Investing in the future of ‘Olivewood’
The government’s foreign investment arm, Invest Cyprus, declared a package of incentives this week to turn the island into a filming destination.
Although still pending parliamentary approval, it is an ambitious effort to attract major film studios to choose the island as an open-air location, and to encourage producers and directors to use Cyprus as a tax write-off for their films or TV series.
As exciting and encouraging as the venture may sound, first announced more than a year ago, there doesn’t seem to be a long list of Hollywood producers making a beeline for the island. And the few who would be interested in the new scheme will probably weigh their options and see how Cyprus compares in other parts of the package as well.
The trouble with Invest Cyprus, earlier known as the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency, is that over the years its leadership has been dominated by accountants and lawyers, who have also determined the policies to be followed by the agency, clearly driven by numbers, short-term profits and fueling the island’s financial and advisory services sector.
As a result, some continue to think that Cyprus is doing very well on the international scene, duped by the idea that the island’s reputation is one of a sound business centre, providing professional services and helping the local economy recover from the crisis that brought it to its knees six years ago.
Far from it. What Cyprus seriously lacks is a measure of quality. The reputation that we continue to encounter is one of a destination for Russian money, selling properties at ridiculous prices in exchange for passports and offering mediocre financial and accounting services.
The government, in its desperation to exit the Troika-imposed bailout plan, insists that the economy is on a clear path of growth, thus justifying its generous pay-hikes to an underproductive civil service and offering handouts to undeserving groups.
There seems to be little investment in infrastructure, despite the big-bill announcements of ‘local projects’ declared by this administration.
One quality aspect that remains neglected investment in the arts.
And with the announcement of the Cyprus Film Scheme, there is a vast arsenal of highly-skilled local talent, many of whom struggle to survive because of the absence of proper incentives for this sector.
Some professionals in the film industry have also excelled overseas, are highly competitive in their work and produce amazing, if not excellent, work.
If CIPA truly wants to attract big shots from Hollywood to Bollywood, it first needs to nurture the local film industry, and encourage it by offering equal incentives, and only then ask foreign investors to come and join the Cyprus film industry. Simply showing off pretty locations, dotted by an olive tree or an old lady on a donkey, is not going to cut it.