Daily Archives: December 13, 2012

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House: it’s austerity or bankruptcy

 

WITH its back to the wall, Cyprus yesterday passed a raft of austerity measures included in a provisional bailout agreement, in a bid to convince lenders it would stick to its side of the bargain ahead of a Eurogroup meeting today.

Faced with the dilemma of austerity or bankruptcy, parliament rushed through some 23 bills that included social spending and wage cuts, a freeze in benefits, and a slew of fresh taxes.

Earlier, and during part of the session, scores of people protested outside parliament against the cuts in social spending that would affect large families, members of which threw stones and eggs at the House and clashed with police. 

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Our View: Protesters at the House should spare a thought for those worse off

THE ENTITLEMENT culture, which has become a key feature of our society, was on display outside the legislature in the last two days, as deputies were discussing the 20-plus memorandum bills that had to be approved urgently. People from an assortment of interest groups gathered outside the building to protest against the injustice of the austerity measures, directed against their respective groups.

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CoLA freeze, fuel hikes, and tax on lottery winnings

APART from cuts in social transfers, the batch of austerity bills approved by parliament yesterday include a freeze in cost of living allowance payments (CoLA), hikes in fuel taxes and contributions of private sector workers.

Petrol and motoring diesel will go up by 7 cents per litre from January 1 next year and five more cents in 2014.

Private sector employees and pensioners and the self-employed will continue in 2013 to pay a staggered contribution between 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent on their monthly wage with the threshold being €2,501.

The contribution was extended to 2016 with the threshold going down to €1,501 in 2014.

The same goes for the public sector.

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Second-largest bailout ever says CB governor

AS A proportion of GDP, Cyprus’ bank bailout would be the largest ever, second only to the bailout of Indonesia, Central Bank Governor Panicos Demetriades said yesterday.

“The Cypriot taxpayer is now facing a bank bailout package that could be as high as €10 billion, which is equivalent to over 50 per cent of Cyprus’ GDP,” Demetriades said.  “As a proportion of GDP it is one of the largest bank bailouts ever, second only to the 1997 bank bailout in Indonesia.”

Cyprus has struck a preliminary bailout deal with international lenders but the exact amount needed for bank recapitalisation has not been determined yet.

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Eggs and stones thrown at House

 

IN A second day of protests against austerity, demonstrators yesterday threw stones and eggs at the parliament building but an increased police presence prevented people from storming the House.

Inside deputies voted through 23 new laws under the bailout deal providing for cuts in social spending and a slew of fresh taxes.

While protests by teachers and the disabled were peaceful yesterday, members of large families became violent, clashing with police and anti-riot squad MMAD officers.

Unable to enter the parliament building, some of the protesters went around the back through the municipal park but were unable to gain access.

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Teachers: this was all so one-sided

A COUPLE of hundred teachers protested outside the finance ministry and parliament yesterday over the austerity measures voted through as part of the bailout conditions agreed with Cyprus’ international lenders.

Chanting ‘hands off education’ and carrying banners saying ‘no to unemployment’ primary and secondary school teachers as well as pensioners protested the “one-sided way” the measures have been decided.

The education ministry budget has been reduced for 2013 by 7.5 per cent or €78 million to €969.9 million. Teachers will also start contributing part of their earnings to be entitled to state healthcare, and will also receive wage cuts and pension cuts.

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Half of CyTA workers to strike over loan to state

 

HALF THE staff of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) are going on indefinite strike today in protest at the board’s decision to loan the cash-strapped government €100m from the workers’ pension fund. 

Three of the five unions representing CyTA workers held a meeting at the authority’s main offices in Nicosia yesterday where they agreed to go on an indefinite strike until the telecoms company revokes its decision to lend the government money and the board members who voted in favour of the loan resign. They also agreed to hand in their electoral booklets. 

Members of the three unions – PASE, ASET and SEP – will gather this morning outside parliament to protest during a session of the House Finance Committee. 

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No longer ‘traitors’ to the EOKA cause

IN A landmark decision yesterday, the cabinet restored the reputations of 19 people wrongfully labelled ‘traitors’ who were murdered between 1956 and 1958 during the EOKA insurgency against British rule.

“Making a reality an electoral promise of the President of the Republic, Demetris Christofias, the  cabinet decided today to restore those wrongfully murdered between 1956 and 1958,” government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said. 

Seventeen men and two women were murdered on the pretext of being traitors to the EOKA insurgency, most of them guilty only of being politically aligned with left-wing party AKEL.

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Good prospects for energy cooperation with Russia

THE DISCOVERY of hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has created “good prospects” for enhanced cooperation in the energy sector, said Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak yesterday. 

Speaking through an interpreter after meeting with Commerce Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis in Nicosia, Novak said bilateral cooperation was developing between the two countries, noting the good prospects that existed for further cooperation linked to the possibilities of exploiting Cyprus’ natural gas deposits.

The government recently decided to launch negotiations with a view to awarding a gas exploration licence for Block 9 in its EEZ to a consortium comprising three energy companies: Total, Novatec and GPB Global Resources BV (a Gazprombank subsidiary). 

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