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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Eat less and walk more, Cyprus told ]

Eat less and walk more, Cyprus told

PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias yesterday urged Cypriots to tighten their belts, use less petrol and cut out overeating as a small step towards coping with rising prices and the leaner times ahead.

“Answer honestly,” said Christofias during a televised news conference marking 120 days in office. “Do we hold back? Do we buy only what is necessary or do we waste a lot and throw things away?”

The rotund President said he himself was not guiltless and only the night before had left four or five uneaten plates of food after a meal with friends at a restaurant.

"I think each one of us has the ability to save more,” he said.

“I will make an appeal. One of the biggest expenses we have is filling our petrol tanks. I’m not saying not to use our cars but to think whether a family really needs three and four cars, or if it’s necessary to go to Ledra Street and leave the car at the entrance to Ledra Street.”

Christofias admitted there was an issue of inadequate public transport but said this was being resolved.

He said when the public was having problems such as the current credit squeeze, they turned to the government. The government had a responsibility to help “but we also have to lend a helping hand ourselves,” he said.

He said state finances were not inexhaustible and that the state also had expenditure, and while the country was facing the phenomenon of profiteering and expensiveness, as many measures as the government took would be inadequate and insufficient due to the free market economy.

“I always said the government should have more control and set a ceiling on the price of basic goods,” said Christofias. “I wish I could lower the price of milk.”

Despite the twin blows of global fuel and food rises, the Cyprus economy was doing well, Christofias said.

He said the government might have a different view than the Governor of the Central Bank in how to handle the economy but he denied there were any plans to sell off gold reserves to fund social spending.

But in a hypothetical situation: “If something like this was ever to take place” the proceeds would be used to reduce the public deficit.

“The uncontrolled free market is the cause of many anomalies, not only in Cyprus”. He used the recent chaos at Larnaca airport as an example of what came with privatisation, saying AKEL had opposed it. ‘The facts are now before us,” he said. “This is the outcome unfortunately.”

With regard to the drought, Christofias said people must begin to realise that this was going to be a permanent problem, not a transient one and was a real threat to the economy.

He fended off criticism over drilling for reserves saying: “If we are thirsty at the end of the day, are we not going to use it”.

Among the other societial issues he mentioned was drug abuse, the roots of which he said lay in many areas such as the crisis in society’s values, as well as poverty and misery, which caused some sections of the population to become marginalised.

Christofias said the poverty rate in Cyprus was 8.0 per cent compared to 20 per cent on average in the EU, and 40 per cent in Greece.

“Our goal is to eradicate poverty from our country,” he said.

Commenting on criticisms over some actions by police officers he put it down to a few bad apples, saying it was not the role of the police to act as bullies. At the same time, he said some members of the public did not respect the law either.

Christofias also said people should not become overexcited about everything they see and hear in the media. “If I take everything the media says seriously, I would be looking for a trench to hide,” he said. “There are problems and we are struggling to solve those problems.”

Among other things, according to the President, the new government has during the past 120 days:

l Paid out extra benefits to pensioners

l Overseen the importation of water from Greece

l Increased inspectors for price checks

l Bolstered the Protection of Competition Committee

l Launched a housing scheme for refugees and young couples

l Is mulling possible EU-approved grants for farmers hit by the drought

l Is in the process of collecting unpaid taxes that will boost state coffers, and provide cash for social policies

l Plans to dispose of €18 million from the EU structural fund for the creation of a pioneering solar-powered desalination unit

l Organised a meeting of Permanent Secretaries to discuss streamlining state mechanisms

l Solving the long-standing problem of the future viability of the social security fund

l Has completed a study on the reduction of military service to 19 months

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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