Keep up with the in­cen­tives, Mr. Pres­i­dent

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The whole prop­erty and con­struc­tion sec­tor has been fol­low­ing the pro­pos­als by Pres­i­dent Ni­cos An­stasi­ades to adopt on a per­ma­nent ba­sis a set of de­vel­op­ment in­cen­tives which he de­clared in May, 2013.

At the same time, we con­tinue to mon­i­tor the per­ma­nent re­jec­tion­ists (in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Tech­ni­cal Cham­ber ETEK) who do not em­brace the Pres­i­dent’s in­cen­tives, giv­ing var­i­ous ex­cuses, which seem child­ish to those of us who deakl with ev­ery stage of the con­struc­tion in­dus­try and see un­em­ploy­ment lev­els soar­ing, par­tic­u­larly among young tech­ni­cians.

There is a per­cep­tion among some that the area of ??Cyprus is about that of Aus­tralia, with enough land left over for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. This is why we have a flimsy ur­ban pol­icy in­her­ited from pre­vi­ous tech­nocrats, with low build­ing co­ef­fi­cients, min­i­mal heights and in the end we waste what­ever land is left. The fu­ture strat­egy and poli­cies for ur­ban ar­eas need a rad­i­cal re­struc­ture from the be­gin­ning, and not a patch up job that causes dis­tor­tions, while the per­ma­nent adop­tion of some new in­cen­tives is a start.

The Pres­i­dent should go ahead with his in­cen­tives, and ig­nore the build­ing fac­tor pre­cious land, which in coastal ar­eas is 20% and in other re­gions 15%. This is why we have mil­i­tary-style de­vel­op­ment that look like bar­racks from Pro­taras to Latchi serv­ing the rich for­eign buy­ers, while the rest of us lo­cals are lim­ited to non-coastal ar­eas. These are de­vel­op­ments that the Pres­i­dent and the Min­is­ter of In­te­rior should visit to see first hand the mon­strous mis­takes of the past. The co­ef­fi­cient for con­struc­tion and the height lim­i­ta­tion on build­ings should be rel­e­vant to the value of land and in­stead of look­ing like army-style camps, wouldn’t it be bet­ter for the build­ing fac­tor to in­crease to lev­els of 100% or 150% in coastal ar­eas and ur­ban pe­riph­eries, al­ways main­tain­ing a level that could be in­creased if nec­es­sary in the fu­ture?

The greatly re­spected ur­ban plan­ner An­ge­los Demetriou, who was hired by Par­al­imni mu­nic­i­pal­ity, re­cently pro­posed that in Pro­taras projects be al­lowed to rise to 6-8 floors, or more, with a co­ef­fi­cient of 150% and tall build­ings where all units of­fer views to the sea and have large open spa­ces around, both for land­scap­ing and play­grounds, park­ing spa­ces and green spa­ces. But no­body lis­tened to him. Not only that, some even re­torted that Pro­taras would be trans­formed into “Mi­ami Beach”. As a re­sult of these con­ser­va­tive views, Pro­taras re­mained with a build­ing fac­tor of 45 which was not only not in­creased, but the new pol­icy is to re­duce it to 30% for hous­ing units. But with coastal land val­ues in the re­gion in the re­gion of 300 eu­ros per sq.m., is an in­crease in the co­ef­fi­cient not jus­ti­fied? For ho­tels, should the build­ing fac­tor not be at least 200% and for residential pur­poses 60-100%? Some of the “lu­mi­nar­ies” in charge of ur­ban plan­ning are afraid that the coastal ar­eas will not with­stand the al­leged over­pop­u­la­tion. Is this, then, the rea­son why Latchi and Lar­naca sre still stuck with a co­ef­fi­cient of 15-20% and con­tinue to suf­fer from non­de­vel­op­ment?

Pres­i­dent Anas­tasi­ades should pro­ceed with the in­cen­tives and re­forms, be­cause past mis­takes must be avoided. Al­ready, the orig­i­nal 10% co­ef­fi­cient for golf cour­ses has been raised to 15%, while the see the orig­i­nal build­ing fac­tor of 20% for mari­nas was hiked to 160%. The prob­lem with the Gov­ern­men­tal Com­mit­tee on the En­vi­ron­ment and the En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sioner (re­mem­ber the Limni pro­ject that was cleaned and trans­formed from a toxic land­fill into a re­sort) is that the huge de­lays and ob­sta­cles laid by the Coun­cil for re­lax­ations is driv­ing away for­eign in­vestors.

The wider ur­ban pol­icy should be guided by the wel­fare of the cit­i­zens, job cre­ation and lo­cal de­vel­op­ment. This is what the Euro­pean Court de­cided when it ruled in favour of the Gov­ern­ment of Hungary, that wanted to al­low the ex­pan­sion of an ex­ist­ing in­dus­trial pro­ject within a vast ex­panse of a Natura-des­ig­nated area.

Dur­ing a re­cent meet­ing I had with an Amer­i­canAr­me­nian in­vestor, he told me “the coast of Le­banon, es­pe­cially in Beirut and de­spite the prob­lems in the area, is still a cen­tre of at­trac­tion, with large con­do­mini­ums and projects while you here are still plan­ning with the vil­lage at­ti­tudes of the 1960s.”

Another hor­ror story is just as we try to de­velop the casino re­sort, par­lia­ment im­posed a build­ing fac­tor that must ex­ceed 50% and in this case all the green spa­ces and other must be re­duced by 30%.

It hard to find rea­son





by in­di­vid­u­als and by ETEK, which has ap­pointed it­self as the ul­ti­mate ad­vi­sor to the State. There may be noth­ing wrong with that, but as an ad­vi­sor it should bear re­spon­si­bil­ity for the bad ad­vice it might give and should even face a fine of the Coun­cil de­ci­sion is in­cor­rect. Where was ETEK when the gov­ern­ment needed ad­vice to re­vive the con­struc­tion sec­tor? What tan­gi­ble mea­sures did it pro­pose for the Makar­ios Ave. and the cen­tre of Nicosia? And what are its views for the old cen­tre of Paphos and the area of the re­finer­ies in Lar­naca?

Is, then, the 14-floor Olympic Tower in Li­mas­sol bad and is it wrong for ho­tels to in­crease the build­ing co­ef­fi­cients at a time when some of these pre­mium prop­er­ties have been up­graded and gen­er­ate more rev­enues and job op­por­tu­ni­ties? It is ironic that on coastal prop­er­ties, the owner can not build pri­vate ac­cess within the pro­tec­tion zone, while the state has ev­ery to put up park­ing lots within the same zon­ing area. Is this not why for­eign in­vestors are hes­i­tant about in­vest­ing in in­ter­na­tional univer­sity projects in Li­mas­sol but have found ob­sta­cles re­lated to lim­i­ta­tions on park­ing ar­eas?

These are the many is­sues that should be up for dis­cus­sion and I hope we do not see the con­struc­tion in­dus­try, that drove the econ­omy at one stage, to be reg­u­lated in such a way that it will not be able to stand on its feet again.

This is why the Pres­i­dent should not lis­ten too hard to these “doubt­ing Thomases”, but should pro­ceed with in­cen­tives and prac­ti­cal pro­pos­als that should help cut down on un­em­ploy­ment, es­pe­cially among the younger tech­ni­cians, who are obliged to seek their for­tune in the Arab coun­tries with boom­ing con­struc­tion sec­tors, while we end up ar­gu­ing with var­i­ous “ex­perts”, of whom we must ad­mit there are many. -

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