By Constantinos Psillides
The property development sector has brought in over €1 billion in fresh capital from abroad over the past two years, the President of the Cyprus Land and Building Developers Association Pantelis Leptos said on Friday.
Leptos said despite the financial crisis and its impact on the property market, its contribution to GDP remained steady at 19 per cent, he said.
“The land development sector, which comprises the `heavy industry` of the Cypriot economy, is once more back on track,” he said, adding that there had been a 10 per cent increase in house sales in January 2015, compared to January 2014.
“In 2013, amidst a climate of uncertainty, 3,767 immovable properties were sold, with 1,017 to foreign buyers. In 2014 there was a 20 per cent increase, with 4,527 properties sold of which 1,193 were sold to foreign buyers,” he said.
Leptos also focused in the sector’s link with government’s incentive to give citizenship to certain property buyers. Legislation the cabinet introduced in 2013 allows some foreign nationals to gain citizenship provided they invest in the island under certain criteria.
“This is one of our strongest cards in our efforts to attract foreign investors and buyers. Not only should it continue but it should also be expanded,” said Leptos.
He added that he had given Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos –who was present at the AGM – a number of suggestions for improving the citizenship scheme.
Commenting on the local market, Leptos said it was still numb, “but shows good prospects for recovery.”
Leptos requested that all the negative publicity regarding land developers cease. “While we are struggling to attract investors from abroad, our industry is defamed on a daily basis at home,” he said.
Land and property developers comprise the group with the biggest number of non-performing loans and the group that owes the most in back taxes to the state.
“The loans taken out by land developers were part of their business transactions and most have collateral,” said Leptos. “The majority of the loans will be serviced, provided that they are restructured.” He said the vast majority of developers “are trustworthy and reputable.”