrow and the UN mediator in charge of the indirect talks, Alvaro de Soto, is scheduled to visit after Sir David.

    The diplomatic efforts come at a time when familiar demands from the Turkish side threaten to scupper the proximity talks process. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has stated he will not attend the next round of indirect talks with President Glafcos Clerides unless his breakaway occupation regime is recognised.

    More recently, reports of Ankara planning to annex the occupied areas and the abduction and incarceration of a Greek Cypriot contractor by the Denktash regime have added to the tension between the two sides.

    Moses, after arrival just after 2pm yesterday, said Washington's aim was to get the talks back on track. "It is in the interests of both parties to move from the present situation to a comprehensive settlement. The parties do not agree as to what the terms of this settlement should be. Our role is facilitating negotiations that achieve the aims of both parties," Moses said.

    Moses also said that he "hoped" that the incoming administration of George W. Bush, which takes up residence in the White House on January 20, would continue with the same policy towards Cyprus, noting that the US had always been consistent in its policy towards Cyprus.

    The two US officials had a meeting with Denktash yesterday evening and were scheduled to meet with President Clerides for a working breakfast this morning. Moses and Weston leave on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern arrives on the island for an official visit today, during which he will have contacts with President Clerides and other Cypriot officials.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Market gets the holiday blues

    By Jennie Matthew ALL WAS quiet on the market front yesterday: the all- share index closed down 1.65 per cent to finish at 236.48 and with a volume of just 5.76 million, analysts are predicting an uneventful month ahead.

    "We are expecting a very quiet month in January. Today we had the lowest volume in 20 months I think, and its set to continue," said analyst Christos Achillides.

    "The index started the week at the 238 mark and continued the long boring ride south all the way `til 12:00.Judging from the continuous decline of the volume it appears that the CSE is caught in quicksand," wrote the commentator for the online brokerage xak.com.

    But others were more optimistic about the road ahead.

    "It was inevitable that there would be a small decrease today, mainly because of Greece, but I'm not worried. Bank of Cyprus will go up in the next few weeks, and that will push the index up a little," stockbroker Demos Stavrides told the Cyprus Mail.

    Employees are to be issued, he said, with 150,000 worth of shares, non- sellable for at least a year.

    BoC shares yesterday fetched 3.14 at the close of trading - a third of its value this time last year.

    "If they are new shares, then it'll cause problems by increasing supply at a time when demand is very thin. If it's a loan, then it'll increase liquidity," said Achillides about the pending BoC plan.

    Although there is measured relief among brokers that last year's tidal waves of panic selling have dried up for the moment, the stagnant volume remains a cause for concern.

    "The volume was good today. It shows that less people are willing to sell at these low levels, but then again, there's no dynamic on the buying side. We need an event to push the index into the higher echelons," Stavrides said.

    "Our expectation is that things will pick up at the end of January or the beginning of February, as 2001 becomes the biggest year for mergers and acquisitions," said Achillides.

    He said the market was set for a trend of bigger companies, including the banks, buying up smaller listings.

    Negative moves were kept to a minimum in the investment sector yesterday, with Drake the day's most traded share, clocking up a volume of 844,350.

    Prominent among the 116 losers were Europrofit (ERP), which sunk from 1.90 to 1.85 and GlobalSoft.Com (GLC) who shed 27 cents to close at 4.73.

    Thanks to GLC's performance, the technology sector put in the worst performance, losing 4.92 per cent of its market share. The fishery companies also did badly, with a drop out of 3.03 per cent. Blue Island Holdings (BLUE) toppled nine cents to close at 1.88 down from 1.97.

    Investors have clearly lost interest in Sharelink (SFS) as insiders now doubt the group will buy up Kyknos. The price lost two cents, to come into close at 1.26.

    Of the 42 gainers, Glory Worldwide Holdings (GLO) finished up as the most expensive share on the market by lunchtime, closing up 18 cents at 5.25.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Bomb in Limassol, car arson in Paphos

    By a Staff Reporter A RECENT spate of arson and bomb attacks across the country continued yesterday, with a blast outside a Limassol home and a car been set ablaze in Paphos.

    The attacks came hot on the heels of two arson attacks on cars in the Limassol and Larnaca areas on Sunday and a bomb attack in Larnaca and another arson attack in Limassol on Friday, with cars again the targets.

