TCC Press Review 27 Mar 2020

Front Page Headlines

Yenidüzen

15,000 foreign workers abandoned to their fate

The Economic Support Package provides no assistance or social scheme for foreign nationals other than Turkish citizens. The government’s package has abandoned third-country nationals to their fate. The Minister of Labour and Social Security Faiz Sucuoğlu said that the number of workers from third countries in the past eight years reached 14,657 as of 2018. According to these figures, it is not known what the 15,000 or so foreign workers currently in the country will do.

  • Quarantine for three villages in Karpaz (Karpasia) – The villagers was in an uproar after three members from a family tested positive for Covid-19. Yenierenköy (Yialousa), Sipahi (Agia Trias) and Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) have been quarantined off. The villagers will be screened and those who came into contact with the family will be tested. The Mayor of Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) Suphi Çoşkun said the family of three had come into contact with 50 to 60 other people. Police announced that entry and exit from the villages will be carried out under police control.
  • Municipalities protest government decision to cut 25 per cent in state contributions: “We are on the streets working 7/24. We will stop work if necessary”
  • There is a demand but no plans for third flight – 300 Turkish Cypriot students and citizens who are in the UK for various reasons have been stranded.

Kıbrıs Postası

Ceased print/Online only

Kıbrıs

It is unfair and unjust

The government’s economic measures against the coronavirus generated big reactions. Experts speaking to Kıbrıs drew a very negative picture of what the measures will do to the country’s economy. No one is pleased with the economic measures as the bill for the crisis is going to be paid by the workers. All agree that the economic package should have covered all segments of life. Many also criticized the government’s decision not to include third-country nationals in the package. The Economic Organisations’ Platform threatened they will protest the government if the problems in the package are not corrected. KTAMS (Turkish Cypriot Public Servants’ Union) President Güven Bengihan argued the government’s decision to cut salaries violates the constitution. Economist Göksel Saydam argued the economic measures are in favour of the banks.

  • Corona in Karpaz (Karpasia) – Coronavirus spread to Karpaz (Karpasia) area. Entry and exits from Sipahi (Agia Trias), Yenierenköy (Yialousa) and Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) villages are under police control. Ten more TRNC citizens tested positive for coronavirus. There are now 25 TRNC citizens, one Turkmen, and two German nationals being treated. The new cases in Karpaz (Karpasia) caused panic. Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said strict measures were being implemented in the three villages after it emerged that a tour-bus driver taking German tourists to the Karpaz (Karpasia) villages had been infected with the coronavirus. The entry and exit into three villages are now controlled by the police.
  • Municipalities are concerned – The government’s decision to cut 25 per cent of the state subsidies given to the municipalities as part of the economic measures package has put the local administrations into a bigger economic deadlock. Nicosia Turkish Municipality Mayor Mehmet Harmancı said the government’s decision will hurt the municipality’s struggle against coronavirus.

Havadis

Do we need to die for a state-of-emergency to be declared?

News of confirmed Covid-19 cases from the Karpaz (Karpasia) region has caused panic. More than 100 people believed to have come into contact with coronavirus positive cases have been tested. Entry and exit to the region have been closed and the three villages have been put under quarantine. Yenierenköy (Yialousa) Mayor Emrah Yeşilırmak confirmed positive cases among the 106 people tested. He claimed there are four positive cases in Sipahi (Agia Trias); one in Yenierenköy (Yialousa) and five in Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso). Mayor of Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) Suphi Coşkun claimed a family of five has tested positive for coronavirus and 60 people in contact with the family have been identified.

  • Lacking social justice – President Mustafa Akıncı evaluated the government’s economic measures package. Akıncı said the economic package caused outrage almost in all segments of society in the north. He said the economic package failed to meet the expectations of the people and it does not reflect social justice, which is the primary requirement for ensuring communal solidarity.
  • Outraged at the government – Civil society organisations, trade unions and economic organisations slammed the government’s economic measures package.
  • Covid-19 alarm in the prison – A prisoner was tested after he had a fever. Until the results are announced, all entry and exit from the prison have been stopped. 
  • Lapta (Lapithos) is concerned – People are concerned about quarantine in the Lapta (Lapithos) region where there is one positive case.
  • 37 people are in a suspicious situation – Dr Özlem Gürkut, speaking on Havadis web TV explained the difference between ‘rapid tests’ and ‘PCR tests’.
  • Latest situation: North 57 cases zero deaths; South 146 cases three deaths; Turkey 3629 cases 75 deaths.

