In­vest­ing in the fu­ture of ‘Olive­wood’

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - OPINION -

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.

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