LI­MAS­SOL PORT: On track with pri­vati­sa­tion of ser­vices

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

achieve that to do it more ef­fi­ciently and more ef­fec­tively, we need it to op­er­ate not as a depart­ment of a min­istry, but as an ad­min­is­tra­tion or as an agency, and this is what they do abroad.

“Re­gard­ing the Deputy Min­is­ter (for Ship­ping), have in mind that the only coun­try that has this con­cept is Greece. In all the other coun­tries it is un­der the Min­istry of Trans­port, but what they do have is more flex­i­bil­ity, ei­ther as an agency or an ad­min­is­tra­tion. We need to give the nec­es­sary flex­i­bil­ity to the depart­ment to have a dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity, to be more fo­cused on the devel­op­ment, to be more flex­i­ble in serv­ing the needs of the ship own­ers and the ship­ping sec­tor, which they are do­ing very suc­cess­fully, just as in coun­tries like Malta, the U.K. and Ire­land. In Greece, they have the Deputy Min­is­ter, but that of­fice is also re­spon­si­ble for the ports and the coast­line, so we are talk­ing about an en­tirely dif­fer­ent thing.

What I have in­cluded in the guide­lines of the peo­ple do­ing the re­struc­tur­ing study is for the Depart­ment to be more in­de­pen­dent, to be more flex­i­ble. I have al­ready dis­cussed this with the in­dus­try as well, and I will have fur­ther meet­ings with them. So, we are al­ready act­ing on it.

“Re­gard­ing the short term, we are also in­tro­duc­ing a num­ber of mea­sures, in­clud­ing a more pro­fes­sional way to pro­mote ship­ping, us­ing for ex­am­ple a spe­cial­ist com­pany, strength­en­ing re­gional of­fices. We don’t need any more in­spec­tors, what we need is ad­di­tional peo­ple for busi­ness devel­op­ment. In­tro­duc­ing a pack­age for com­pa­nies that would like to set­tle in Cyprus, within the ship­ping sec­tor, bring­ing in the pri­vate sec­tor in pro­mot­ing our flag, and also some op­er­at­ing im­prove­ments that will give more ser­vice our clients, the ship own­ers.

“One of the first things I did, was to bring the pri­vate and public sec­tor to­gether. And we came up with this EY study, whom we brought in through a ten­der. This is a study fi­nanced by the gov­ern­ment, by CIPA, and I would like to thank its chair­man, Christodou­los An­gas­tin­i­o­tis per­son­ally. Some of th­ese ideas are in­cluded in my pro­pos­als to the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters.

“I have tasked a steer­ing com­mit­tee to come up within three months with a pack­age that we could of­fer to com­pa­nies will­ing to set­tle in Cyprus within the mar­itime sec­tor. I do be­lieve that we need to at­tract as many com­pa­nies as pos­si­ble to the is­land, be­cause in this way of course we are pro­mot­ing em­ploy­ment, and hav­ing a real im­pact on the econ­omy.

“Of course in Malta they have a much big­ger num­ber of ships reg­is­tered un­der their flag, and Greece of course, but they don’t have the big clus­ter (in Malta), whereas we do, and we need to en­large that clus­ter as much as pos­si­ble. In Greece they have about 200,000 peo­ple em­ployed in their mar­itime clus­ter, whereas we have 4-4,500. There is po­ten­tial for growth in our clus­ter, def­i­nitely.

“I have asked for some ad­di­tional in­cluded in the study and asked EY in­for­ma­tion to be to not only do a com­par­i­son of the ship­ping sec­tor with other cen­tres, but also to come up with what spe­cific in­cen­tives pro­vided to com­pa­nies within the mar­itime sec­tor, and give this to the steer­ing com­mit­tee.

“The ship­ping sec­tor is vi­tal to the econ­omy. It had a large growth in the first years and it has been sta­ble in the last years. We need to know the real rea­sons and not to come up with things that we don’t re­ally un­der­stand. We have to be hon­est with our­selves. There’s no magic so­lu­tion for ship­ping. It will be a slow and painful process, but we can def­i­nitely do more things to pro­mote ship­ping. And we def­i­nitely want ship­ping to be a big­ger part of our GDP. And we can do that. I’m very op­ti­mistic, oth­er­wise, I would not spend so much time on ship­ping.

“Our tax sys­tem is a very at­trac­tive one, it is ap­proved by the Euro­pean Union, and we will not see any changes. And this is what com­pa­nies need, they need sta­bil­ity. The tax­a­tion is very good, but they need other in­cen­tives. I don’t want to pre­de­ter­mine the pack­age, but I’m talk­ing about get­ting eas­ily work per­mits, for ex­am­ple the one-stop-shop should be a ma­jor part of this pack­age.

“For the pack­age for com­pa­nies, I have called a meet­ing in April with the pri­vate sec­tor, I will give the EY re­port, and I will tell them come up with a spe­cific pack­age within three months, I want to have it be­fore the end of the sum­mer so that we can im­ple­ment it.

“For ex­am­ple, AC Nielsen had two ma­jor cen­tres in Europe – one in Geneva and one in Ox­ford. One of the rea­son they went to Geneva was that they were of­fer­ing lower tax­a­tion for the man­agers of the com­pany. It was part of the pack­age. It was not spe­cific to the com­pany. For ex­am­ple, I would like to see more ship own­ers and man­agers based in Cyprus.”

“We are pro­ceed­ing with the pri­vati­sa­tion of ser­vices at Li­mas­sol port and we are on track. We have Roth­schild as fi­nan­cial con­sul­tants and con­cluded with the legal con­sul­tants. By the end of April we will go for ten­ders, by the end of the year to def­i­nitely find in­vestors, maybe this will take up to the end of March (2016) to sign all the con­tracts and com­plete all the pa­per­work. But we should more or less fin­ish by the end of the year or be­gin­ning of the next.

“There is in­ter­est for the port, let’s wait and see how it will ma­te­ri­alise. I am op­ti­mistic.

“In the case of Lar­naca, if ev­ery­thing goes well, in the sum­mer they will start work­ing in the port. There was a prob­lem with the fund­ing, now I think Zenon joint ven­ture is work­ing on this. As re­gards the claim that the op­er­a­tor was al­ready cash­ing in on port fees and rev­enues, we in­volved the au­di­tor gen­eral to make sure the con­tract would sat­isfy the orig­i­nal terms, and there would not be any de­vi­a­tion. It is our job to make sure the in­ter­est of the Cyprus Repub­lic are pro­tected.

“But what I will say to the unions, be­cause they have been on strike and no­body knows why, that ev­ery­day we have strike at the port we lose 1 mln eu­ros in in­come for the econ­omy, so they should be very care­ful when they stage their strikes. I had sev­eral meet­ings with them, I as­sured them that their ba­sic rights would be pro­tected. The right of strike should be utilised, but in the ports and ship­ping sec­tor, they should be three and four time care­ful be­fore go­ing on strike.

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