Diyalog

The second package will arrive

Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said that he has given the banks necessary instructions to lower the interest rates. He said that the state’s revenues had dropped from ₺500m (€70m) to ₺200m (€28.2m). He said that revenues were low and problems big. He also said that contacts with Turkey were continuing for additional funds.

  • Protest warning – Economic organisations give the government a deadline to address injustices in the economic measures package.
  • Entries and exists carried out under controls –Yenierenköy (Yialousa), Sipahi (Agia Trias) and Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) under police control due to coronavirus outbreak.
  • 10 new cases in the TRNC: Figures reach 57
  • A total of 146: 14 new cases in the south
  • Loss of life 57: Coronavirus cases Turkey jumps to 3692 with an 1196 increase

Afrika

Corona tries Karpaz (Karpasia)

Entry and exit to Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso), Sipahi (Agia Trias) and Yenierenköy (Yialousa) are now being carried out under controls. It was first announced that three villages were quarantined but the reports were later denied. According to a police statement, the villages of Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso), Sipahi (Agia Trias) and Yenierenköy (Yialousa) will be carried out under police control, there is no quarantine or lock-down and that the needs of the people in the area, even for those with special permits, will be met locally. 

  • KTBK (Turkish Forces in Cyprus) take measures – KTBK command says coordination centre created to contain the spread of coronavirus. All passes and leaves have been cancelled for the public’s safety. Entrance to all military compounds and facilities for civilians restricted. 
  • Akıncı reacts to the government’s support package – Akıncı: Measures announced in many countries aim at calming and reassuring the public, contain provisions to support and create confidence. The package the government has announced unfortunately has had the opposite effect.
  • 582 tests in the north, 4000 in the south! – Nine new cases confirmed in the north, 14 in the south. While the total figures in the north have reached 56, the total figure has reached 146. The total number of cases on the island has reached 202.

Main News

Ten new cases confirmed in the north, partial quarantine in Karpas (Karpasia)

Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Internal Security

OVERVIEW

Ten new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the north on Thursday bringing the tally to 57.

The latest case, detected in Lapta (Lapithos) was confirmed after most of the dailies went into print.

Earlier in the day, more than 80 people were tested in Yenierenköy (Yialousa) following two confirmed cases from the village.

Mayor Emrah Yeşilırmak, in a social media post, said he had coordinated with the health ministry to carry out the tests given the possibility of infection through contact. 

He also urged the people to obey the partial curfew and to stay home.

Online media outlets were rocked later on Thursday evening following a social media post by Sipahi (Agia Trias) mukhtar Göksal Hacıhasanoğlu (Agias Trias) claiming that the three Karpaz (Karpasia) villages of Yenierenköy (Yialousa), Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) and Sipahi (Agias Trias) had been quarantined off and locked-down completely following several confirmed cases of coronavirus.

The reports were later denied by police which issued a statement saying the villages were not quarantined off and there was no total lock-down.

The police statement, however, said that entry and exit into the area would be subject to police controls.

It said that the needs of the area’s inhabitants would be met locally and that only people who worked in the area or had urgent needs would be allowed to enter.

Other cases were confirmed in Sipahi (Agia Trias) and Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) on Thursday but no details or exact figures were provided.

In the meantime, the Health Ministry announced the decisions adopted by the Covid-19 Coordination Board, which is made up of doctors from the health ministry and the Turkish Cypriot Doctors’ Association.

In this regard, the neurology, urology, pulmonology, and infectious diseases wards at the Dr Burhan Nalbantoğlu Hospital in Nicosia will be used as quarantine wards.

In the event these wards are filled with patients, the otorhinolaryngology ward and the orthopaedics and traumatology wards will be put into service. 

The Covid-19 Coordination Board also appointed which type of expertise was required in the quarantine services as well as how and which medical equipment will be allocated for coronavirus treatment.

Finally, the board also recommended the establishment of the team to identify to trace people who came into contact with coronavirus positive patients.

On the other hand, the police announced a new set of WhatsApp numbers for people seeking permission to leave their homes for purposes other than those permitted under the ban on movement.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the police warned the people again to comply with the rules of the partial curfew and not to leave their homes if it is not an emergency.

Police on Thursday booked 13 people for violating the ban on movement.


