First-half losses at biggest banks

THE ISLAND’S two largest banks yesterday announced first half losses for 2011 after taking provisions for a Greek sovereign debt swap.

Bank of Cyprus (BoC), the island’s biggest lender announced a net loss of €112 million while second largest Marfin Popular Bank, which has a greater exposure to Greek debt, reported a net loss of €196.9 million.

Excluding the impairment of Greek Government Bonds (GGBs), BoC reported a net profit of €155 million, down 4.0 per cent from €163 million in H1 2010, after taking into account a new domestic tax on deposits to assist the cash-strapped government.

The bank said it expected to turn out a profit by the end of the year.

Our View: One man investigation asking all the right questions

WHEN Nicosia lawyer Polys Polyviou was appointed, as a one-man committee, to carry out an investigation into the circumstances that led to the killer blast in Mari with the aim of establishing who was politically responsible for the disaster a host of questions were raised.

The most oft-repeated question was whether it was possible for the investigator to apportion responsibility to members of the government that appointed him. And was it wise to have a one-man investigation team considering that the investigator could do as he pleased as there would be nobody to challenge or question his decisions? There were also insinuations that the investigation would be a sham, aimed at absolving the president of any responsibility.

Polyviou: jurisdiction should have been brushed aside

THE NATIONAL Guard’s (NG) former Deputy Commander and the former Foreign Minister both told the Mari investigative committee yesterday that they were not responsible for the actual manner of storage of the deadly cargo which exploded on July 11.

“The cargo was not and never became the NG’s property. The NG was only responsible for keeping it. So as Deputy Commander, I did not have authority over this cargo,” former NG Deputy Commander Savvas Argyrou told the committee.

“The Foreign Ministry’s (FM) role was only to keep watch in case any (state) services did anything to expose Cyprus diplomatically,” ex FM Marcos Kyprianou said.

Polyviou threatens to take hearings behind closed doors

YESTERDAY’S proceedings of the Mari Committee were interrupted after several lawyers present seized the opportunity to attack the Committee’s legitimacy.

The opportunity came when former National Guard Deputy Commander, Savvas Argyrou, refused to answer a question saying that it would clash the Attorney-General’s criminal investigation in relation to the July 11 naval base blast.

“You’re shielding the witnesses with this,” Rikkos Erotokritou told committee head Polys Polyviou arguing that anyone could use “the general and ill-defined reason” that their answer would interfere with the criminal investigation.

DISY to table bill forcing publication of Mari probes

OPPOSITION DISY is planning to submit a bill in parliament to make compulsory the publication of the results of investigative committees.

The bill will “take away from the Cabinet the ability to decide whether (Polyviou’s report) will be made public,” a statement from DISY read.

Polys Polyviou’s investigative committee was appointed by the Cabinet to investigate the extent of political responsibility over the deadly July 11 explosion at the naval base in Mari.

According to the bill, any references to matters of the highest national security will be excluded but those will need to be given to the House President.

Low-paid will not be harmed by CoLA changes

ANY adjustments to the cost of living allowance (CoLA) will not affect low wage earners, Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias said yesterday.

“We are working hard, considering all the facts so that the arrangement will be fairer than what it seems today” – favouring the high-salary recipients of this privilege, the minister told reporters yesterday.

CoLA is paid every six months as a percentage of a worker’s salary; the higher the salary the higher the allowance is.

This “is a super-privilege for some since the raise received by a worker on €1,000 or €1,500 is not the same with (a worker on) €5,000,” Kazamias said.

Power supply increased by American generators

ANOTHER 40MW of power was made available yesterday through the recently acquired generators from the American company Energy International, said EAC acting spokesman Ioannis Tsouloftas.

“Last night [Monday] there was a trial connection of 40MW and we expect that soon 60MW will be made available from Dhekelia,” said Tsouloftas.

The first set of generators from the American company which are 60MW in capacity, arrived just over a week ago and were hooked up to Dhekelia power station.

According to Tsouloftas, the remaining 35MW which have been installed at Moni power station will be made available by the coming week.

Now say goodbye to the 60-watt bulb

FIRST IT was the 100 watt, then the 75-watt and now it’s the turn of the 60-watt incandescent bulb to disappear from shop shelves forever.

As of tomorrow the lowly bulb, like its brighter cousins will be banned under EU rules.

EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said:”They have been part of our daily life for such a long time  – that it seems odd that they will disappear but from September 1 onwards, 60 watt bulbs will gradually disappear from the store shelves, as this type of bulb will be banned by EU law. Why? Edison’s light bulb, which has produced light for more than 100 years, is simply no longer the state of the art, when it comes to lighting – they just consume too much energy for the light they produce.”

No cash but football team gets €25,000

CASH-STRAPPED Peyia has allegeldy issued a cheque of €25,000 for the local football team without  following the correct procedures, required, according to one outraged local councillor.

A fuming Linda Leblanc contacted the Cyprus Mail yesterday, after she discovered, by accident that the mayor had given the go ahead to a request by APOP Kiniras Peyia FC, for the hefty sum, despite an earlier request for a lesser sum having ended in a tied vote at the council.

“The council was called to attend an extraordinary emergency meeting last Thursday following the request by the club for an immediate payment,” said Leblanc.

Keeping hotels in business during winter

A TOTAL of €11.1 million was paid out in benefits 5,295 hotel employees who were temporarily or permanently out of employment during the winter period between November 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011.

According to Minister of Labour and Social Insurance Sotiroulla Charalambous, the number of unemployed hotel workers registered with the ministry increased by 8.6 per cent during the 2010-2011 winter period when hotels were not in operation.

Charalambous added that the suspension of the hotels’ operation increases pressures on the Social Security Fund and prevented young people from looking for a job in the industry.