Cyprus Mail

Our View: Political bickering is taking precedence over the economy

The establishment of the two undersecretariats will have to wait a few more months, because opposition parties could not put the national interest above their petty political calculations. During the voting on the 2018 budget in the legislature on Wednesday there were even unsuccessful attempts to block the establishment of the undersecretariats by different parties.
The bills for setting up three such organisations were submitted to the legislature several months ago, but only the undersecretariat for shipping was approved. For the other two the parties resorted to filibustering, because they feared these could threaten the established order. The Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), which would have eventually been replaced by the undersecretariat for tourism is a Diko fiefdom, like Cyta, and the party did not want it marginalised and deprived of its sizeable annual budget. Akel, on the other hand, did not approve of the undersecretariat for development, because, ideologically, it wants development to remain under state planning.
Shipping was not a concern because it primarily dealt with foreign companies and had always escaped the clutches of the political parties. The absence of political interference is the main reason the Cyprus Shipping Chamber is such a successful body. Run by the industry, it has made Cyprus the biggest third-party ship management centre in the EU, while shipping accounts for seven per cent of GDP. It goes to show what can be achieved when the political parties are kept at a safe distance and state bureaucracy is not suffocating.
The government hoped to achieve similar results for foreign investment and tourism by establishing the two other undersecretariats. The one dealing with development would be able to speed up procedures for businesses interested in investing in Cyprus – the current bureaucratic delays are disincentive for companies – because it would have the power to push state services into faster decision-making. As for the tourism undersecretariat, it would have the power to forge policy and take quick decisions that the CTO cannot because of its peculiar legal status and the bureaucratic procedures it has to follow.
Tourism, shipping and foreign investment are growth areas of the economy and the government is correct in setting up undersecretariats for each sector as decision-making would be speeded up and bureaucratic delays minimised. They would also be more responsive to changes in conditions as they would have the flexibility to act promptly when these appear. What a pity the political parties could not see these benefits for the economy, focusing instead on preventing the president from taking the credit.

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