Economic support package draws fire, Tatar defends measures

Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Economy

OVERVIEW

The government on Thursday was bombarded by criticism from various sectors on the economic austerity package it announced a day earlier.

“This is a destruction package,” Republican Turkish Party (CTP) MP Fikri Toros warned on Thursday in his initial reaction to the package.

In a post on social media, he argued that the economic package was inadequate, poorly drafted and not structured in a way to cope with the market’s supply-demand needs.

“The government instead should have pumped fresh blood into the market and to ensure the continuation of the economic activities while protecting the lower-income groups,” Toros said.

He argued to the contrary, the government’s package which includes slashing public-sector salaries will only lower the purchasing power of the people. 

“The key to successfully managing the economic crisis and mitigate its socio-economic effects lies in strengthening the private sector while protecting the lower-income groups, not by making everyone poorer,” Toros concluded.

The leader of the main opposition CTP Tufan Erhürman on Thursday said that he was not entirely opposed to the economic support package announced by the government.

He, however, added that the package had its shortcomings and faults.

Speaking on a programme on Bayrak, Erhürman said that the package should have been prepared through the eyes of an economist and not a finance expert.

“The package should have addressed the higher education and tourism sectors as well,” he said, arguing that the package was focused on ensuring the payment of public-sector salaries rather than adopting a more comprehensive approach.

Erhürman pointed out that suspending all economic activity had its consequences.

“A lot of businesses have started laying off workers. Our top priority should have been to prevent this from happening. The way to address this issue is by creating meaningful support to both employees and businesses,” he added.

Erhürman added that the economic package should have been designed in a way to cover the workforce in general.

He criticized the government for excluding nationals from third-countries from the support package, adding that the state needed to provide support to these people as well.

“I’m not saying the package is wrong in its entirety. We need to create new funds. We need to continue this economy,” he said.

The CTP leader also said it was to manage the process in an orderly fashion from a single coordination point.

“The announcements concerning the number of confirmed cases numbers need to be made clearer. People want to trust the system and you shouldn’t leave any unanswered questions in peoples’ minds,” he said.

Rebirth Party (YDP) leader Erhan Arıklı also blasted the economic austerity package arguing that the government fell short of meeting the people’s expectations.

“Even though it is time to take from the rich to give to the poor, the government got scared of touching the wealthy,” Arıklı claimed, adding that the package will cause chaos in the community.

He noted that the austerity package consists of nothing more than salary cuts and postponements.

Arıklı also argued that the government failed to fulfil its responsibility to be transparent and fair.

“What needs to be done is to establish a board made up of experts to manage the crisis at hand, to plan and implement short, medium and long term economic measures,” Arıklı concluded.

Fikri Ataoğlu, leader of the Democratic Party (DP) on Thursday said the economic austerity package will only propel bigger social problems and a deeper economic crisis.

In a written statement, Ataoğlu said what the government announced as an economic package was nothing but a series of austerity measures.

“Our expectation from the government was to announce measures that will resuscitate life back into the shrinking economy in the north,” Ataoğlu stressed.

He also accused the government of tiptoeing around the issue of banks or the issue of exorbitant interest rates.

“It is necessary for the government to implement a long term economic plan instead of presenting us with inadequate measures such as the announced Wednesday evening. The DP will always be ready to contribute to it,” Ataoğlu concluded.

United Cyprus Party (BKP) leader İzzet İzcan accused the government of trying to place the burden of the economic crisis on the shoulders of the working class.

“It is unacceptable to see the government not touching the casino owners, who built their fortunes on Greek Cypriot properties; not touching the banks who will become richer with compound interest and not touching on the GSM operators as well as other wealthy business owners during this economic crisis but instead cutting the salaries of the workers and civil servants,” İzcan said.

The Economic Organisations’ Platform, made up of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Industry, the Turkish Cypriot Hoteliers’ Association and the Turkish Cypriot Tourism and Travel Agents’ Association, warned that they will be taking industrial action unless the Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar addressed the injustices in the package.

The platform gave Tatar until Monday to revise the measures.

It said that the government must introduce fairer conditions both in terms of salaries and contributions.

HTKS (Air-traffic controllers’ union) argued that the government did not touch on the wealthy at all in its economic package on Thursday.

In a written statement issued, Cem Kapısız, head of the HTKS added that the government did not surprise anyone by trying to stick the cost of the economic crisis to the working class.

