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Our View: Time for a compromise solution for the Paphos-Polis highway

Whenever the government takes a decision to build the Paphos-Polis highway something happens to prevent it.  The initial decision was taken during the Clerides presidency, which ended 17 years ago, and although subsequent governments re-committed to the construction of the highway the plans were eventually abandoned, primarily because of a lack of funds.

This has happened again now because of the coronavirus, which nobody could have predicted. When President Anastasiades announced the government plans for the construction of the Paphos-Polis highway, there was a fiscal surplus, the economy was growing at an annual rate of about 4 per cent and the number of tourist arrivals had been on an upward path for four or five years. The government could afford to squander 70 to 100 million euro on an unnecessary project in order to satisfy the locals who had been calling for the construction for years.

Unfortunately, the state now does not have the funds for a highway that the country can live without for another 10 years at least. With state funds being spent on protecting jobs, the finance minister announced that this year’s budget allocation for the highway had been scrapped. Locals suspect that this is a pretext to postpone the project indefinitely and started applying pressure on the government, threatening a forceful reaction if this was the case.

The government had said it would suspend some public projects, temporarily, but this is probably a ruse to restrict local reaction. The reality is that there would be no funds for the project next year either because nobody expects the economy to make a miraculous recovery any time soon, or for the state to have spare funds for a highway that is not justified economically. The European Commission had said the project did not meet the criteria for economic viability and refused to approve the highway for “Important Reasons of Overriding Public Interest.”

The Commission also pointed out that the competent authorities had not been clear about how they planned to counter the environmental damage that would be done. As we know, environmental damage is of no concern to the authorities. If it were, they would not be talking about a four-lane highway through beautiful countryside when the existing road could have been improved at a much smaller and minimal environmental impact.

Perhaps this could be the compromise solution that could be proposed to the locals by the government now there are no funds for a highway.

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