THE cabinet on Wednesday gave the nod to government legislation establishing two under-secretariats, or sub-ministries, one for tourism, the other for maritime affairs.
And legislation for a third under-secretariat – for economic development – was in the works and would be completed by year’s end, Undersecretary to the President Constantinos Petrides told reporters.
The bills would have to be approved by parliament.
The mooted under-secretariats would be politically and administratively autonomous, and not come under currently-existing ministries, Petrides said.
Their political supervisors, appointed directly by the president, would be authorised to carve out and implement policy.
Petrides said that sometime over the next few weeks the government will be unveiling the findings of a strategic study on tourism.
The study found there exists tremendous scope for boosting tourism, in terms of arrivals in absolute numbers, but also per capita spending and diversifying the tourist product Cyprus has to offer.
The study was prepared with the help of experts from the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, as well as the consulting firm THR.
Despite record tourist arrivals this year – estimated at three million – the tourism sector still suffers from a lack of competitiveness, Petrides said.
A similar study on maritime affairs was being prepared.
“We believe that there exists an institutional gap in these policy sectors. Suffice it to mention that Cyprus, compared to its competitors in the EU, is the only country without a minister whose chief task is tourism.”
For example, the portfolios for energy, commerce, industry and tourism, currently come under a single ministry.
Petrides said the government is proposing that the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) gradually be transformed into an under-secretariat for tourism.
The sub-ministry would be headed by an under-secretary for tourism, and without a board of directors, to avoid overlap with the CTO.
“The CTO itself must be reorganised, this is something that we have already discussed with them,” said Petrides.
Changing the CTO’s jurisdictions would require legislative amendments.
It is thought that the CTO would be stripped of most of its responsibilities, focusing only on the promotion of tourism.
Petrides dismissed the notion that the creation of these under-secretariats would expand the bureaucratic machine.
Asked how these sub-ministries should be seen in light of a potential solution to the Cyprus problem, and the reunification of the island, the official said that “these structures that we are forming will likewise be useful for the day after.”