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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-25

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

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


Friday, January 25, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Growth estimates revised down in light of tourism woes
  • [02] Row spirals after US reception in the north
  • [03] Afxentiou and Pourgourides lash out in spat
  • [04] Social workers round on Mamas over accusations
  • [05] Budget debate calls for fairer spread of wealth
  • [06] Two held over cemetery vandalism

  • [01] Growth estimates revised down in light of tourism woes

    By Jean Christou

    TOURISM woes have knocked back GDP growth predictions to 2.5 per cent for 2002, compared with 3.7 per cent last year, the Central Bank said yesterday.

    The tourism industry, which represents 20 per cent of GDP and brings in over 1 billion per year, has been heavily hit by the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

    According to UK operators, Cyprus is likely to face a downturn this year following three years of unprecedented growth in what is essentially a fashion industry.

    "A projected economic growth in 2002 of 2.5 per cent is based on projections of a possible decline in tourism by around five per cent," Central Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou told reporters yesterday after a meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), which advises the Central Bank on interest rates.

    Afxentiou said, however, that inflation was expected to remain low at between 2.0 and 2.5 per cent and unemployment would stay at around 3.0 per cent. The fiscal deficit would remain under 3.0 per cent, he added.

    The MPC has recommended a "wait and see" attitude and advised the Central Bank to leave interest rates unchanged for the moment. Lending rates stand at 5.5 per cent, while the deposit rate is 2.5 per cent. According to a report by the MPC, December tourism arrivals were down 20.1 per cent compared to the same period last year.

    Almost three million tourists had been expected to visit the island in 2001, a 5-10 per cent increase on 2000. The prediction was on target until September 11, when numbers began falling between 10 and 20 per cent.

    November showed a drop of 19 per cent in tourist arrivals, bringing the January-November rise to just 1.1 per cent up on the same period in 2000. According to reports from the UK, the island's biggest tourism market accounting for some 50 per cent of all holidaymakers, bookings for 2002 are up to 27 per cent down for some Cypriot operators while tour giants have cut capacity by up to 150,000 seats for the summer season.

    The government has approved a number of measures for damage limitation, including an extra 4 million advertising budget and the temporary abolishing of landing fees and passengers airport taxes.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Row spirals after US reception in the north

    By Jean Christou

    POLITICIANS and media were in an uproar yesterday over the US embassy's inauguration of new premises in the north earlier this week, branding the move a step towards recognition of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot regime.

    The government said it wasn't satisfied with the embassy's explanation of the event, while newspaper headlines screamed 'provocation', and the right- wing New Horizons party snubbed a lunch to be hosted by US ambassador Donald Bandler.

    The uproar began on Wednesday when Turkish Cypriot press reported that Bandler hosted a reception at the new premises in occupied Nicosia, which was attended by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and the Turkish 'ambassador' to the north.

    Also present at the reception were members of the Turkish military's top brass and Turkish Cypriot 'ministers'.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou issued a written statement immediately, saying the Foreign Ministry had made representations to the Embassy and had requested an explanation.

    However, the fuss failed to subside yesterday, as local newspapers gave prominent coverage to the event.

    Politis said the reception was official support for the breakaway regime and criticised the fact that it came during the resumption of direct talks between Denktash and President Glafcos Clerides, which began on January 16. The paper also saw it as a move to cajole Denktash into staying at the talks

    Simerini headlined the event a 'Brutal Provocation'. It said the US was sending a clear message that it was upgrading the occupation regime and moving towards the recognition of a separate entity to appease Denktash.

    The US Embassy in Nicosia issued a statement late on Wednesday, saying there should be no controversy over meetings with persons who could help towards a just solution of the Cyprus problem.

    "The US has long maintained an office in northern Cyprus, which was recently relocated," the statement said, adding that the reception had been hosted to mark the opening of the relocated office.

    "As normal for an event like this, we included a wide spectrum of guests," the statement said. "There should not be any controversy over meeting with anyone who can contribute to a just and durable settlement on Cyprus."

    However, Papapetrou said yesterday that US Embassy's statement did "not satisfy the government".

    The spokesman said he did not wish to elaborate, as diplomacy was linked to the interests of Cyprus. "The government tries to avoid exploiting an issue related to the interests of the country," he said.

    He added that the government had not been informed that such a reception was to be organised. But both the US and British embassies have long held premises in the north, and receptions are frequently held there.

    "We have some premises in the north," said British High Commission spokeswoman Jill Morris. "It's where the British Council is located. It's the former residence of the British High Commissioner from before the division of the island and we retain it as our premises in the north."

    Morris said the premises had always been and is used for many reasons including receptions, which she made clear were not considered in any way to be 'official'.

