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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-12-30

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

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


Thursday, December 30, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Denktash and Clerides exchanged wishes only
  • [02] Policeman to be prosecuted after boy knocked over in hit-and-run accident
  • [03] Share prices rise on back of market compromise
  • [04] Bus driver held after straying north from Pyla
  • [05] December rains well below normal
  • [06] Mixed reactions to market tax compromise
  • [07] November tourist figures up 12 per cent
  • [08] With three years to go, Disy and Akel square up on presidential poll

  • [01] Denktash and Clerides exchanged wishes only

    By Jean Christou

    GOVERNMENT spokesman Michalis Papapetrou yesterday confirmed that President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash had exchanged New Year greetings by phone.

    "The President of the Republic took the initiative the day before yesterday to call Mr Denktash to wish him all best for the new year," Papapetrou said.

    He said Denktash was away in Turkey but as soon, as he came back, he returned the call and the leaders exchanged wishes for the new year. "There was only an exchange of wishes," Papapetrou said. "I was not there, but I am informed that they did not say anything about politics."

    It is the first time that the two leaders are known to have spoken directly since face-to-face talks broke down in 1997.

    They are due to resume proximity talks in Geneva at the end of next month following a first round in New York early this month.

    The second round was due to begin around January 27 but latest indications are that they will resume closer to the 31st due to other commitments on the part of UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan.

    Turkish Foreign Minster Ismail Cem was yesterday reported as saying that a new period had begun for Turkey with the recognition of its EU candidacy.

    But he warned: "Nobody should think or expect us to change our position regarding the Cyprus issue, even if we solve our problems with the EU."

    Cem, who is on a private visit to the north, said he did not oppose a solution based on a compromise of the two sides, but again mentioned confederation, a solution championed by Denktash but ruled out by the government.

    Cem who met with Denktash during his visit, later held a press conference where he said the Turkish side had been successful during the New York talks. "Turkey and the TRNC are more optimistic about the Cyprus case. Our long-standing struggle is gradually nearing its target," he said.

    Denktash said the two leaders had gone to New York as two equal sides, "but the Greek Cypriot side assumed an uncompromising attitude because they are being considered as the only government of Cyprus".

    "We are ready to form bridges. We are ready to show Cyprus as one confederate state in the UN and in the EU. Our way is a uniting one but the way of the Greek Cypriots is one which divides Cyprus," Denktash said.

    Thursday, December 30, 1999

    [02] Policeman to be prosecuted after boy knocked over in hit-and-run accident

    A 23-YEAR-OLD special policemen faces prosecution for allegedly abandoning the scene of an accident after running into a 13-year-old cyclist in Limassol at midday on Tuesday.

    According to a police announcement yesterday, off-duty officer Georgios Savva was driving an uninsured car at the time of the accident.

    The 13-year-old boy rode his bike off a side-street onto Milou Street and into the special policeman's car at around 12.45 pm on Tuesday, police stated.

    The boy suffered a serious shin fracture in the collision.

    Savva allegedly abandoned the scene of the accident without stopping to check on the state of the cyclist.

    Police chief Andreas Angelides yesterday ordered that Savva be prosecuted.

    Thursday, December 30, 1999

    [03] Share prices rise on back of market compromise

    SHARE prices rallied yesterday as investors flooded back to the market in an upbeat mood after parliament reached consensus on taxing their profits at a lower rate than expected, pushing the all-share index up by more than five per cent.

    Recovering from heavy losses earlier this week, the index jumped 5.25 percent, or 36.11 points, to 724.55 in a broad-based rebound led by commercial shares.

    The market opened clear of 700 points, a psychologically-important threshold pierced by a wave of profit-taking on Monday. The all-share index traded in a band of 717.34 to 734.67, the intraday high and lows.

    Turnover was significantly higher at £32.04 million and 5,432 trades, compared to £23.2 million and 3,548 deals in Tuesday's session, which was interrupted by a bomb hoax.

    Mid-cap commercial shares led the rally followed by industrial and tourism shares. Blue-chip banking stocks climbed 4.3 per cent.

