By Lizzy Ioannidou
The Ayia Napa municipality is expected to have a budget surplus of €3.6m in 2019, according to Mayor Yiannis Karousos, who said its economic viability suggests it should not be merged as part of the planned local-government reform.
The city council recently approved the sum of €19.2m for the 2019 budget, while expenditure is estimated at €15.6m, leaving a surplus of €3.6m, Karousos told CNA on Saturday.
“The budget is the highest the municipality has had until now, and provides for development projects costing over €30m for the period 2019-2021,” Karousos said.
The projects include an outdoor amphitheatre and cultural centre, which has an estimated cost of €3.6m and for which a tender will be launched in the coming year; the development of the seafront area estimated at €4.6m; an environmental theme park costing €2.2m; the renovation of the urban centre budgeted at €6.5m; and the conversion of the medieval monastery into a museum, costing €1.3m.
Karousos said the projects are suggested and chosen through the participation of residents of the municipality, a practice that has been followed for the past two years.
The revenues enjoyed by the municipality have spiralled, the mayor said, as Ayia Napa had €10m in revenue in 2010, while for 2019 revenues are expected to reach €19.2m, despite the fact that the municipality has steadily decreased the tax charges of its residents.
“The municipality of Ayia Napa, with 280 employees, 40,000 tourist beds and five million overnight stays, is a viable municipality with an active population 60,000 which can still survive without slightest government funding,” Karousos said.
As such, Karousos said, “we ask that the economic viability of each municipality is taken into account during the local government reforms, since Ayia Napa does not require merging with another municipality.”
The economic situation of each municipality should also be taken into consideration in the representation of municipalities in the organisations or councils that will be formed district-wide, such as the water supply and sewerage, Karousos said.
“Representation will also need to be proportional to population, based on the number of registered voters of each municipality, otherwise we risk seeing councils in which municipalities such as Ayia Napa contribute up to 40 per cent of the budget but are represented by just 5 per cent of their members,” the mayor added.
Earlier in the month, the finance ministry approved a budget of €30,000 to draw up a policy document on local government reform and the reduction of the number of municipalities from 30 to 16.
The timetable set by the interior ministry for this reduction is January 2022, while the document is expected to be ready by January 2019.
A central concern is the economic viability of municipalities as the latest financial risk report, released in September by the finance ministry, shows that most are in a poor financial state with heightened risks, particularly due to loans and other liabilities, which the state may be required to pay if a local authority is unable to.
On Tuesday, President Nicos Anastasiades said that the first way to bring change is to increase the financial autonomy of the municipalities, which will ensure that funds can be better distributed to the projects needed by each municipality.