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Cyprus Mail: Press Review in English, 99-12-30

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From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, December 30, 1999

Mixed reaction to market tax deal

THE UNANIMOUS decision of the House of Representatives to impose a five per cent tax on stock market profits above £35,000 pounds for 1999 was the big story yesterday; companies would have to pay between 20 and 25 per cent tax. The House also voted a 0.6 per cent levy on all stock exchange transactions by individuals and a one per cent levy on the transactions of companies. The reaction to the news was mixed.

Simerini described the decision as the "kiss of life for the Cyprus Stock Exchange". With its decision, "the House put an end to the uncertainty and the negative sentiment created over the last few days". The Finance Minister, Takis Klerides expressed his satisfaction with the outcome as well as relief for the consensual solution. The decision was also welcomed by stockbrokers and investors, who congratulated the deputies. According to stockbroker circles, the House decision would push up prices, even though it was premature to say whether the market would return to its previous records of high transaction volumes and a rising share index. The decision was described as "balanced and fair" as it "opens new avenues of progress for the stock exchange and the country".

Politis took a much more critical stance, implying that deputies had taken a decision that was beneficial to their pockets. Under the tongue in cheek, headline, "National Unity on stock market profits," it said: "At last, our leadership is united. But not with regard to the national issue. All the parties agreed on the reduction of state revenue from stock market profits, and the government is happy." Of all the deputies, only Katerina Pantelidou abstained from the voted because her husband owned shares. "Of the rest of the deputies, nobody declared if he has personal financial interest," the paper said. The paper also noted that while for ordinary working people only £5,000 of their earnings were exempt from tax, for investors, thanks to the new law, it was £35,000. The revenue losses to the state would be huge, as the existing law had been scrapped and the new one would allow companies, especially those dealing with investments and insurance, to collect millions in tax-free profits, the paper said. Machi reported that the decision was the result of all-day behind-the-scenes consultations among the parliamentary parties, which were in constant touch with each other. The final go-ahead for the decision had been given at a meeting of the party leaders which had preceded the House plenum.

Phileleftheros claimed that Turkey would be using its EU candidate status to push for a confederal settlement of the Cyprus problem. It quoted Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem, during a visit to the occupied areas, as saying that Turkey now had the power to set the issue of confederation before the EU; something it could not have done in the past because of the Greek side. Speaking at a joint press conference with Rauf Denktash at occupied Tymbou airport, Cem said that the Turkish side was "gradually drawing closer to the vindication of its struggle". The paper said that despite reports of a rift between Ankara and Denktash, Turkish government ministers were continuously visiting the north. Apart from Cem, the ministers of defence and health had visited the occupied north.

Alithia quoted Turkish President Suleyman Demirel as saying that a "permanent and just Cyprus solution is not too far away". Of course, the solution Demirel envisaged was based on the Turkish side’s positions, the paper cautioned. Demirel was speaking after a meeting with Denktash, whom he described as a "hero of the Cypriot nation".

Haravghi led with a report on the press conference given by Akel leader Demetris Christofias, who stressed that his party’s objective remained "democratic change", a target that could be achieved through the co-operation of "democratic and progressive" forces. Christofias pointed out that the "dangerous deadlocks" reached in the Cyprus problem and the "poor local administration" made the need for a change of government an imperative.

© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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