    A rally on prices was widely expected after parliament on Tuesday approved lower than expected taxes on bourse gains.

    "Investors now know where they stand. There was a great deal of confusion on what the government sought and this had an impact. Uncertainty is bad for the market," one stockbroker said.

    Investors fearing high tax bills had stayed clear of the market in recent days, caught unawares by government pronouncements that this year’s bourse gains would be subject to tax after they had been led to believe their gains would be tax free.

    "They based that assumption on promises they had heard from ministers," one broker said.

    Seeking to boost coffers and plug holes in a gaping fiscal deficit, the finance ministry bill tabled to parliament wanted the five per cent tax slapped on investors for 1999 to remain in force indefinitely.

    But in a rare show of unanimity, parliament tossed out the government bill, imposing their own, which instead makes the five per cent a one-off for 1999 and applicable only on profits of over £35,000.

    That tax will be replaced with lower levies for 2000 and 2001.

    The five per cent tax is applicable for individuals, whereas corporate tax rates of 20 and 25 per cent - depending on the income bracket - will apply for companies.

    Brokers said the 1999 arrangement was clearly tilted in favour of small investors rather than corporations.

    "That, however, will be cleared up with the new levy which comes into force next year," said Stavros Agrotis of CISCO.

    Next year, individuals will pay 0.6 per cent on all market transactions, while corporations will pay 1.0 per cent.

    Newcomer Unifast Finance and Investments yesterday opened at £3.15 and closed at £3.55 on a volume of 40,820 shares; retail chain Mallouppas and Papacostas and interior designers Ceilfloor will debut today.

    The bourse also announced that computer vendors Logicom will float their shares on the market on January 4.

    Thursday, December 30, 1999

    [04] Bus driver held after straying north from Pyla

    By Martin Hellicar

    A 34-YEAR-OLD Greek Cypriot bus driver was detained by the Turks yesterday after he apparently lost his way and strayed into the occupied areas.

    "It appears to be one of these cases of someone going astray in the north," Unficyp spokesman Charles Gaulkin told the Cyprus Mail yesterday, referring to previous cases of tourists and local residents being held in the north.

    Gaulkin said bus driver Petros Vasili had been apprehended yesterday morning and would be visited by UN officers today.

    According to police, Vasili was apprehended by Turkish soldiers after he went to the mixed buffer-zone village of Pyla, near Larnaca, to pick up Turkish Cypriot workers who work in the government-controlled areas.

    Vasili's business partner, Phanos Michail, alerted police after he lost telephone contact with his partner at about 9am yesterday. Vasili had earlier been seen in a Pyla coffee shop, police said.

    Unconfirmed reports suggested Vasili had lost his way after he went to the Turkish held village of Pergamos, near Pyla, to pick up the Turkish Cypriot workers.

    Gaulkin said Vasili was driving a pick-up at the time he was detained, but added that the UN knew no details about the circumstances of his apprehension.

    Tourists and locals captured after straying into the north have always been returned, usually after being fined for "illegal entry" by occupation regime courts.

    Vasili's disappearance was yesterday being investigated by both Unficyp and Cyprus police.

    Thursday, December 30, 1999

    [05] December rains well below normal

    Staff reporter

    THE NEW millennium will dawn over Cyprus amid dire predictions of deepening drought.

    For when the clock turns into January 2000, Cyprus will - short of an intervening miracle - have recorded one of its driest Decembers ever, according to the Water Development Department (WDD).

    On the surface, Cyprus has 25 per cent more water - 28,602,000 cubic metres, or 28.6 billion litres - behind its dams this year than it did last year at this time, bringing total storage up to 10.5 per cent of reservoir capacity.

    This compares to the 22,983,000 cubic metres of water that were in island reservoirs at the end of December 1998, when storage was at only 8.4 per cent of total capacity.

    But the figures are misleading, as this winter's rainy season, which began on October 1 is shaping up to be one of the driest on record.

