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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-16
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Wednesday, January 16, 2002
 Consumers warned they will foot the bill for diesel price risesBy Alexia Saoulli
DIESEL price hikes will have a knock-on effect onto the whole economy, hitting consumers in the pocket, industry representatives warned yesterday. Commerce and Industry Minister Nicos Rolandis on Monday announced that diesel prices would have to rise by 70 per cent in the next to years in order to come into line with EU regulations. Diesel currently costs just 17.1 cents per litre, compared to 44 cents per litre for petrol, which subsidises its cheaper cost. Such cross-subsidisation is banned by the EU. The tax on diesel currently stands at two cents per litre. By the time Cyprus hopes to join the EU in 2003 or early 2004, the tax will have to increase to 14 cents per litre. Rolandis said diesel used for agriculture and household heating could be exempted from the tax increase. But this still leaves over 140,000 diesel operated vehicles that will be affected, even after taking out farm tractors from the equation, according to official statistics at the Communication Ministry's Motor Vehicles Registration department. A Senior Officer at the Transport Department, Sotiris Koletta, said that nearly all businesses used diesel-run cars for transport and haulage. "There may be a handful of businesses that use petrol-run cars, however the number is so small that it is hardly worth considering," he said. Because diesel engines are cheaper to run, road tax on these vehicles is higher than on petrol cars. In order to compensate for the increase in diesel prices Rolandis has said the road tax for such cars would decrease. The Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for determining road tax prices, said yesterday it had had not yet determined what that decrease would be. But the General Secretary of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEVE), Panayiotis Loizides, yesterday warned that both the economy and consumers would be hit by this 70 per cent increase in diesel costs. "Nevertheless, this is a step that must be taken in order to keep in line with EU accession regulations," he said, adding it was up to the government to find ways of helping small businesses cope with the blow. "In fact, we have already asked the EU for a list of allowances that could help protect small businesses, and are currently discussing the matter with the Minister of Commerce." Loizides said KEVE had met with Rolandis two weeks ago, and was in the process of drafting a report on suggestions on how to move forward, which would then be published. A spokesman for one Nicosia taxi company that operates 150 cars 24 hours a day said he could not comment on how business would be affected until the new prices were implemented. But he did say the company would raise fares to match the cost of fuel, thus passing on the blow to customers. The President of the water-tank supply union, Yiannos Myltiados, also suggested increasing the price of water to cover the costs of delivery to houses. "We are having the Union's General Assembly meeting in February, and we intend to discuss this issue (of raising the price of water)," he said Depending on the size of the water-tank truck, and where it was transporting water to, Myltiados said diesel costs could range from £8-16 daily. "Multiply that figure by 70 per cent," he said, "and you're talking a fair amount of money, " which the drivers would need to cover. "This increase is just too much," he said. His only consolation was that upon joining the EU, Cyprus' cost of living might increase to counteract these price increases. Charalambides Hypermarket Operations Manager Sotiris Petrou, also admitted that prices could rise if a certain chain of events were followed: if diesel prices rose and suppliers increased their fees to cover their haulage costs, then in turn the hypermarket would have to increase the price of its products to meet its own costs. "If this theory unfolds, then to keep afloat in a profit-making business prices would have to increase," he said. But Petrou stressed this was all still theoretical, saying that without knowing how the econom
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Cassoulides under fire for antenna statementsBy George Psyllides
STATEMENTS by the Foreign Minister that the government would not object to the construction of a new British antenna at the Akrotiri Salt Lake if it fulfilled certain conditions, yesterday sparked heavy criticism from opposition deputies on the House Environment Committee. Yiannakis Cassoulides was briefing the committee on developments concerning the controversial antenna, and told deputies that the government would not object to its installation if it did not harm residents' health or have any effect on the environment or the island's strategic interests. Plans for the antenna sparked violent riots against the British bases in July last year. Residents and numerous organisation and parties vowed to stop the erection of the mast, despite promises that a study reviewing the environmental impact would be carried out before the scheduled construction in 2003. The Chairman of the House Environment Committee, AKEL deputy Giorgos Lillikas, said the general impression was that there was an environmental problem and everyone was against the installation. Lillikas said the government could not undermine the effort of organisations and deputies to stop the huge antenna from going up. He said pressure groups had already convinced 80 deputies represented in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to support their campaign against the antenna, while Canadian deputies were trying to get their government to act on the issue. Green party deputy Giorgos Perdikis slammed the government and urged it to follow European Union directives and drop tactics reminiscent of the colonial period. In a statement issued late in the afternoon, the Greens said Casoulides' comments confirmed that the government's policy was very different from the unanimous position of the House. "The government effectively seeks the installation of the British antenna by carrying out monkey studies," the statement said.The Greens accused the government of misleading the House and the people because instead of demanding that the British complied with EU directives regarding environmental studies, it agreed with unprecedented and unscientific procedures. The statement said that the government disregarded the proposals of Agriculture Ministry's Environmental Services and has agreed that the British Institute of Environmental Studies would oversee the study. Casoulides however told the committee that the government had rejected a British demand to have British experts in the group studying the aerial's effects, stressing that the experts would have to be approved first by the republic.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 New remand in electricity scam probeBy George Psyllides
