The fu­ture is ship­ping

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Two weeks ago, Trans­port Min­is­ter Mar­ios Deme­tri­ades spoke about the need for the Cyprus flag and the is­land’s ship­ping sec­tor to “evolve” and re­cover its past glory as a mar­itime leader. Since then, we have had two press con­fer­ences by Pres­i­dent Anas­tasi­ades to de­fend his poli­cies since tak­ing of­fice in the dread­ful days of March 2013, while the econ­omy of­fi­cially ex­ited the bailout pro­gramme last month, hav­ing in the mean­time used up less than the Troika funds ear­marked for a re­cov­ery.

With the 27th an­nual gen­eral meet­ing of the Cyprus Ship­ping Cham­ber tak­ing place in Li­mas­sol this week, we are bound to hear yet more pol­icy state­ments and com­fort­ing words of moral sup­port from Deme­tri­ades, speak­ing on be­half of his boss. Yet again, he will say lit­tle on how he ex­pects the ship­ping sec­tor’s con­tri­bu­tion to the econ­omy to grow from the cur­rent 7% share of GDP to about 8.5%, al­beit a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion in real terms. But for this to hap­pen, is the Min­istry look­ing only down two paths, that of pub­lic sec­tor re­forms and a pos­i­tive im­pact on ship­ping from a po­ten­tial (and now dis­tant) chance of a so­lu­tion?

The mar­itime in­dus­try, that proved to be the most re­li­able con­stant dur­ing the past three gru­el­ing years of crash-and-burn and pick­ing up the pieces for a par­tial re­cov­ery, de­serves more re­spect from those in power, not just the rul­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion, but the en­tire po­lit­i­cal ‘elite’. The front rows of the CSC mem­bers’ meet­ing will see ev­ery can­di­date for the up­com­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tions parad­ing and shak­ing hands, as if they know their bow from their aft, as long as they get ten sec­onds of fame on lo­cal TV.

Deme­tri­ades has sug­gested that the re­form of the ship­ping in­dus­try’s key reg­u­la­tor, the De­part­ment of Mer­chant Ship­ping, as well as the Trans­port Min­istry it­self, is well un­der­way, with changes grad­u­ally tak­ing place. Pro­mo­tion of the Cyprus flag is on­go­ing, while the num­ber of in­spec­tors in for­eign ports is ex­pected to rise.

At the same time, there is un­of­fi­cial speak of at­tract­ing Greek ship own­ers and ship­man­agers, most of whom are ter­ri­fied by the hefty taxes im­posed by the Syriza govern­ment, that is caus­ing more harm than good to the Greek flag.

There has been no word, so far, on es­tab­lish­ing a ded­i­cated of­fice for a Deputy Min­is­ter in charge of the ship­ping port­fo­lio, while in­cen­tives are mild and not very at­trac­tive.

Deme­tri­ades should take ad­van­tage of his loyal and se­ri­ous au­di­ence of the ship­ping com­mu­nity to make some ma­jor an­nounce­ments, and se­ri­ous ones at that. But what­ever the dec­la­ra­tions, the mar­itime com­mu­nity will con­tinue to grow and pros­per. It’s only that with a hand-in-glove ap­proach with the state, this sec­tor would thrive, car­ry­ing the rest of the econ­omy on its wave.

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