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Bill aims at cutting red tape

Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides

With the objective of cutting red tape, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides on Friday unveiled a bill designed to make it considerably easier for large developments to secure permits.

Implementation of the strategy, however, hinges on the approval of a separate piece of legislation providing for the creation of a junior ministry for development, currently before parliament.

Speaking at a news conference, Petrides said the ministry will be responsible for implementing the bureaucracy-busting bill and the operation of a one-stop shop for investors.

“It is a very important bill concerning the facilitation of strategic investments as part of the government’s efforts to attract healthy and productive investments that create jobs and increased revenues,” the minister said.

A lot of measures had been introduced in the past in a bid to boost efforts to attract investment, but issuing permits and serving investors was found lacking.

The bill provides for a drastic reduction in procedures to secure a town-planning permit, cutting the number of involved departments from 11 to four, and necessary actions from 50 to18, respectively.

It also sets a two-month deadline for completing procedures, a far cry from the current state of affairs that has no maximum time limit.

The same goes for building permits where the four departments and 31 actions will be reduced to three and 13.

To be able to make the fast-track, projects must meet certain criteria, including a minimum amount of €5 million, 75 per cent being from fresh capital directly linked to the project, undistributed profits, loan capital, or from the issue of shares.

They must also guarantee 80 new permanent jobs or 50 new permanent jobs with an annual payroll over €1m.

The company must be a well known multinational listed on Forbes 2000, NASDAQ 500, or the FTSE 350.

The plan entails a project manager that will be appointed by the junior minister and will be the only point of contact between the investor and the government departments.

The only authority responsible for issuing town-planning and building permits will be the town-planning department, Petrides said, doing away with the 36 building and 10 town-planning authorities.

Of past efforts to fast-track investments, Petrides said they failed because instead of a one-stop shop, they simply created one more stop without changing the rest of the procedures.

Cyprus is currently 83rd out of 138 countries on the competitiveness index, 53rd out of 190 on the doing business index, and 43rd out of 137 on the entrepreneurship index.

Certain indices hinder the island’s position, including the issuance of building permits where Cyprus was in 148th position in 2016.

It managed to climb to 125th this year but Petrides said it was still not good.

“There have been improvements to the Cypriot economy’s competitiveness indices but we are still not where we should be,” he said.

“A serious effort must be made to improve this index (building permits) which hinders investments and the Cypriot economy’s competitiveness.”

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