By Angelos Anastasiou
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades said the government hopes to lift capital controls, imposed after the March 2013 bailout, within the coming months.
Anastasiades was speaking at a business forum in Doha, Qatar, where he yesterday ended an official three-day visit.
“The capital controls imposed on the Cyprus banking system are to be completely lifted in the near future, in the coming months, and we are now witnessing increased inflows from foreign residents,” he said, appealing to Qatari businessmen to invest in Cyprus..
Anastasiades said that during his meeting with Emir of Qatar both sides reaffirmed their commitment to further enhancing Cyprus-Qatar cooperation, at all levels, including economic cooperation.
“Attracting investments is the Cyprus government’s top priority,” he said as investments were the catalyst for economic growth, job creation and prosperity.
He said despite its economic woes, Cyprus still retained its competitive advantages. These included its competitive corporate tax rate of 12.5 per cent, and an extensive network of double taxation treaties, including one with Qatar itself.
He spoke also of the safe and business-friendly environment and the highly qualified workforce.
“In Cyprus opportunities for growth exist in most economic sectors, including shipping, tourism, large-scale development projects, education, health and renewable energy,” said Anastasiades.
Cyprus’ hydrocarbons discovery created excellent prospects for investments and cooperation, he added.
Evaluating his visit to Qatar after its conclusion, Anastasiades described it as very “important and productive”, and announced forthcoming visits to Cyprus by delegations from various investors, or even “on behalf of the Emir himself.”
“That is an important element”, he said with regard to the imminent visits. “If we can be persuasive, we will benefit.”
With regard to the possibility of Qatari companies investing in Cyprus, Anastasiades noted particular interest shown in “Cypriot construction and other companies”, and referred to “interest in various sectors of the economy which we are in a position to respond to.” This includes a reported interest in the semi-state electricity authority, which is slated for privatisation.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides also alluded to possible investments by Qatari state or private concerns. “We did not come here to ask for free funds. What we want is to ensure that investments by any party – whether state or private – will offer mutual benefit to both sides,” he said.
Minister of Energy, Giorgos Lakkotrypis reported “very encouraging messages from Qatar” but warned against complacency.
“The degree to which these opportunities are exploited, when and if the investment funds come to Cyprus, is also up to our side,” he said.
The minister visited the natural gas liquefaction terminal in Doha, the largest in the world, where he saw installations and asked for the exchange of technical knowledge, which is one of the items agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding signed on Monday with Qatar.