KAR-İŞ (Public transportation operators’ association) claimed the economic austerity package means nothing but to leave the private sector on its own.

“The package will drive the private sector and the workers into chaos and to darker days. Moreover, it is utterly embarrassing for the state to disregard the rights of the third-country nationals working in the north,” Zekai Gece, board member of KAR- İŞ said in a statement issued on Thursday.

TÜRK-SEN (Turkish Cypriot Federation of Trade Unions) also rejected the economic austerity package.

In a statement issued, TÜRK-SEN argued the government failed to equally distribute the burden of the economic difficulties on all the sectors.

“The banks and the bigger companies have not been touched at all by the economic package while the government is making the public workers pay the bill of the economic crisis,’ TÜRK-SEN said.

Turkish Cypriot Building Contractors’ Association (KTTB) joined the chorus of critics on Thursday harshly criticising the government regarding the economic austerity package announced.

In a written statement, the contractor companies insisted that the state must pay at least ₺2000 (€238) monthly for every idle worker and that the social premium payments must be revoked rather than being postponed.

Alsancak (Karavas) Mayor Fırat Ataser, who had been in the headlines for objecting to the idea of the Turkish Cypriot students from the UK being quarantined in a hotel in the village, argued the municipalities will collapse as a result of the 25 per cent cut from the state contributions.

“The decision, which was adopted without consulting any of the municipalities will lead to chaos,” Ataser argued, adding that the solution to economic problems cannot be addressed by cutting the lifeline of municipalities which work the hardest against the coronavirus pandemic.

On the other hand, the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights’ Foundation and the Bağımsızlık Yolu (Road to Independence) criticized the government for “leaving out third-nationals from its monthly support scheme towards workers in the private sector” in separate statements issued on Thursday.

The human rights foundation said excluding the third-nationals from the package was a blatant violation of human rights.”

The Bağımsızlık Yolu (Road to Independence) pointed out that the coronavirus did not discriminate based on ethnicity.

“The government must be fair and equal to all including the disadvantageous groups without further delay,” the Bağımsızlık Yolu (Road to Independence) concluded.

President Mustafa Akıncı on Thursday said that communal solidarity can only be achieved based on social justice, referring to the criticisms made towards the package from all segments of the Turkish Cypriots.

In a statement issued on Thursday, he said that measures announced by many different countries were aimed at providing the public with reassurance and financial support.

“The package announced by the government has unfortunately created the opposite effect,” Akıncı said.

He added among other things, the economic measures failed to reflect the spirit of social justice.

“The government’s failure to offer clear, concrete statements based on data, regarding the implementation of the measures has shaken the public’s confidence in the economic package,” he added.

Akıncı, while welcoming the decision to cut higher percentages from salaries of high-level government bureaucrats and officials, argued that the ambiguity regarding how the calculations were made and how the money deducted from public-sector salaries will be used was one of the leading shortcomings of the package.

“The fact that the package does not envisage cuts from higher income groups in the private sector has also harmed the sense of social justice,” Akıncı concluded.

Economy Advisor to President Mustafa Akıncı, Prof Dr Ömer Gökçekuş also slammed the government’s economic austerity package.

In a statement issued from Akıncı’s office on Thursday, Gökçekuş described the government’s package as far from being satisfactory.

Gökçekuş summarizing the package’s shortcomings in eight points said it first failed to clearly state how the funds created through pay cuts would be spent on the affected groups.

“The package moreover did not include a clear action plan on how the funds will be utilised contrary to pumping money into the market including the workers, which is regarded as the main principle in overcoming any crisis,” Gökçekuş noted.

Secondly, Gökçekuş argued that even if the ₺1.5bn (€212m) were to be accepted as the correct figure, it was a weak projection in terms of its volume in ratio to the GDP (gross domestic product) and was far from creating confidence among both employees and employers towards the government

Welcoming on the decision to provide monthly salary contributions to the affected groups, Gökçekuş said the amount given per worker was too little.

He gave the example of the British government which has agreed to pay up to 80 per cent of the salaries for the affected groups.

“It would be more advisable for the employee to file for unemployment welfare rather than continuing to work with the government’s contribution,” Gökçekuş said.

He also harshly criticised the government’s decision to leave the third-country nationals out of the monthly contribution scheme and warned that it might lead to a new set of social problems.

Gökçekuş explained that the basis for inclusion workers in the monthly support scheme should have been based on registration with the social security department rather than ethnicity.

