Front Page Headlines
Cuts to the public sector, and a ‘goodbye’ to the private sector
The National Unity Party (UBP)-Peoples’ Party (HP) government announced its “First Economic Measures and Support Package for Communal Solidarity.” The measures include slashing all public-sector salaries above ₺5,000 (approx. €714) by 25 per cent for three months. No cuts will be made to salaries lower that ₺5,000 (approx. €714) public servants who receive a salary of ₺6,000 (approx. €857) and lower will only experience a 16 per cent cut. The highest public-sector salary will not exceed ₺8,500 (approx. €1,215) and that the high ranking public and government officials such as the prime minister, ministers and MPs will see their salaries slashed up to as high as 56 per cent. The inflation based cost-of-living expenses increment given to public servants twice a year will also be frozen. All state contributions made to public institutions, municipalities and political parties will also be slashed by 25 per cent on the condition to be paid at a future date. ₺100,000 (approx. €14,170) allocated to cover the interest charged by banks on loans of businesses postponing payments for three months. Businesses that have shut will receive a ten per cent discount if they pay their income taxes for March on time. A 15 per cent discount will be applied to all consumers who pay their electricity bills for March, April and May on time. A one Turkish Lira rise will be introduced to the price of cigarettes and tax on alcoholic beverages will be raised.
- Five new cases in the north, eight in the south – Two German patients in the ICU. Three-month-old baby in the south tests positive for Covid-19. 27 employees at Salamis and seven police officers suspected of being positive. 588 tests, two positives in the morning, three at night.
- Measures package worth €462m from the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) – RoC to pay 220,000 employees and 31,000 employers. €180m to workers, €20m to employers, €20m to parents, €15m to those on sick leave. €11m to tourism. €3m to education, €15m to university students and €198m for health.
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The number is increasing
The coronavirus cases in the north have risen to 47. The entire staff at the hotel where the German tourists were staying in was tested. In addition to the five new cases, the medical condition of the two German tourists has worsened. The number of cases in the south increased to 132. Among the new cases is a three-month-old baby. 59 people have died so far in Turkey from coronavirus. There are 2433 cases there now.
- ₺1500 monthly support for the workers of the closed-down businesses – Prime Minister Ersin Tatar announced the economic support package the government came up with against coronavirus. ₺30m (approx. €4.3) fund created to fight against the spread of the virus. 25 per cent cuts for salaries above ₺5000 (approx. €715 approx.) with the highest salary in the public sector being ₺8500 (approx. €1215 approx.). The increments given as cost-of-living expenses will be ceased until June 2020. Overtime payments and additional allowances will be amended with a new law to be adopted before 1 April. ₺100m (approx. €14.5m) fund to be created with loans taken from banks.
- Police maintain tight control on curfew
The catastrophe is growing
Despite all measures adopted against the coronavirus, the number of cases on both sides of the island continues to rise. The number of cases in the north reached 47 and 132 in the south. 244 “rapid” tests were conducted for the Salamis Hotel personnel and the police officers on duty. 38 of them tested. Health Minister Ali Pilli in a statement later in the evening, said three new cases had been confirmed following “guaranteed tests” making the number of cases 47 in the north. The police officers on duty at the Salamis Hotel tested negative but there is the fear of contamination through contact. The people, whom the latest three cases have been in contact with, are identified and have also placed under quarantine.
- The economic package that did not please anyone – The government announced the first economic measures package. The goal is to pump up to ₺1.5bn (approx. €215m) into the economy through the package, which envisages salary cuts up to 56 per cent from all public servants including pensioners, who receive ₺5000 (approx. €715 approx.) or above monthly. The highest salary in the public sector will be ₺8500 (approx. €1215). Monthly payment of ₺1500 (approx. €215) will be made to the workers of the businesses that closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic. All debts in the meantime will be postponed for three months and the interest generated through late payments will be covered by a new fund to be created.
- Abandoned to die – A horrifying claim made by the members of the Turkish Cypriot Associations’ Council in the United Kingdom (UK). They claim that nearly 200 Turkish Cypriots, who could not find room on the two charter flights, are stranded in the UK.
