By Poly Pantelides
THE STATE needs to be far more daring than at present to restructure the civil service so it can respond to the economy’s needs, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEVE) has said.
Speaking during KEVE’s annual general meeting held yesterday in Nicosia’s Hilton Park hotel, Phidias Pilides said the state needed to be more proactive and was in need of modernisation.
“We need daring cuts and many reforms [for the state] to respond to its new role in the economy,” Pilides said.
“Simply put, we need to tidy up.”
If the civil service’s reform had taken place before the need to come up with a state budget, the government’s deficit would have been smaller, Pilides said adding that the auditor-general’s annual reports provided plenty of guidelines by enumerating the loss of millions of euros every year.
“These phenomena have to stop. We can no longer afford, where we are now, the luxury to waste a single euro,” Pilides said.
He suggested the new government, that took over in February and agreed to a botched international bailout deal in March, should have been much stricter in dealing with the waste of public money. Pilides called on authorities to intensify efforts to tackle tax evasion.
Pilides referred to Cyprus’ relative advantages given its position in Europe, its European Union membership and favourable tax environment as well as the quality of its professional services and infrastructure. He said the island’s strengths could be a point of reference in designing a new model to restart the economy and get through the crisis.
Pilides called for a three-year plan by the government that will introduce measurable ways to track restructuring and growth so that their actions were more effective.
Any plan would have to move within the framework of the island’s agreement with its lenders, he added. It should also pay more attention to research, technology and innovation, he said.
President Nicos Anastasiades who addressed the AGM said the government was doing everything that “ought to be done” and was monitoring the economy to introduce any additional measures “if and when [it was] necessary”.
He made special reference to efforts to push new loan agreements tailored to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) via the European Investment Bank.
He said Cyprus has been given the green light for a loan worth €150 million to fund trade-related activities expected to be agreed in December, while another €100 million would go towards creating an entrepreneurial fund to finance SMEs via local banks, expected next year.
Anastasiades agreed on the need for “daring decisions” but warned that the island is in for a bumpy ride.