New strat­egy needed for SMEs

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

A re­cent re­port by the ac­coun­tants’ body ACCA has con­firmed what we and other so­ci­ety-based or­gan­i­sa­tions have been say­ing all along – there is NO na­tional strat­egy when it comes to the cru­cial sec­tor of small to medium-sized en­ter­prises (SMEs).

It’s bad enough that the govern­ment is drag­ging its feet on de­vis­ing a new model for the shriv­eled bank­ing sec­tor, there’s no de­ci­sion on cre­at­ing up to six deputy cab­i­net posts to lessen the bur­den on some min­is­ters, and it is to­tally con­fused on a fu­ture vi­sion for en­ergy mat­ters. The SMEs should have been the eas­i­est to deal with as all these em­ploy­ers of up to 50 staff want are in­cen­tives and a small push to keep their businesses alive.

This will al­low them to main­tain pro­duc­tion, re­tain work­ers and re­vive the long lost com­pet­i­tive­ness of the Cyprus econ­omy.

Politi­cians of­ten pan­der to the SMEs be­cause this sec­tor rep­re­sents the mid­dle class (or what’s left of it) of busi­ness­peo­ple and tax­pay­ers, who also dou­ble up as the main bread-and-but­ter con­trib­u­tors to party cof­fers. Well-paid civil ser­vants and bank em­ploy­ees are of­ten ap­a­thetic to pol­i­tics and hardly ever get in­volved in pol­i­tics, un­less if it con­cerns the ap­point­ment of a rel­a­tive, or a grant or even re­lax­ation on a per­mit.

The two main em­ployer groups, too, have kept a moth-eaten opin­ion of who their ideal mem­bers should be, with both OEV and KEVE car­ing more about the hand­ful of mega-in­dus­tri­al­ists and hotelchain oper­a­tors than the start-ups of young bright minds with a sell­able project or own­ers of small, yet sus­tain­able businesses in eco-tourism, hand­i­crafts and niche ser­vices or in­dus­tries.

The only way for the ‘Cyprus’ brand to make a come­back on the in­ter­na­tional scene is for SMEs to be com­pet­i­tive enough to chal­lenge their like-sized or even larger ri­vals broad, pri­mar­ily within the EU, east­ern Europe and the Mid­dle East, where Cypri­ots still en­joy a good rep­u­ta­tion as be­ing re­li­able, hon­est and busi­nesslike.

But if the govern­ment does not pro­vide the fod­der for these small businesses to stand up on their own two feet again, ei­ther through eas­ier fund­ing or via a less-rigid govern­ment ma­chine, the SME sec­tor will be wiped out for good, any bright minds will be­come vic­tims of a new cy­cle of ‘brain drain’ and the Cyprus econ­omy will be dom­i­nated by a hand­ful of mega­op­er­a­tors who, in turn, will be hostage to the whims of their in­ter­na­tional sup­pli­ers or buy­ers.

For once, dear politi­cians, will you lis­ten to the des­per­ate pleas of the SMEs?

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