ANOTHER road in the centre of Nicosia was closed on Thursday as part of the grandiose, never-ending plans for the new Eleftheria Square. The part of Omirou Avenue from the height of Solomou Square to the point it meets Stasinou Avenue will be closed so that the underground car-park, which is part of the Eleftheria Square re-design could be built; the road will be widened and new pavements built.
The completion date for the project, part-financed by EU funds, is supposedly September 2019, but we very much doubt this will be the case. Experience has taught us not to believe any of the Nicosia municipality’s estimated, project time-frames. If there has been one thing on which the municipality has shown remarkable consistency is in its failure to complete any project on time and this is putting it mildly.
The date for the completion of Eleftheria Square has become a running joke as it has been put back so many times nobody even bothers asking when it will be finally finished. The same is applies to the Nicosia Town Hall which has been a project in progress for close to 20 years. Its latest, completion date was supposed to have been April of this year, staff being told they would move in before the end of the month, but the municipality now expects the move to take place in August.
What are the reasons for this astonishing inefficiency? In the case of the town hall there were the delays caused by the discovery of antiquities and the Antiquities Department having to approve every aspect of the construction – this does not augur well for the construction of the new parliament on a site with antiquities – but for the square there were no such excuses. There were major disputes with the contractors, the bringing in of new contractors, disputes with the architects about the materials used, but these do not justify the huge delays.
These delays almost make the state services seem efficient when supervising a construction project. Perhaps municipalities do not have the manpower or technical expertise to manage complex projects such as Eleftheria Square. In the future, the management of big municipal projects should be outsourced. There is no shortage of engineering firms that could project manage and the fee would only be a fraction of the cost of the endless delays caused by the inadequate project management by the municipality’s services.
This is for the future. For now and a couple more years, Nicosia drivers will just have to carry on suffering the inconvenience of having to navigate round a dusty building-site every day, with the bonus of being stuck in traffic jams during rush hour.