    Only 42.2 millimetres of rain have fallen over Cyprus since December 1, a figure representing about 40 per cent of the 105.6mm average rainfall that Cyprus gets in a "normal" December. the WDD said.

    Despite recent storms, last December's runoff into reservoirs was 12-times this December's total. Put another way, this month's runoff was only eight per cent of last December's.

    So while dams may be fuller this year than last, this December has been so dry that only 972,000 cubic metres of rainfall actually made it into the island's reservoirs this month.

    This compares to the 11,381,000 cubic metres (11.3 billion litres) of water from the island's mountains, hillsides and streams that flowed into Cyprus reservoirs last December, the WDD said.

    Even the last few days of thunder storms produced only 48,000 cubic metres of reservoir runoff, the WDD said.

    Overall, the island has had only 35 per cent of the average rainfall of a "normal" meteorological year, the WDD said, adding that Cyprus can expect no more rainfall before the new millennium dawns.

    Thursday, December 30, 1999

    [06] Mixed reactions to market tax compromise

    By Jean Christou

    THERE WERE mixed reactions yesterday to the taxing of stock exchange profits for 1999 and the imposition of a new levy on transactions for the next two years.

    Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) chairman Dinos Papadopoulos said he was satisfied with the decision. He said the CSE had been asked for its views on the issue of the levy and had requested that it be as low as possible in order not to affect transactions.

    Parliament on Thursday reached a consensus on the controversial issue of taxing stock market profits after weeks of public debate on whether to impose capital gains tax on money made by investors.

    In the end, deputies unanimously agreed to tax those 1999 stock market profits that exceed £35,000. Individuals will be taxed at a rate of five per cent and companies at the 20-25 per cent corporate rate. Profits of up to £35,000 are exempt.

    For 2000/2001, deputies agreed, instead of taxing profits, to impose a levy on transactions of 0.6 per cent for individuals and one per cent for companies.

    The issue of capital gains tax is to be discussed at a later date because of its complex nature.

    "I'm glad to see that the issue of the levy is being seen as a temporary measure," Papadopoulos said.

    "It has advantages from the state's point of view in the sense it has low collection costs but it is a cost on transactions so therefore could be discouraging (for investors)."

    Christodoulos Ellinas, chairman of the Brokers Association, said the £35, 000 tax free sum was very low but added that overall brokers were satisfied.

    Kypros Proptopapas, the vice president of the Investors Association, said the levy was premature, but welcomed the fact that the uncertainty on the market had been brought to an end.

    He said, however, that he believed the 20-25 per cent corporate tax rate for companies profiting over £35,000 was steep for smaller enterprises. "These people are being treated unfairly," he said. "They should have made a distinction between big investment companies and small ones."

    He also said the £35,000 tax-free ceiling was too low and that he felt no tax should have been imposed for 1999.

    The government had initially sought to tax stock market profits on the basis of capital gains tax, which stands at around 40 per cent but only applies to income from property.

    Opposition parties, communist Akel and socialist Edek, were strongly in favour of a substantial rate of tax, but it was vehemently opposed by ruling right-wing Disy, which said it would support a five per cent tax for 1999 and none for two years thereafter.

    Although it voted for the consensus reached on Thursday, Edek said the tax- free ceiling should have been as low as £10,000.

    Thursday, December 30, 1999

    [07] November tourist figures up 12 per cent

    By Jean Christou

    TOURIST arrivals rose by nearly 12 per cent in November statistics released yesterday reveal.

    According to the figures, 118,105 tourists arrived on the island in November, compared to 105,773 in the same month last year.

    The increase is good news for the tourist industry, which is making unprecedented efforts to up the winter tourist flow to the island.

    It also helps the industry realise its projections for an overall 1999 increase of ten per cent.

    So far this year, tourist arrivals have reached 2.35 million, compared to 2.14 million last year. By the end of the year, it is hoped that a total of 2.4 million tourists will have visited the island.

    Over 46 per cent of this year's arrival came from the UK. Germany comes in second with 15.8 per cent, followed by Greece with 4.5 per cent, Russia 4.3 per cent, Sweden 2.8 per cent and Finland 2.7 per cent. The overwhelming majority of tourist arrivals, 82 per cent, are from EU countries.