    "We wouldn't call it official, but we do invite our contacts in the north of Cyprus to meet there occasionally," she said.

    "As I understand it, the complaint (now) is more about the timing of the opening and the fact they had a reception rather than fact of the premises being in the north," she added.

    The European Commission's representation in Nicosia confirmed that it did not have any representation in the north, nor did it run an information office, as reported in the past.

    "There was an information centre opened by a university, but it did not operate under our co-ordination," a spokesman said. "We just sent the documentation. I can confirm we have no office in the north."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Afxentiou and Pourgourides lash out in spat

    CENTRAL Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou and House Watchdog Committee Chairman Christos Pourgourides yesterday exchanged bitter barbs over how the committee had treated the Governor in ongoing investigations into the Stock Exchange (CSE) fiasco that has seen thousands of small investors lose their life savings.

    Afxentiou, who on Wednesday was grilled by the committee over private placement shares made available to his family, yesterday called on the Watchdog Committee to dissolve itself.

    Afxentiou said the committee and its chairman were not justified in using anonymous letters to attack him and the institution he heads.

    "I consider this disgraceful and unacceptable. It's something that degrades the ethics of the House," Afxentiou said.

    "I think the committee would provide a great service if it dissolved itself, because those sitting on it don't know what's going on," he added.

    Afxentiou defended himself, arguing that just because he had bought 3,600 shares from Kassoulides and 5,000 worth of shares from Louis Cruise Lines, it did not mean he had led on other investors.

    "It's a disgrace to say that," he said.

    Afxentiou said he knew that many deputies had also secured shares through private placement, but did not want to reveal any names.

    "There are deputies and other state officials who bought shares through others; this is what's suspicious, not that Mr. Afxentiou bought a few shares on his name," he said.

    "Did you expect my son to ask me every time he wants to buy shares?" he added.

    "This is ridiculous and only Mr. Pourgourides says it," Afxentiou said.

    The Governor wondered why deputies who bought shares did not resign and claimed some people wanted to drag his name through the mud for their own reasons.

    The reply from Pourgourides was prompt and venomous.

    "Mr. Afxentiou, as the Governor of the Central Bank, proved to be inferior to the situation and should resign and go home," he said.

    "Mr. Afxentis Afxentiou was obliged to have resigned for ethical reasons a long time ago since his children got tens of thousands of shares through private placement and made millions of pounds from the money that Cypriot citizens lost in the CSE," Pourgourides added.

    Pourgourides said it was now even more imperative for Afxentiou to resign, as no one could hold such an important state office and show such disrespect to the House and institutions.

    "What does Mr. Afxentiou want?

    "For us to follow his recipe and leave the way open to thieves so that they can steal freely?

    "Or does he want us to forget morality and ethics and concentrate on making millions for us and our children through unacceptable methods," Pourgourides said.

    He accused Afxentiou of concealing facts from the House.

    "In many cases, he hid the facts from the House; like the large number of shares his son got through companies he controlled; and he's wrong about the anonymous letters because on Wednesday we proved that at least the information that could be checked in Cyprus was true."

    Pourgourides said it would be better for Afxentiou, a man who did not consider it morally wrong for his children to take shares, not to give lessons in ethics.

    As for the ulterior motives that Afxentiou claimed were behind the situation, Pourgourides said: "Just because he wants an extension to his term, he imagines he's been chased by witches; we're just doing our job and we do not care about the Governor's position."

    He suggested that Afxentiou should leave as soon as possible and described him as someone cornered because of his and his family's actions and now taking abusive and unacceptable shots at the House.

    Pourgourides said the House should take a stance on the issue to show Afxentiou that it did not take lessons in ethics from him.

    Afxentiou's son, Costas, who was the focal point of Wednesday's session, yesterday defended his action to buy shares through private placement.

    "When I got these shares through private placement there was no outcry, no one was shouting and it wasn't dishonest to get shares through private placement," Costas Afxentiou said.

    "It's afterwards that various 'experts' said you shouldn't have taken them, " he added.

    He said he was never treated differently because his father was the Central Bank Governor, adding that if he knew that there would have been so much trouble he might not have taken them.

    He added the CSE had collapsed because there was no legal framework for its operation, while those responsible for monitoring the situation had failed to do their duty.

    The governor's son added that, like his father, he knew of deputies who were members of the boards of public companies, but he did not disclose any names.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Social workers round on Mamas over accusations

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE SOCIAL Welfare Department is up in arms over Sigma's 'Pesta Sto Mama' (Tell Mamas) show, and host Demetris Mamas for projecting a "false and negative" image of the Service.

    However, Mamas yesterday denied he had been responsible for painting an unfavourable image of the Welfare Department, saying he was only channelling the views of people who had passed through its hands.

