Do we really want foreign investments in Cyprus or not?
On the one hand we have 40,000 unemployed with a higher percentage of unemployed among young scientists, engineers, technicians, the growing phenomenon of the welfare groceries and the need to attract deposits back to our banks and on the other hand, actions seem to suggest the opposite.
• Casino - probably the best that has happened in recent years, but what is the reason to exclude government properties from the bidding stage, thus depriving state assets of the opportunity to earn income (were there private interventions Mr. President which you should have ignored?)
• Incentives for large development projects - who is paying attention to the noises made by the Technical Chamber (ETEK) and who did not to realise what was really happening when more than 20% of the Chamber’s members are unemployed or underemployed.
• Environment – it certainly must be protected, but the environment is there to serve the economy and society in general, not vice versa.
• Limni resort - from a toxic waste dump the whole region has been transformed into an attractive natural environment, while our handsomely paid Environment Commissioner reported us to the EU for whatever alleged violations. Why have you not sacked her, Mr. President, if, as you say, this project is in the public interest?
• Mall of Cyprus - sold for EUR 200 mln and the banks received fresh money. The new owner has promised to implement compensatory measures within the walled city of Nicosia and other areas, which should be seen as a precondition for the ‘relaxation’ of the Mall’s future extension but not an outright rejection. This way, everybody gets to gain.
• Akamas - the stumbling block of 25 years will not be resolved easily, so let Mr. Photiades proceed with his Fontana Amorosa project within a strict time frame of five years which then promises to replicate the internationally renown Costa Esmeralda project in Sardinia. If he does not proceed with the project, then the permit should be cancelled.
• See what has happened in the case of the luxury Anassa hotel where the eternally evil-oriented environmentalists have been complaining about, but it has turned out to be an international star in our tourism product.
• Planning Zones – this is the most impractical measure as the building coefficient along our coastal areas is 15-20% building factor and the so-called “incentives” to increase the factor to 20-25% is simply pathetic, since the whole philosophy of low building factors for beachfront projects is wrong.
• Conversion of hotels - I could write a voluminous book about the various decisions of the State and the different opinions held by district planners with clear examples where simple procedures are overlooked thus violating all the objectives set forth by the state.
• Natura - who will compensations?
• Technology Park – a ridiculous strategy that limits only 2-storey buildings and these only with a coefficient of 45%. Why not a 100% building coefficient? Why not 5-6 floors? What is the problem? Instead of getting the project off the ground, we are still waiting for Bill Gates to express an interest.
• Old port of Limassol – the whole concept proved successful, while the objectors raised by private interests should be investigated an someone should be held accountable.
• Who will pay for the poor planning of a building coefficient of 20% for marinas that was eventually (and rightly so) raised to 200%?
These and many more blatant examples of poor planning or lack of administration started with good intentions but ended up in a totally different direction. Who, then, has taken any responsibility within the state mechanism for all these amateurish decisions and has any government official and other consultants to the state ever been sacked?
What is really needed is for the state to have an advisory body that would consist of non-political people and would cover all issues related to proper technical advice and consultation offered to the State.
Perhaps, leading personalities, such as former president George Vassiliou, would be ideal to head such a council, or even an outsider or foreign advisor who would have no political obligations or feel such pressure from anyone in Cyprus. Such a council should consists of local and foreign consultants and include economists, international auditors, bankers, town planners, members from ETEK and so many others.
Thus, this advisor to the state should comprise only of competent capable people from the private sector rather than current and former public and semi-public servants, nor trade unionists or politicians, while even the University of Cyprus could contribute to undertake an independent assessment of such a body.
If the political parties and the President clarify their commitments and if they cannot distance themselves, then perhaps such a body would be a solution, in order to have the sole objective of rebuilding the economy and reviving employment, thus giving some hope to future generations.