    Prospects for 2000 are said to be even better, particulary from the UK, where indications show a possible 10-12 per cent increase on 1999.

    The government is aiming to expand tourism by increasing winter tourism rather than continuing to build on the existing summer trade, which is already stretched to its limits during the peak June-September season. In August, monthly arrivals can reach close to 300,000, the current maximum capacity.

    Cyprus has the capacity comfortably to accommodate around 200,000 tourists per month but winter arrivals usually number less than half that figure.

    Last week, the cabinet approved a series of measures to help increase arrivals between November and March by offering lucrative incentives and subsidies to foreign tour operators.

    The measures are expected to be approved by parliament in time for operators to put together their winter packages for the 2000/2001 season.

    One of the biggest problems facing winter tourism is the closure of bars and restaurants, which refuse to stay open unless they are guaranteed clients. Tour operators on the other hand do not want to put `dead' resorts on their brochures.

    Thursday, December 30, 1999

    [08] With three years to go, Disy and Akel square up on presidential poll

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE NEXT Presidential elections may be more than three years away, but the island's two main parties are already busy flexing their election muscles.

    The leader of governing Disy, Nicos Anastassiades, yesterday indicated he might stand for election, with his party's backing, in February 2003.

    On Tuesday, the leader of main opposition party Akel, Demetris Christofias, indicated he might do the same, saying many "common people" had urged him to stand for election. At a press conference, Christofias launched what he termed a campaign for "democratic renewal," a campaign to oust the Disy- backed Clerides government.

    The early election fever has sparked a fresh round of particularly vitriolic sparring between Akel on the one hand and the government and Disy on the other.

    At his own press conference yesterday, Anastassiades welcomed a possible Christofias candidacy, implying the left-wing leader would end up a loser.

    The Disy leader declined to comment directly on whether he would try to succeed the ageing Clerides, but made it clear he thought it wise for the party to back its leader as a Presidential candidate.

    "I have said many times that this is not an issue of capability or lack thereof, but an issue of meeting the challenge of power," he said when asked if he would stand on a Disy ticket.

    Clerides was Disy leader before he was first elected President in 1993 and Anastassiades said this set a good precedent for his right-wing party.

    "If the precedent is to elect your party leader as President twice then it would appear to be a correct precedent and correct choice," the Disy leader said.

    He suggested it would be a mistake to back a "neutral," as Akel had done, without success, in 1993 and 1998.

    "Others, who went for candidates from other areas, have learnt, during the last two five-year terms, how elections are lost," he said.

    On Tuesday, Christofias presented his party's manifesto for the new millennium and launched an attack of the government's record both at home and abroad.

    The attack obviously irked the government, for Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou yesterday read out a two-page statement attacking Christofias and Akel.

    The Akel leader charged the Clerides government with leading the Cyprus problem into a "dangerous cul-de-sac" and with gross mismanagement of internal affairs.

    "Those in government daily prove their inability to solve the big problems burdening the land, which are growing continuously," Christofias said.

    The Akel leader called on other "progressive and democratic" parties do join in the battle to oust Clerides.

    Papapetrou, in his written statement, questioned Akel's timing for launching what he termed an election campaign.

    "More than three years away from the next Presidential elections, Akel evidently considers that this is the suitable moment to begin workings for the next elections," the spokesman stated.

    He said the continuing UN-led Cyprus settlement proximity talks should make this a time for inter-party unity.

    Other parties were calling for unity "and it is at least worth wondering why Akel chose exactly this time to make its intentions clear," Papapetrou said.

    "It is evident that the Akel leadership is trying to mislead the Cypriot people by creating artificial confrontations and with its simplistic, sterile and negative approach to everything the government produces," the spokesman added.

    Papapetrou also alleged Akel had abandoned its traditional Cyprus problem stance and was supporting a policy on the national issue that would "with mathematical precession, lead to the reinforcement of the results of the invasion and occupation."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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