By Angelos Anastasiou
Professional associations and construction sector unions have banded together in an attempt to help revive the industry, hard hit by the island’s financial crisis.
The Federation of Associations of Building Contractors (OSEOK) is working with the Technical Chamber of Cyprus (ETEK), the Cyprus Civil Engineers and Architects Association (CCEAA) and the Association of Civil Engineers (SPOLMIK) among others its head Costas Roushas said on Tuesday.
“We strongly feel the need to publicly express our disappointment at the treatment of the country’s construction sector compared with other sectors in our economy,” he said, adding he was referring to industries such as tourism and agriculture.
“Support – financial or otherwise – for these sectors is of course, fully justified,” he argued. “The tourism industry is now our most precious asset, and the farmers have been greatly hit by the Russian embargo.
“But at the same time, one cannot help but note that while other struggling industries are being supported, the one best-positioned to help workers is not,” he added.
“The result being that 2,500 building contractors and 1,500 architects are literally crumbling.”
Roushas proposed a list of measures that could help revive the construction sector, including energy upgrades on all government buildings, as well as private homes and commercial buildings that would also help reduce energy use.
“Green growth is the vehicle that will help economic recovery and employment return to their normal rates,” he said. “It will also help Cyprus reach its target commitments for 2020 – known as 20-20-20.”
Roushas’ proposals also included a clampdown on unreported labour by government authorities, and a gentlemen’s agreement by OSEOK and employee unions for employers to hire workers on a 70-30 ratio of permanent residents versus non-residents.
The contractors also called on the government to allow a temporary cut on value-added tax rates to 5 per cent for all construction projects over a period of two years, arguing that this would provide a critical boost to the industry and create a multiplier effect in government revenues.
Additional measures proposed included simplifying government bureaucracy and creating the post of Under-secretary for Growth.
“We are in a state of economic war,” said SEK union’s Yiannakis Ioannou. “We need to act, and fast.”
Roushas said the group plans to seek a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades and responsible ministers.
“The fact that the unions are here with us emphasises the urgent need for reviving the construction sector,” Roushas said of the unlikely allies sitting beside him on the panel at a press conference on Tuesday.