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Petrides says ‘get a move on’ or forget about competitiveness

Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides

Cyprus must climb the global competitiveness ranks in relation with issuing building permits, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said, as he pushes for reform that would see the drastic reduction of building authorities and streamlining applications.

“I am fed up of hearing that Cyprus is lagging in the competitiveness rankings and that as regards issuing building permits we are 140th in the World Bank rankings,” Petrides told the state broadcaster. “We must try to climb into the first 10 to 15 or else talk of a competitive economy would be restricted to academic circles.”

The minister said the financial problems faced by local authorities were not the only issue; public service was the most important matter, he added.

With the 30 municipalities, Cyprus had 36 town planning authorities, but it didn’t mean people were served better, he said.

The bills reforming local authorities provided for five district complexes so that town planning and building permits are issued by a central authority.

“We cannot exercise control with 36 authorities, neither can there be personnel with the necessary knowhow to better serve people.”

Petrides said in cooperation with the EU and Austrian experts, the ministry was looking into the possibility of having one joint development permit, as was the case in other countries.

He said Cyprus was operating according to a 1946 law that sometimes was good and sometimes bad.

“In most countries in central Europe only one permit is issued. This removes the potential for local authorities using their discretionary power,” he said.

Petrides said there were objective criteria in town planning – it didn’t depend on the case.

“This would be one of the most important development reforms in the country and it would serve the people. The system of discretionary power and the absence of objective data creates problems since it breeds clientelism.”

The minister said town planning permits would be on three levels – the procedure for small developments would be almost automatic, medium developments would have a system of self-regulation through the planners who would have the responsibility; a town planning permit, in the current sense, would be restricted to large developments.

“It is something that will free up town planning authorities so that they make better plans instead of being processors of applications on a case by case basis,” he said.

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