PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades said last night he would personally spearhead a campaign to attract foreign investment and said the government was allocating an additional €1.8 million to the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA).
Addressing officials and businessmen at the opening of the 38th Cyprus International State Fair in Nicosia, the president also said he would be appointing an ombudsman for banks to ensure the equitable restructuring of loans.
Referring to the investment campaign, Anastasiades said his first visit, along with a delegation of officials and businessmen, would be to Kuwait on October 8 and 9, focusing on large shipping operators. This would be followed by visits to Qatar and other Gulf countries at the same time.
‘Hopefully in November visits will be planned to China and Russia, the United Kingdom and Israel,” he said. “I am taking the initiative and will spearhead this campaign to attract foreign investment from strategic counties.”
Allocating the extra €1.8 million to CIPA was to help achieve the same goal, he said.
“Attracting foreign investment is a top priority of the government given the challenges facing our banking sector,” said Anastasiades .
“Foreign investment is a catalyst for economic development and employment and hence the welfare of our country. It is an area that we need to pay more attention to because it offers opportunities for direct action not only to curb the effects of the crisis but also to create the conditions to restart our economy.”
Anastasiades said that after a tough seven months, “of hard work, of measures and strict compliance with our obligations to our creditors, the risk of a complete bankruptcy is gone but added that he was under no illusions.
The banks were still facing “great challenges” especially with regard to issues of liquidity and non-performing loans.
“Although this is the responsibility of the Governor of the Central Bank , the government has attempted to find ways of reducing lending rates for SMEs [small and medium-sized businesses] and for the public,” he said.
To this end, he said a bill was before Parliament to appoint a banking ombudsman with clear terms of reference to ensure an equitable restructuring of loans.
To streamline state services, he said the aim was to cut red tape, fight corruption and waste, provide better and faster quality services to the private sector, businesses and the public.
“The primary objective remains the creation of a flexible, efficient and citizen-friendly state attractive to foreign investors,” Anastasaides said.
Policies already implemented to that end included, among others, reducing the time for planning permission, increasing building coefficients under certain conditions, licensing a casino, and granting residence permits and citizenship to foreign investors.
Anastasiades said the energy sector was expected to play an important role in addressing the economic problems that currently plague Cyprus.
“Developments in the energy field could help better address the economic problems we are faced with. The existence of commercially exploitable hydrocarbon reserves in our EEZ as well as our energy plans to become a transit hub for energy products, would transform Cyprus into a regional energy hub,” he added.
“The policy of our government will be instrumental in reviving growth and attracting investment, boosting employment by creating new jobs and upgrade our energy infrastructure. I am generally optimistic that the measures taken at all levels, always with the cooperation and understanding of the social partners, but also in relation to the capacity and flexibility of our business world, we will be able to respond successfully to current challenges.”