Do we re­ally want for­eign in­vest­ments in Cyprus or not?

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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