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‘One-stop’ licensing shop for investors to end ‘malaise of the past’

Interior minister Nicos Nouris

Interior minister Nicos Nouris on Monday pledged that a new and swifter licensing system for ‘strategic investments’ will make Cyprus an attractive place for foreign investors.

He was presenting to MPs a government bill titled ‘The Facilitation of Investments Law of 2019’ which aims to cut red tape and introduce a ‘one-stop shop’ for major investments of between €1 million and €15m depending on the nature of the project.

“With this, investors are rid of the malaise of the past and will need only apply to a project manager, who will be the liaison between the licensing department and the investor,” the minister said in parliament.

“The introduction of fast-track licensing, across the board, creates a new state of play for economic growth, minimises inconvenience and makes Cyprus an attractive investment destination.”

The bill provides that, under any circumstances, approvals will take no longer than 12 months.

The 12-month period includes all procedures and licenses – such as environmental permits.

Nouris said the new apparatus to handle these fast-track applications is already preparing to hire staff.

Clarifying what a ‘strategic investment’ means, he said it referred not only to buildings per se, but also projects relating to healthcare, innovation, transport, education and communications.

The minister sought to allay concerns aired by the Union of Municipalities, worried that the new apparatus will bypass local government bodies.

He said municipal authorities will be included in the licensing process and that their feedback will be requested.

The bill covers the A to Z of the permit application and approval process.

Currently in Cyprus there are 10 town planning authorities – the Town Planning and Housing Department, plus five district offices of the department, as well as the four municipalities in Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos

When it comes to building permits, there are 36 authorities (municipal bodies).

Investors have to deal with disparate authorities covering the environment, sewerage, power supply, workplace safety, fire hazard, and so forth.

The new system aims to sort this mess out by setting up a dedicated Strategic Investments Management Directorate. Under it will come a Single Licensing Authority (issuing both town planning and building permits) and staffed by qualified architects, civil engineers and persons knowledgeable in environmental issues.

Parallel to the licensing authority will be a Project Management Bureau with technical personnel. It is under this bureau that the position of project manager will be created.

The project manager (PM) is key to the whole endeavour, as he or she will be the go-between the investor and state authorities. For prospective investors, PMs will be their single point of contact.

Vested with full authority to act, PMs will prepare a list of the permits required for any given project and set strict timetables for the issuance of permits.

The legislation applies only to ‘strategic investments’ – effectively large-scale investments. Investment proposals will need to satisfy certain criteria in order to be classified strategic.

One of five criteria must be met. First, a capital investment of €15m or over, of which 75 per cent should consist of equity capital.

Second, the investment must create at least 100 new full-time jobs, or 70 new jobs with a combined annual payroll of over €1m.

Third, the investor must be an ‘anchor company’ – an established multinational or a company listed on Forbes 2000, Nasdaq 500, or FTSE 350.

Fourth, when it comes to investments in research, development and innovation, a minimum capital investment of €1m is needed.

Lastly, a project can be characterised as strategic if it is an investment in the health, education or environmental sectors, with a €5m minimum investment.

 



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