    The chat show is hosted by Mamas every Tuesday night on Sigma, and features of members of the public telling their assortment of social, financial, or medical problems.

    But the Secretary of the Social Welfare Department of PASYDY, Panicos Pengas, said yesterday that Mamas' Tuesday show on family violence had undermined the work the Social Services had accomplished, and was not a fair picture of the situation.

    "Mamas accused social workers of not working hard enough, when they are up against difficult odds. These people have to deal with the public and the hardships they face. It's no easy feat. They deal with delicate issues, and severe problems that the average person never has to face," he said.

    Pengas insisted that social workers struggled every day to make a difference, and that they belonged to a profession that left most feeling burnt out.

    "It's an exhausting occupation, and this type of negative press discourages social workers even more, since they are left feeling their work goes on unrecognised."

    He said that instead of recognising what they had accomplished, Mamas had managed to paint an unfavourable picture of the Social Services, and had accused social workers of asking personal questions.

    "When a social worker asks personal questions," Pengas insisted, "it is under the strictest professional confidentiality, and is not a matter of prying or offending."

    But Mamas said yesterday that he had not personally been responsible for the bad press, and that he had only pointed the finger at "a few social workers" that did not carry out their duties appropriately.

    "I said that social workers who are found not to be doing their job properly should be punished, so that the rest of them conform," he said, explaining that Tuesday's programme had presented a woman who had been to the social services for help because her husband was sexually abusing her daughter.

    "When she lodged her complaint, the social worker she spoke to suggested that perhaps she did not satisfy her husband sexually, which is why he turned to the daughter."

    Mamas said this was the sort of "horrific" question he called unacceptable, and that such social workers should be withdrawn and placed in another line of work.

    "Even Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas called in and said how disgusted he was, and that the woman in question should report to his office and give him full details of the event," said Mamas.

    The Sigma host went on to say that the President of PASYDY's Social Welfare Department had been on the show and that he had been given ample opportunity to respond. However, Pengas said Mamas had not given the President enough time to respond, and that he was bombarded with a barrage of questions on live TV that were difficult and lengthy to answer.

    Pengas also said the Department would be looking into the legal implications of Tuesday night's show. They would be in touch with the Broadcasting Authority to see whether or not it was within a journalist's rights to make the statements he had, as well as looking at whether or not there was a case of libel.

    Mamas insists that as a journalist he has a right to bring these matters to light, and that the public should not gagged.

    This morning, the Social Welfare Department of PASYDY will hold a news conference to outline their objections, in an effort to reassert the credibility that Mamas has questioned. Mamas said he would be present to answer to any complaints they had.

    He also added that he had invited Pengas to next Tuesday's show so that he could speak his mind.

    "The programme has nothing to hide or to fear," said Mamas, "and everyone has the right to speak."

    The Social Welfare Department issued a statement yesterday, saying that "unfortunately it becomes an object of negative criticism by people who are not in a position to know how things are carried out within the department and under what circumstances". It added it was not the department's policy to speak out and name individuals in order to clear its name, because protecting the child in sexual abuse cases was of the utmost importance, and confidentiality was always maintained.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Budget debate calls for fairer spread of wealth

    THE HOUSE Plenum yesterday continued its discussion on the state budget with deputies demanding fairer distribution of wealth and more support for low-income groups.

    Deputies said more social projects were needed while the government had to protect citizens from scandals and corruption as well as improving living standards.

    During the morning session speakers discussed the Cyprus problem, the island's accession course towards the European Union and problems faced by certain social groups, including refugees, farmers and the enclaved.

    United Democrats deputy Androulla Vassiliou said that the prospects of the economy for 2002 looked good despite the upset in global economies because of the terrorist hit against the United States.

    Green party deputy George Perdikis slammed the government for not spending, as he said, enough money on the environment, education and culture.

    New Horizons deputy Christos Clerides spoke of the Cyprus problem warning that an unacceptable solution was going to be forced on Greek Cypriots.

    ADIK Chairman Dinos Michaelides said the budget at its base was a fairly good budget, a step towards harmonisation with the aquis communitaire and probably the last budget before accession into the EU.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Two held over cemetery vandalism

    POLICE yesterday arrested two people in connection with a case of vandalism at a cemetery in Limassol.

    A 24-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl from Limassol were taken into police custody yesterday morning after people visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Mesa Yitonia cemetery discovered broken headstones, crushed flowers and overturned icons.

    Police also discovered that candles and fuses had been stolen from the graves, which were later found in a house near the cemetery, where the 17- year-old girl was living.

    The girl allegedly admitted that she and her boyfriend had vandalised the cemetery and that they had been under the influence of drugs.

    The girl and her boyfriend were still in police custody yesterday.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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