    No one has been hurt in any of the explosions or fires, but they have made a mockery of recent statements by Justice Minister Nicos Koshis, who, late last month, pronounced a similar flurry of unwanted criminal activity a "seasonal" phenomenon that would pass.

    No arrests had been made in connection with any of the attacks by yesterday.

    The first property attack yesterday was in Limassol shortly after midnight. An explosive device went off outside the front door of the Kato Polemidia home of Andreas Alexandrou, 37. Police said the blast destroyed the front door of the home and also damaged furniture in the front room of the house, on 65th Street.

    A few hours later, at around 5am, a saloon car belonging to 23-year-old furniture repair man Antonis Christodoulou was badly damaged in a fire police said appeared to have been set deliberately. The car was parked in the garden of Christodoulou's home on Christodoulou Sozou Street at the time of the blaze.

    At 3.15am on Sunday, a car belonging to Ioannis Angelis, 27, was gutted in an arson attack outside his home at Oroklini near Larnaca. At 6.25am on the same day, 21-year-old Haroula Christodoulou's car was set ablaze outside her home in Trachoni village in the Limassol area.

    Two more cars were destroyed in a bomb attack in Larnaca and an arson attack in Limassol on Friday.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Christmas period claimed two lives on the roads

    By a Staff Reporter TWO people died and 45 were seriously injured in 295 traffic accidents in the 15 days between December 14 and 31, police reported yesterday.

    During the same period, police reported 2,342 traffic violations while courts heard 2,102 related cases.

    A further 70 people suffered lighter injuries.

    Eighty-five people lost their licence or the right to have one and 104,175 was paid out in fines.

    Police booked 1,324 speeding drivers and 94 for driving without wearing their seatbelt.

    Over the same period 31 motorcyclists were booked for failure to wear crash helmets.

    Seven drivers were reported for excessive emissions and 139 for using their mobile phone while at the wheel.

    Police breathalysed 694 drivers, of whom 13 were booked for drink driving.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Pontians protest over racist attacks

    By George Psyllides POLICE were yesterday looking into an apparent racist incident in which Pontian Greek residents of Limassol claim they were set upon by locals.

    Two men have been detained in connection with the incident.

    On Sunday night, Pontian residents of Omonia took to the streets protesting against the alleged beating of three of their compatriots.

    They asked for police intervention to end the attacks, while some charged the authorities were turning a blind eye.

    "They don't want to stop this situation. Why?" one man asked.

    Another said: "Cypriots view us as Turks and Albanians."

    A woman said one of the perpetrators had threatened her: "If you call the police I will blow your car up."

    The trouble started on Saturday night outside a local bakery when a Pontian man was allegedly accused by a local man of ogling his wife.

    "He got out of his Land Rover and demanded to know why I was looking at his wife," the man said.

    The Pontian denied doing any such thing, and the man allegedly attacked and punched him in the face.

    On Sunday night three Pontian men in a car were allegedly intercepted and beaten by locals while their windshield was smashed with a stone.

    Police said they were looking for two more men.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Licence to kill comes under fire

    By a Staff Reporter THE LIMASSOL District Office yesterday came under fire for issuing licenses to hunters to shoot foxes, an animal the authority classifies as vermin.

    A recent study by students from a Limassol secondary school suggested local fox populations were nose-diving due to poisoning, shooting and other persecution. In response, the House Environment Committee demanded that the Cyprus fox, which is an endemic variety, be protected rather than being classified as vermin. The Agriculture Ministry promised to draw up a plan for preserving the species.

    But, as the Ecological Movement group pointed out yesterday, the Limassol District office appears to be distinctly `out of tune' with these fox- saving efforts. The movement condemned the office and the Limassol game fund for sanctioning the shooting of foxes for a limited period during the winter hunting season.

    "It appears that the game fund and the Limassol District Office are not responding and not aware of the recent sensitivity shown for the protection of this unique member of the Cypriot fauna," the environmentalists stated in a news release. "This behaviour on the part of officers of the Limassol District Office is totally unacceptable," the Ecological Movement added.

    Late yesterday afternoon, the Larnaca District Office announced that it had licensed the shooting of foxes in specific areas between January 14 and March 18.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001


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