- ₺1.6m donation from Tekin Arhun – In addition to the taxes paid to the state under the Savings Deposits Insurance Fund, the Capital Group has decided to donate an additional ₺1.6m to the finance ministry to use against the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 33-point economic package announced by the government did not please citizens or the sectors. The most important points of the package are as follows: The lowest salary in the public sector will be ₺5,000 (€714 approx.) and the highest salary will be ₺8,500 (€1,215 approx.) TRNC and Turkish nationals in the private sector with social security insurance will receive a ₺1,500 (€214 approx.) for April and May. A 15 per cent discount will be applied to all those who pay their electricity bills for March, April and May on time. The minimum required payment for credit cards will be reduced from 20 per cent to one per cent for three months. State contributions to municipalities and political parties will be cut by 25 per cent.
- Municipalities in an uproar, strike at the doorstep
- The state will be paying 220,000 employees and 31,000 business owners in South Cyprus.
- Two people in intensive care – Five new cases were confirmed in North Cyprus yesterday (Wednesday). Tests on 34 people came back negative.
- One of them is a three-month-old baby – Eight new cases detected in the south. The number reaches 132.
- Death toll reaches 59 –The number of cases in Turkey reaches 2433
Pilli said two, the doctor claimed 38
Conflicting reports caused panic in the north. Health Minister Ali Pilli said that two new cases of coronavirus had been confirmed yesterday (Wednesday) bringing the total confirmed cases in the north to 44. Infectious diseases expert at the (north) Nicosia State Hospital Dr Zafer Erdoğmuş claimed that 38 new cases, had been confirmed in tests carried out on personnel and police officers at the Salamis Hotel. Erdoğmuş said that final results would be out late Wednesday night but no announcement was made.
- The government announced its “support” package – All public-sector salaries above₺5,000 (€714 approx.) will be slashed by 25 per cent for three months. No cuts will be made to salaries lower that ₺5,000 (€714 approx.) public servants who receive a salary of ₺6,000 (€857 approx.) and lower will only experience a 16 per cent cut. The highest public-sector salary will not exceed ₺8,500 (€1,215 approx.) and that the high ranking public and government officials such as the prime minister, ministers and MPs will see their salaries slashed up to as high as 56 per cent. The inflation based cost-of-living expenses increment given to public servants twice a year will also be frozen. All state contributions made to public institutions, municipalities and political parties will also be slashed by 25 per cent on the condition to be paid at a future date. Those unable to pay their April and May rents for businesses and households will be able to postpone payments till June after which they will pay in six equal instalments.
- Turkish Cypriot Security Forces announce it has suspended all recruitment and mobilization exercises.
Coronavirus cases in the north reach 47, Pilli announcesYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Five new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the north on Wednesday following 61 PCR tests, bringing the total number of cases in the north to 47.
Some dailies failed to report the rise in numbers as the latest announcement was made after most of the newspapers went into print.
Two of the cases were reported on Wednesday morning while the remaining three late at night.
Panic gripped the north earlier in the day after suspicions were raised by infectious diseases expert Dr Zafer Erdoğmuş over an additional 38 more coronavirus cases involving staff and police stained at the hotel in Famagusta which had been on lockdown.
Pilli rejected claims by made Dr Erdoğmuş that 38 new cases had been confirmed, stating that samples had been sent to Nicosia for PCR testing which was a 100 per cent accurate.
He also announced in the early hours of Thursday that that none of seven police officers who had tested positive to coronavirus earlier in the day in tests carried out using rapid testing kits were positive.
Meanwhile, it was reported late on Wednesday the condition of the two German tourists with Covid-19, who were receiving treatment at the public hospital in Nicosia has worsened.
Reports said both patients had been placed on respirators.
Turkish Cypriot Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay said that the state had taken well care of the German tourists who were kept isolated at three hotels in Famagusta after several of their co-workers had tested positive for Covid-19.
In an interview to Euronews, Özersay argued that the north had acted as a true member of the international community by taking care of German tourists following the World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations and standards
Meanwhile, the Cyprus Turkish Security Force Command (GKK) announced on Wednesday that it has tested all its personnel for the coronavirus and that all results had come back negative.
In a statement issued, the GKK said all personnel underwent testing by army doctors and that all had tested negative for the virus.
Periodic testing will continue to take place, the statement read.
The GKK also announced that it was suspending all recruitment and mobilization exercises until further notice.
In another development, the Turkish Cypriot Education Ministry on Wednesday announced that schools will remain closed until the end of April.
Education Minister Nazım Çavuşoğlu said that children will continue with distance learning from homes.
Economic support package announcedYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
The cabinet in the north on Wednesday announced its anxiously awaited economic support package to minimize the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.
Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar read out the 33-point package, mainly made up of austerity measures designed to slash public sector salaries and payments.
Defending the measures, Tatar said that the country was going through extraordinary times and that extraordinary measures were required.
“The austerity measures to be introduced will generate ₺1.5bn (approx. €214m) for the economy,” he said.
Tatar stressed that everyone had an obligation to share the burden and responsibility of the crisis.
He pointed out the measures adopted earlier were necessary to ensure the public’s health and safety but inevitably came with a financial cost.
He admitted that the economic activity in the north had literally “hit the brakes” due the pandemic and that this would have consequences for everyone.
According to the measures, all public-sector salaries above ₺5,000 (approx. €714) will be slashed by 25 per cent cut for three months.
While no cuts will be made to salaries lower that ₺5,000 (approx. €714) public servants who receive a salary of ₺6,000 (approx. €857) and lower will only experience a 16 per cent cut.
It was also announced that the highest public-sector salary will not exceed ₺8,500 (approx. €1,215 approx.) and that the high ranking public and government officials such as the prime minister, ministers and MPs will see their salaries slashed up to as high as 56 per cent.
The salaries of public servants who have been carrying out essential or emergency services will not be touched.
The inflation based cost-of-living expenses increment given to public servants twice a year will also be frozen from March 2020 to June 2020.
Other austerity measures will include cutting down on or readjusting overtime payments and other additional state expenditures.
All state contributions made to public institutions, municipalities and political parties will also be slashed by 25 per cent on the condition to be paid at a future date.
To boost the private-sector Tatar announced that they will be allocating ₺750m (approx. €170m) to support the real sector.
The measures will also allow businesses which were forced to shut their establishments as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the option of postponing their rent to June on the condition they pay the overdue amount in instalments within six months.
Special loan and grant schemes will be made available for farmers and animal breeders to address any problems which may arise in production.
Among other steps, the state will cover the interest charged on bank loans owed by businesses which closed down due to the outbreak and which opt to postpone their instalment payments for three months.
Tatar also announced that legislation will be passed to allow banks to raise credit card limits for customers by 25 per cent without requiring proof of income and reducing the mandatory minimum payment amount.
Moreover, customers will be able to postpone by a month the payment of their credit cards used between March 26, 2020, and April 26, 2020, to purchase food and fuel or to cover health expenses without being charged any interest.
Furthermore, the state will be paying all Turkish Cypriot and Turkish employees of private establishments shut as part of coronavirus pandemic, a salary contribution of ₺1,500 (approx. €214) through the Employment Support Fund to ensure that the businesses continue to operate without having to lay-off employees.
Moreover, to ensure the sustainability of the businesses with up to ten staff members, the Employment Support Fund will also provide contributions towards loan payments for the businesses.
Taxes levied on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages will also be raised.
Withholding tax on interest on Turkish Lira income will be raised to 15 per cent, it was announced.
The businesses will also be given ten additional days to deposit their Social Security Department premiums for their staff.
The businesses, as Tatar announced, will be able to make the payments until March 30, 2020, without any interest charged for late payments.
A similar extension will also be granted for the Provident Fund payments until April 15, 2020.
Finally, among the measures directed at the businesses, the deadlines for various taxes such as the income tax, value-added tax (VAT), special communication tax, have been postponed to 31 March 2020 without imposing any interest for late-payments.
On the other hand, to assist the people with their economic strife, Tatar said the workers of closed down establishments could also opt to postpone their mandatory premium payments to the Social Security Department for the three months until next year without any fines or interest payments.
Those, who wish to continue to make regular premium payments, will also enjoy a ten per cent discount on their premiums.
A similar measure is also applicable for the Provident Fund contributions and those contributing to it can postpone their payments until the end of July.
He also said necessary mechanisms have been put in place for Provident Fund contributors to take their deposits back in a lump sum.
“Provident Fund contributors deciding to withdraw advances or partial withdrawal of their deposits, will not have to repay the money withdrawn immediately,” Tatar said.
The Turkish Cypriot Mayor of Nicosia Mehmet Harmancı was the first to react to the government’s economic package, arguing that the 25 per cent cut of state contributions would deal a heavy blow to the municipality and its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
He said that revenues had already dropped due to the measures in place.
“We spent ₺2m (approx.€282,000) in just two weeks. We also reconnected the water supply to 300 households which had been cut off due to unpaid bills,” he said.
