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Our View: Little optimism over latest pledge to reduce red tape

Giorgos Lakkotrypis

SPEAKING at a seminar called ‘Designing the industry of the new era’, commerce and energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said the government aimed to double the contribution of industry/manufacturing to GDP by 2030. In 2017, it stood at 7.9 per cent of GDP and the plan was for it to reach 15 per cent in 12 years’ time. A working group, in which ministry officials and representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Keve) and the Federation of Employers and Industrialists (OEV), had already been set up, said the minister.

Cyprus is following the lead of the European Commission, whose president, Jean Claude Juncker, last September announced the Commission’s Industrial Policy Strategy that aims at “empowering the European industries to continue delivering sustainable growth and jobs”. Last Monday, Lakkotrypis outlined the government’s strategy that envisages the creation of a “robust, smart, and technologically advanced industry with related services, helping to drive economic growth and prosperity.” This, at least, is the theory because in the past several policy strategies existed only on paper.

The new strategy was based on seven pillars, including sustainable development policies, ‘smart manufacturing’, digitisation and reducing red tape. It was interesting that Lakkotrypis mentioned reducing red tape. We have heard one government after the other since the early nineties, announcing plans to reduce red tape, but all fail. If they had not they would not still be talking about it. In fact, red tape appears to be becoming worse despite the arrival of the digital era, and bureaucrats continue to run the show, operating under the delusion that by making things difficult for businesses they are doing their job.

We could list several advanced technology businesses that would have created hundreds of jobs but were messed around for years by our conscientious state bureaucrats who placed one obstacle after another in their way. Some do it because it gives them a sense of power, others because they are terrified of taking responsibility, others because they are serving a competitor’s interest and even some because they want a bribe. Regardless of the motives, the problem is that bureaucrats have the power to delay businesses and place obstacles in their way whenever they choose to and there is nothing a businessman can do, other than accept it will take years.

We would very much like to know how the government plans to pursue the pillar of less red tape, which has been stalling growth and development for decades, but we doubt it knows how to tackle the problem. Even if it tries it will probably be stopped from making any progress by the very phenomenon it is trying to eliminate.

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