Try­ing to un­der­stand cer­tain men­tal­i­ties

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

There are some things which I just can­not un­der­stand. We all be­lieved that with the re­cent rev­e­la­tions about bribes and the en­thu­si­as­tic way with which the Au­di­tor Gen­eral deals with un­usual, to say the least, cases, that so­ci­ety would have over­come some of the older poli­cies and at­ti­tudes. And yet, some at­ti­tudes still pre­vail, usu­ally re­gard­ing the same stake­hold­ers, which makes us won­der that be­hind ev­ery pro­posed bill, that even­tu­ally be­comes law, there are such in­ter­ven­tions that would be mildly de­scribed as “cu­ri­ous”.

For in­stance, we fi­nally had some progress with the frame­work for the ‘casino re­sort’ where the build­ing co­ef­fi­cient was set at 50%, and af­ter de­duct­ing for green spa­ces, ur­ban com­mit­ments, roads, etc, you might need around 300 don­ums (about 400,000sq.m.) of land. With the 50% co­ef­fi­cient de­ter­mined by our MPs, per­haps these “wise men” who im­posed this rate, will also in­form us that the build­ing of the cen­tral Casino Re­sort will not ex­ceed two floors, some­thing that would not sur­prise us con­sid­er­ing their logic. Also, it is pro­hib­ited for state land to be used where the po­ten­tial in­vestor will be pump­ing in 500 mln eu­ros.

But why? Why should the gov­ern­ment not rent the land on a 99-year lease and ben­e­fit from steady an­nual in­come? Why should this priv­i­lege be lim­ited only to pri­vate en­trepreneurs? Surely, it should be up to the in­vestor to de­cide.

At some stage there was also a pro­posal that the land fro the ‘casino re­sort’ also in­clude golf. This would mean that such projects could only be de­vel­oped in Paphos, while casi­nos in Las Ve­gas are lo­cated in the city cen­tre with high-rises of 15 to 30 floors, and with­out a golf course. Who, then would re­ally ben­e­fit from a casino re­sort of this type? Why should such an in­vest­ment not be on the coast, maybe even on state land, where the re­sort op­er­a­tor would gain from a fast-track of re­lax­ation of plan­ning laws? It is clear that there are cer­tain MPs, who ei­ther for their “love” for tourism de­vel­op­ment or for other rea­sons, are in­flu­enced by spe­cific own­ers. At the end of the day, for some of us who know the real “who’s who” of Cyprus, it is ob­vi­ous to which own­ers the law seems to be di­rected.

Now let us dis­cuss the laws about the height of the casino build­ing and the ho­tel re­sort.

The ground floor, which will com­prise the large gam­ing area with­out many col­umns, should not sup­port the weight of each floor above. So, the other floors for rooms, etc. could be built to a height of 10 storeys, but this would mean a sep­a­rate an­nex. Oth­er­wise, a beach­front lo­ca­tion where play­ers would be able to spend time or hol­i­days with their fam­i­lies, can­not stay to­gether in the same com­plex be­cause of the ex­clu­sion of state land.

And here can one find such large ar­eas of land? Ayia Napa (near the church), in Lar­naca near the Macken­zie are or on Turk­ish Cypriot land, agri­cul­tural land near the beach of western Lar­naca, east of Li­mas­sol and Paphos with the ex­ist­ing golf cour­ses. Nicosia also has large ar­eas of land, such as the Aglantzia and Make­donitissa ar­eas, but these are not ap­pro­pri­ate. Of course, the fi­nal choice should be the in­vestor’s but we have not al­lowed for that de­ci­sion to be taken fairly by des­ig­nat­ing in ad­vance which ar­eas are “most suit­able”.

Once again, no se­ri­ous con­cern into the mat­ter by our mem­bers of par­lia­ment, as long as they are serv­ing the in­ter­ests of their own. And then we won­der why the state can­not par­tic­i­pate in the pro­ject by pro­vid­ing public land, es­pe­cially when the mem­o­ran­dum with the Troika of in­vestors calls for the dis­posal of state-owned as­sets and prop­erty worth EUR 1.5 bln.

The sit­u­a­tion is cu­ri­ous, sus­pi­cious even, be­cause these are the facts. The Pres­i­dent of the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee (Zacharias Zachar­iou) has rightly stated that the more re­stric­tions we i mpose, the quicker the in­ter­est of the in­vestor will di­min­ish. But who lis­tens to him?

But why should we be in the least con­cerned or both­ered with the casino worth half a when the wa­ter sports sec­tor can­not fol­low the ‘prior ac­tions’ pro­posed by our in­ter­na­tional lenders, sim­ply be­cause some ‘se­ri­ous’ deputies in­sist that ant li­censed op­er­a­tor of sae and beach sports should have ex­pe­ri­ence in this area of at least 2-5 years. Apart from the other silly lim­i­ta­tions on this mat­ter, this means that no one will be able to ap­ply for a beach sports li­cense, not even for the next 30 years. So, the Troika in­spec­tors are right to ask, how can a bunch of 20 peo­ple in­flu­ence the law? By the way, what­ever hap­pened to those gangs of mu­nic­i­pal work­ers in Par­al­imni who were steal­ing some 200,000 eu­ros a year from public funds, by not declar­ing the rents col­lected from sunbeds and um­brel­las and keep­ing the cash to them­selves? No won­der the Min­is­ter of In­te­rior is fu­ri­ous with the in­com­pe­tent MPs for not only not pass­ing the right laws through par­lia­ment, but also amend­ing them in such a way that will cause us trou­ble in years to come.

Talk about Par­al­imni, I should re­mind you about the case of the “de­vel­op­ers” who have put up seven con­tain­ers in Pro­taras and con­verted them to “hol­i­day homes”. Three years ago, I wrote to the Mayor and to the Dis­trict Of­fi­cer of Fa­m­a­gusta (who, truth be told, replied that this was a mat­ter for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity) and sent pho­to­graphs and town plan­ning maps to news­pa­pers for which there was no re­sponse. I have also men­tioned be­fore of the EUR 1 mln in­vest­ment for vol­ley­ball courts that was aban­doned. It seems that the Au­di­tor Gen­eral has now dis­cov­ered these cases. Per­haps, from now we should be send­ing our com­plaints di­rectly to the Au­di­tor Gen­eral’s of­fice.

Ba­si­cally, this con­firms that the in­dif­fer­ence is cred­ited solely to the lo­cal author­i­ties. Why, then, should for­eign in­vestors be at­tracted to Cyprus when they can see and hear of such phe­nom­ena of cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tence which are pub­lished only in the English-speak­ing press and the in­ter­na­tional media?

As for the bill the Gov­ern­ment wanted to push through to re­lieve prop­erty own­ers who mort­gages were fully paid but whose ti­tle deeds re­mained stuck with the orig­i­nal de­vel­op­ers, I won­der, why did par­lia­ment pur­posely post­pone the dis­cus­sion? I be­lieve that here there is a cu­ri­ous at­ti­tude among some of our “well to do” deputies, while the state­ment of the Min­is­ter of In­te­rior of “in­ter­est” that ben­e­fit lenders is an in­di­ca­tion of what is go­ing on. It is in­deed sur­pris­ing how such an im­por­tant bill, that was deemed ur­gent and in the public in­ter­est, got de­layed and will not b dis­cussed or voted on be­cause “the House will go on hol­i­day.”

In con­clu­sion, let me quote from an ar­ti­cle in the lo­cal press that ended by ask­ing, “why, mother, did you not let me be­come a porter so that I, too, could get a fat state com­pen­sa­tion of 1 mln eu­ros?”

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