Is Lar­naca headed to self-de­struc­tion?

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

And yet any at­tempt to upgrade the town is sub­ject to strong op­po­si­tion from the peo­ple of Lar­naca them­selves or at least a part of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion that seems to im­pose its will on other cit­i­zens. If you re­mem­ber the ini­tial plans for the Phink­oudes pro­ject by An­ge­los Demetriou, there was strong op­po­si­tion in the be­gin­ning but in the end it has be­come a jewel. Look­ing fur­ther along the Macken­zie strip with the var­i­ous restau­rants, again there was re­ac­tion reached and this area too has be­come a jewel for the town with post pop­u­lar beach in the coun­try and this is due to the ef­forts of the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

And if we look at the Piale Pashia / Tas­sos Mit­sopou­los prom­e­nade, again there were all kinds of re­ac­tion, which al­most caused the pro­ject to be aban­doned.

The City of Ki­tion has man­aged to at­tract some new ho­tels along the Phinikoudes and Macken­zie seafront, as well as a num­ber of bou­tique ho­tels, with the lat­est ad­di­tion ex­pected to be that of the lux­ury ho­tel owned and built by Rus­sian in­ter­ests, a Chi­ne­se­owned ho­tel near the Port, etc., some­thing which is not seen in any other town. On the other hand, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is des­per­ately try­ing to at­tract in­ter­est to the seafront with the var­i­ous beach sports fa­cil­i­ties and other events to en­hance the town’s mar­ketabil­ity. But Lar­naca also has the high­est youth un­em­ploy­ment rate, and the town’s en­trepreneurs have a weird men­tal­ity to in­vest in other ar­eas. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity is do­ing its best to at­tract in­vestors but some res­i­dents are an ex­am­ple to avoid when it comes to who de­cides what’s best for the twon.

So, let’s look at the case of the port of Lar­naca. Af­ter years of dis­cus­sion whether the port will be com­mer­cial or a tourist ma­rina, the sub­ject is not mov­ing along both due to the lo­ca­tion and the high cost of such in­vest­ments in times of eco­nomic dis­tress. Lar­naca port was tested to at­tract cruise ships, in­clud­ing ef­forts by the Louis Group, but this did not suc­ceed and the work ended up in Li­mas­sol.

Now, with the political sit­u­a­tion in the sur­round­ing area, par­tic­u­larly that of Egypt, Is­rael, Syria, etc., there is no in­ter­est for cruises in the east­ern Mediter­ranean. Why, then, is there the ob­ses­sion by a few to trans­form Lar­naca into a cruise cen­tre?

For rea­sons of their own, the multi­na­tional gas com­pa­nies con­cluded they wanted to set up their base in the port of Lar­naca, but now, the mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors do not want this pro­ject and are in­sist­ing on es­tab­lish­ing a cruise for which there is no de­mand.

So, in­stead of this port be­com­ing an en­ergy cen­tre at­tract­ing oil and gas gi­ants, they have man­aged to drive away busi­ness and of course Li­mas­sol mu­nic­i­pal­ity was quick enough to swoop in on the deal. And good for them.

So what if 200 peo­ple lose their jobs in Lar­naca. We also had the case of the crocodile farm and park near Lar­naca, where at first the lo­cals sold their land at high prices to in­vestors for this pur­pose and now they have changed their minds and say they do not want such a pro­ject. And then there was the case of the en­ergy com­pa­nies want­ing to set up sup­port ser­vice in Aradip­pou where in­vestors also wanted to es­tab­lish a gold refining fac­tory. I would not be sur­prised if Lar­naca is black­balled and clas­si­fied as an un­friendly in­vest­ment lo­ca­tion for for­eign in­vestors, with the rel­e­vant in­ter­est and ex­cite­ment once again be­ing picked up by Li­mas­sol.

In the end, there will no longer be any ad­ven­tur­ous in­vestors who will want to risk their money and ef­forts in Lar­naca. Why, then, does Li­mas­sol have a dif­fer­ent ap­proach as op­posed to the blink­ered coun­cil­lors of Lar­naca, who ig­nore the wider in­ter­est of the town?

Per­haps Averof Neo­phy­tou was right in say­ing “if I was in the place of the in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies I would leave Cyprus al­to­gether”. On the other hand there are also the jus­ti­fied com­ments by all the town’s may­ors that the coun­try’s eco­nomic ben­e­fits must also be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion, as well as the town’s, while Lar­naca re­mains the poor rel­a­tive of other towns and with di­min­ish­ing sources of rev­enue and in­vest­ments.

By ex­ten­sion, the same seems to ap­ply in the lo­cal real es­tate mar­ket. When ini­tially there was in­ter­est by th­ese for­eign com­pa­nies for the port of Lar­naca (along with 40-50 sup­port­ing ser­vice com­pa­nies), there first ap­peared such a de­mand for res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties that rents spi­raled to around EUR 2,000 / month, both within and out­side town, in ad­di­tion to in­ter­est in for­eign-lan­guage schools for the for­eign em­ploy­ees, an in­crease in long-term oc­cu­pancy of lo­cal ho­tels with fort­nightly ro­ta­tion crews from the en­ergy com­pa­nies, rent­ing of­fices that had been empty, in­creas­ing com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity, etc. which have all helped to boost the lo­cal econ­omy.

So, do the Lar­nacans at all love thir own town? I very much doubt it when cer­tain groups are fight­ing against any­thing new.

As re­gards the mu­nic­i­pal coun­cilors, per­haps it would be bet­ter if they went back home be­cause they are clearly not in­ter­ested in wider in­ter­ests of the town but only their own per­sonal in­ter­ests.

Lar­naca has all the mak­ings to be­come a new St Tropez of the East­ern Mediter­ranean. It is the only town lo­cated “on the sea” in con­trast to Li­mas­sol and Paphos where roads lead the beach. It is the only town with an ex­ten­sive sandy beach stretch­ing from Dheke­lia up to Ma­zo­tos, it is the only town where the orig­i­nal tra­di­tional core is lo­cated on the beach­front and the only one that has a port within town lim­its.

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