Plans to set up under-secretariats were announced by President Anastasiades on his election in 2013. The idea was that these bodies would take charge of certain sectors of the economy that were not being given the attention they merited by the ministries that were responsible for them. There was talk about under-secretariats for tourism, shipping and development to start with.
Anastasiades’ term is almost over but the government is still waiting for the legislature’s approval for the under-secretariats. These are not viewed as vote-winners by the parties, which probably fear that that by giving the go-ahead they would open the way for more election-related appointments by the president. Although this possibility cannot be ruled out, the idea for the under-secretariats arose from a need to cut out bureaucratic delays and speed up the decision-making process in important sectors of the economy.
Yesterday the Hoteliers Association (Pasyxe) and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce called for the approval of the bill for the under-secretariat for tourism, which would help introduce reform that “would lead to the establishment of a modern, flexible and competitive economy” and “encourage healthy entrepreneurship and attract foreign investment.” The Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) also issued a statement yesterday, saying that an under-secretariat for development and competitiveness was “a main pre-condition for the realisation of efforts to modernise the Cyprus economy.”
The concern of all these agencies and bodies is that state bureaucracy, with its slow, time-consuming procedures is driving potential investors away and preventing Cyprus from becoming an attractive investment destination. An under-secretariat would cut the inefficient state bureaucracy out of the decision-making process as it would take all the mechanisms related to facilitating investments under its roof. Procedures and response times would be speeded up, as there would be no need to go through several government departments to facilitate an investment.
The same applies to the tourism sector, which is currently under the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Tourism and Energy that is ultimately in charge of the bureaucratic Cyprus Tourism Organisation. Decision-making, inevitably, is slow and inflexibility the norm as every issue is dragged through endless committee meetings before approval is given. The way the state bureaucracy has evolved in Cyprus hampers private initiative and entrepreneurship. It obstructs instead of facilitating enterprise and investment with its slow procedures and red tape, which are what the government hopes to eliminate with the establishment of under-secretariats. We can only hope that the political parties in the legislature will not be as slow as the state bureaucracy in approving the government bill.