Trying to understand certain mentalities
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?”