Roivas: Keep your fo­cus on ser­vices

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Small coun­tries like Es­to­nia and Cyprus need to fo­cus on ser­vices in or­der to be wealthy and pros­per­ous, the Baltic state’s vis­it­ing Prime Min­is­ter, Taavi Roivas, said dur­ing a lecture at the Univer­sity of Cyprus.

In his lecture on “A road ahead: The se­cure and dig­i­tal fu­ture for Europe,” Roivas said the five pil­lars on which a coun­try’s eco­nomic growth should be based are na­tional se­cu­rity, in­ter­na­tional in­te­gra­tion, pub­lic fi­nances (fis­cal pru­dence), the busi­ness cli­mate and egovern­ment.

He said that the web-based free-call com­pany Skype was cre­ated in Es­to­nia and has cre­ated hun­dreds of jobs in the coun­try.

“In the Euro­pean Union if you want to grow faster than the EU av­er­age, you have to do some­thing dif­fer­ent and you need to be clever and be at­trac­tive to in­vestors. So, in or­der to do so you have to work hard to make the busi­ness cli­mate as favourable as pos­si­ble for in­vestors,” he pointed out.

In Es­to­nia, he added, “the in­come tax rate is a flat one, with very few ex­emp­tions”, not­ing that “there is no greater good for an econ­omy than fair com­pe­ti­tion and by tax­ing com­pa­nies equally you make the com­pe­ti­tion sit­u­a­tion fairer.”

As he said, “the unique thing about the Es­to­nian sys­tem is that if you rein­vest the com­pany’s profit, you don’t pay any cor­po­rate in­come tax”.

He noted that “to­day, if you want to start a com­pany in Es­to­nia it will take you a few hours. The record that we have is 18 min­utes”, adding that “vis­it­ing state of­fices or all kinds of tax au­thor­i­ties phys­i­cally should be yes­ter­day’s busi­ness”.

“If you have a very good dig­i­tal sys­tem, you do not need to in­ter­act with the govern­ment phys­i­cally, you can do it dig­i­tally”.

He also said that “in or­der to de­clare your an­nual in­come tax you do not need weeks or months. In Es­to­nia it takes just five min­utes to de­clare your in­come tax through your iPad or lap­top or any other com­puter de­vice.

“The se­cret be­hind that is that the govern­ment should not ask you what they al­ready know”.

Dur­ing his speech, the Prime Min­is­ter re­ferred to elec­tronic vot­ing and dig­i­tal IDs as well as the use of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy in other ar­eas of ev­ery­day life such as the health sec­tor.

He con­cluded said that dur­ing his visit here he had wit­nessed a clear political will and com­mit­ment on be­half of his in­ter­locu­tors to adopt e-govern­ment in Cyprus, not­ing that dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy is the so­lu­tion for many chal­lenges ahead.

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