“It is just not possible to comprehend the 25 per cent cut from the local administrations, which since the beginning of the crisis have intensified their services to the public,” Gökçekuş stressed.

He also expressed that the view the government should have intervened in the bank’s interest rate policies at times of crisis.

“However, it constitutes a conflict when the government can easily cut public servants’ salaries and chooses not to adjust banks’ policies,” Gökçekuş noted.

As the final point, Gökçekuş also criticised the government’s decision not to ask the higher income groups to contribute.

“The government failed to comply with the social justice principle, which is also a constitutional article,” Gökçekuş said.

 “It is vital to adopt extraordinary measures at extraordinary times,” he added, listing various recommendations on what the government should have done to assist the people and the businesses said

He said measures like cash transfers, payment support schemes, tax reductions and ease of payment, postponement of social security premiums, unemployment insurance for those who lose their jobs, the extension of social welfare assistance duration, state contributions to private-sector workers for unpaid days, lower interest rate bank loans with state guarantees for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to assist them to overcome their liquidity problems, extensions on payment deadlines, freezing of some of the consumer, car, home loans including credit card bills, ensuring of continuation of utilities such as water and electricity for those who are not able to pay, lowering interest rates, establishing a team of experts to intervene at times of social and psychological trauma, and establishing a hotline for the most disadvantaged groups like those dependent on social welfare were some of the measures that could have been taken.

Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar on Thursday hit back at criticisms reassuring the public that the government was on top of things.

Defending the measures in place in a special programme on Bayrak, Tatar said that the north had been forced to shut its borders in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

This, he added, had come with a price in terms of the economy.

Tatar, also defended the government’s economic package, stating that the only option was to exercise austerity in face of the reality that the state’s revenues were extremely limited.

“We have no choice but to be strict in terms of financial resources,” he added.

Responding to criticisms about the package’s shortcomings in terms of the private sector, Tatar said that he did not have the power to assert control over the private sector but that he had done his best in terms of trying to maintain social and economic justice.

“The salary contribution we are offering aims at supporting businesses who have had to shut down as part of the measures so as not to lay off their employees or workers,” he said.

Tatar expressed optimism that the situation will gradually return to normal in the coming months.

He said that the state couldn’t meet the demands of all segments of the country.

“Our priority is the public’s health and I believe we have been relatively been successful in containing the spread of the virus. We are doing all we can to the best of our capabilities,” he noted.

Tatar also criticized Akıncı for his latest remarks, accusing him of trying to create a parallel structure, undermining the government’s activities and decisions.

He said that all of the economic measures would be legal and subject to the approval of parliament.

Tatar, responding to questions, said that the measures were aimed at minimizing the amount of money which the government might need to borrow as well as protecting all sectors of the economy, not just specific sectors.

Asked whether the government was planning to revise the measures announced, Tatar said that he hoped that they will see start seeing fewer coronavirus cases as of mid-April.

“Once we achieve a stable environment with fewer cases, we shall evaluate the situation. However, we are expecting a global recession and no doubt North Cyprus will experience the effects of the recession. But I have hope since we are a small country and we may not bounce back completely but things will steadily improve,” he added.

Tatar said that he stood by the measures adopted by the government.

On the issue of nationals from third-countries, Tatar said he sympathized with their situation but said the primary responsibility of these people belonged to their employers who had invited them to work in the country.

He argued that most of these third-country nationals had left the country, not ruling out the possibility of providing state support to those who remained.

“We shall see how many remain in the country but we need to look at the figures. This is not about whether we want to do something or not but about how much money we have. We are neither racist or discriminatory. But our economy has shrunk and we just don’t have the resources or means to sustain everyone,” Tatar said.

He expressed his belief that the wheels of the economy would start turning again in a couple of months.

“Perhaps then the current atmosphere of uncertainty will end and we can plan for the future. For the time being my priority is maintaining what we have…keeping our local economy running,” Tatar added.


Applications to the IPC postponed indefinitely

Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Property, Territory

OVERVIEW

The applications to the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) have been postponed indefinitely, the dailies report on Friday.

Ayfer Said Erkmen, president of the IPC in a brief statement given to the Turkish Cypriot news agency (TAK), said the IPC has decided to postpone receiving applications in line with the partial curfew imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.  

Erkmen noted the IPC will announce when it will resume its duties and when it starts to accept applications again.