A 71-YEAR-old man suspected of tampering with electricity meters and adjusting them to show lower readings was yesterday remanded in custody for four days. The case of retired Electricity Authority (EAC) technician Michalis Masouras, arrested in December last year, has sparked controversy after the opposition accused the government of trying to cover up the issue. The fracas started after a number of prominent individuals and businesses were linked to the case, allegedly having paid Masouras to adjust their meters in order to pay less on electricity bills. The government responded with a list of names of those whose meters appeared to have been tampered with. But outspoken AKEL deputy Kikis Yiangou insisted that there were more, including a former minister, that the government was not revealing. Their alleged involvement was discovered after police found the suspect's notebook containing the names and details of all his 'clients'. Masouras, who apparently operated across the island, has been in custody since December 19 last year, and this was one of the main arguments used by his defence yesterday to object to his further detention. Police told the Nicosia court that, on the day of his arrest in Famagusta, Masouras admitted he had adjusted the clock on the meter to show less consumption. The suspect got paid according to how many kilowatts of electricity he saved for the owner of the meter, police said. The court heard that Masouras had admitted using the same system to steal electricity in numerous other cases, which he recorded in his notebook. Police said 61 meters in the Nicosia district were initially found to have forged EAC security seals. When Masouras was arrested, police found two pincers used for sealing electricity meters as well as several used seals and 79 new ones. Police said that in his 176-page notebook, Masouras recorded the readings of the meters next to the names, along with various amounts of money. Police requested that the suspect remain in custody for eight days, arguing that if he were released he could influence witnesses and tamper with evidence. They said they had 50 more testimonies to hear, mostly from Masouras' close family. Judge Michalis Papamichael stressed that police were not using their time efficiently but rejected the defence's claim that they were deliberately procrastinating to have a reason to hold him. The Judge pointed out that it was almost a month since Masouras' arrest and that testimonies from his family should have been taken earlier on. He agreed, however, that Masouras could influence witnesses, but remanded him in custody for four days instead of the eight police had requested.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Charalambides or Alphamega?By Alexia Saoulli
CHARALAMBIDES Shopping Centre in Nicosia is staying put, despite the fact that the hypermarket is changing its name to Alphamega, owner Yiannis Charalambides insisted yesterday. A huge balloon in the car park of the complex in Engomi announces: "We are changing our name to Alphamega hypermarket". But Charalambides, the owner of the surrounding property and the building itself, clarified this only meant the name of the hypermarket operating within his complex was changing. "The building and the land itself is part of the Y. Charalambides Shopping Centre Ltd. This will never change," he told the Cyprus Mail yesterday. He explained that Papaellina Ch. A. & Co. Ltd had rented the Shopping Centre for 10 years, with the right to use the Charalambides name while it was running the property. "If they choose to change the name of the hypermarket while they are operating the property that's fine, but the shopping centre's name as such will not change. "Therefore Alphamega Hypermarket will be within the Charalambides Shopping Centre the way Nike, the dry cleaners and Laiki bank are all within it," he said, citing Brent Cross in the UK as a similar example of such a complex. "Since the balloon has been up everyone wants to know if I've sold the building," he said. "I have not," he stressed. "There has been no change in ownership or property. They only have the running of the building, they do not actually own it or have anything to do with the property." The current tenants of the Charalambides Hypermarket were quick to assure the public yesterday that the change in name would have absolutely no effect on the products, the management personnel, the staff, the service or the address. "Only the name will change," stressed marketing manager Shakallis Vassiliou. The reason behind this move, he said, was the decision by the tenant, Andreas Papaellinas, to build a second hypermarket in Dasoupoli, which will be called Alphamega. "It's simply a matter of consistency," Vassiliou said: "All future hypermarkets under Papaellina Ch. A. & Co. Ltd will be called Alphamega. Therefore this is clearly an advertising move." Vassiliou said the name would officially change in October when the second hypermarket would be complete. Alphamega Hypermarket will be part of Charalambides Shopping Centre until 2007 when the lease runs out, said Charalambides. After that, the current tenant will have the option of renewing the contract for another 10 years, according to the land and building's market value. If the tenant is unable to meet the market value rental price, then the building will revert back to Charalambides or be rented out to someone else, he said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Local confectioners confident as import protection set to goBy Rita Kyriakides
THE CABINET will this week examine plans to scrap import duties on confectionery products from the European Union, in line with EU harmonisation requirements. Takis Fotiades, the Honorary President of the Food Importers' Association at the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce, the proposal to reduce duties on products such as biscuits, chocolates and sweets was suggested as far back in 1998, but confusion arose when he said the government mistakenly classified confectionery under agricultural products. "They are not agricultural products because they are completely manufactured abroad. Importers are currently paying up to 55 per cent, which is unreasonable," Fotiades told the Cyprus Mail yesterday. The Finance Ministry last year drew up a proposal and a decision was made to decrease the duties, but the bill has still not been passed. However, the Ministry made a verbal agreement and duties were decreased from 48.5 per cent to 34.2 per cent on January 1. If the bill is passed, they will be reduced to 20 per cent next January 1 and scrapped altogether in 2004 when Cyprus hopes to join the EU. The bill is due to be put to the Cabinet for approval this week. The General Manager of local confectionary manufacturers Papaphillipou, Elias Phillipou, was yesterday confident that local manufacturers would not be threatened, but prices might be lowered in order to compete. "If that is the case, it means that local manufacturers might have to lower their operating costs," said Phillipou. He added imported goods were mostly mass-produced and might be of lower quality than local products. Dinos Ioannou of the Cyprus Consumers' Association said the price competition would benefit consumers. "It all boils down to marketing and the quality of the product. If local products are better then the consumers will still buy them. Cypriots are also sceptical of products they are not certain of," he said. Ioannou added importers would still have to cover transport costs and may not be able to bring prices below those of local products.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 The first triplets of 2002THE FIRST triplets of the year, two girls and a boy, were born yesterday at the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia. Their parents are Nicos and Janet Ioannou.
The babies were born prematurely and are being treated at the hospital but are perfectly healthy, doctors said.
They were conceived by in vitro fertilisation and delivered by caesarean section.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002