BES, (The Nicosia Municipality Workers’ Union) also blasted the economic measures, claiming the government’s decision to exclude municipal workers who risked their lives so that public services continued, from the list of essential services which would not be subject to salary cuts.
Earlier in the day, the Economic Associations’ Platform said that the government needed to start paying ₺2000 (approx.€285) monthly to all the private sector employees registered with the Social Security Department and lower interest rates on loans to near-zero levels at the same time.
In a written statement described as a final warning to the government, the platform made up of 15 associations and chambers, demanded that the government must act swiftly to fulfil its responsibilities towards the public in line with the principles of social justice and equality.
Another threatening message was issued to the state by the Platform of Unions on Wednesday.
In a statement issued by the head of KTOEÖS (Turkish Cypriot Secondary School Teachers’ Union) Selma Eylem on behalf of the platform, a clear warning was issued to the government not to attempt to overcome the negative impact of the current crisis by slashing the salaries of teachers and public servants.
The Platform listed its conditions to support the package and said the government must carry out the planning process transparently and democratically, including representatives from the platform of unions as well.
“The current situation in the country calls for solidarity of all and the measures must also be applied across the board to all, not only to teachers and public servants,” the statement read.
The Platform also threatened to reject the economic support package if their list of demands were not met.
HÜR-İŞ (Turkish Cypriot Free Workers’ Unions’ Federation) Deputy President Ahmet Serdaroğlu also echoed the Platform of Unions’ concerns and warned the government not to exploit the current situation to prune the rights of workers and public servants.
Serdaroğlu said they wanted to see economic measures implemented from the top to the bottom whilst protecting lower-income groups.
He also said in addition to fairly implementing the measures, the government must also include utilities in their economic support package and reduce the unit price of electricity, water and telephone costs.
On the other hand, Kıbrıs Postası reports that the government has quietly increased the price stability fund percentages (FIF) for certain imported product groups in an attempt to create funds to support the economy.
As a result of an increase of the FIF percentage the prices of tobacco and tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, milk, dairy products, and processed meat have all gone up.
Speaking to Kıbrıs Postası on the issue, economist Okan Veli Şafaklı said the government had raised the percentages in an attempt to create additional funds for the economy but that the importers instead of reducing their profit margins, were reflecting the difference on the shelf prices of the imported goods.
“Therefore, the government has once again lowered the purchasing power of the people,” Şafaklı concluded.
However, in a separate decision announced on Wednesday, the government also decided to place 35 consumables under the list of “controlled goods” in line with the relevant law in force.
The government by doing so aims to protect the consumers and keep the retail prices of main consumables at reasonable levels.
The list of products includes sugar, rice, biscuits, vegetable and olive oil, salt, tea, milk, dairy products, poultry, lamb, beef, canned food, coffee, baby formula, pasta, seafood, and other main consumables.
DEV-İŞ launches initiative through PEO for TC workers in the southYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
DEV-İŞ (TC Federation of revolutionary workers’ unions) announced it has launched an initiative with PEO (Pancyprian Federation of Labour) for Turkish Cypriots employed in the south.
The statement was issued by DEV-İŞ on Wednesday in response to increasing demands made by workers employed in the south vis-a-vis the possible economic support package to be announced by the Turkish Cypriot officials.
The workers employed in the south, who named their collective action as the “South Labourers Committee”, outlined that even though the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) officials gave assurances that those registered with the social security department will not be left unemployed.
The majority of the Turkish Cypriots had not been a part of the labour system in the south.
The committee also laid out its demands from both sides and asked for the immediate establishment of a crisis desk that includes all trade unions to ensure the rights of the labour force.
The committee also asked the two sides to be in communication to start making unemployment payments swiftly to those registered with the social insurance and for the state in the north to start making payments to those who are not.
DEV-İŞ additionally, noted that it will inform the concerned regarding its contacts with PEO.
The Fatih anchors off the coast of MersinKıbrıs Postası
Energy, Regional/International Matters
The Fatih drillship has anchored near the Taşucu Port in Silifke, Mersin for supplies and refuelling, Kıbrıs Postası reports on Thursday.
The Turkish drillship, which operated in the eastern Mediterranean, will soon set sail to a new location.
The 229m long drillship Fatih can drill up to a depth of 12200 metres and can carry out drilling even in waters with waves up to six metres.