Limassol mayor Nicos Nicolaides spoke exclusively to the Cyprus Mail about the city’s businesses, how they have been affected by the pandemic and what the municipality is doing to support them during these challenging times.
Q: Did you speak to Limassol business owners during the pandemic? What were their thoughts and concerns during this time?
A: From the beginning of the pandemic, we had open channels of communication and cooperation with the business world in Limassol, as well as the organised bodies that represent them to deal with the extreme conditions that have been created.
In this context and on the initiative of the Municipality of Limassol, an informal communication forum was created in which the mayors of greater Limassol, the business organisations of the city and the representatives of the employees participated.
At the same time, we organised or actively participated in conferences for the economic development of the city.
Through such mechanisms, we had the opportunity to not only listen to the problems and challenges faced by companies but also to try together to find solutions to mitigate the economic and social impact of the pandemic.
The business people of our city were deeply concerned about the severity of the pandemic crisis and its long-term consequences, especially after the strict restrictive measures that were known to have been imposed in Limassol.
Everyone’s efforts were concentrated on avoiding losing jobs and creating those conditions that would allow economic activity to return while ensuring public safety.
Q: What do they ask from the municipality to help them survive and generally improve their standing?
A: What they basically asked of us was for us to have a true understanding of the extreme conditions caused by the pandemic, as well as more flexibility in repaying their obligations.
Above all, they also asked for institutional support so that they could stand on their own two feet.
As the Municipality of Limassol, we had no reservations about supporting local small and medium-sized enterprises, despite the fact that we had serious revenue losses of € 3 million in 2020.
With unanimous decisions of the Municipal Council, we took action for the businesses that were affected by the crisis, either by providing facilities for the repayment of taxes and fees, or by adjusting the amount of fees due to the prevailing conditions, or even submitting proposals to the authorities asking for proportionality in the restrictive measures and in the support of companies and employees.
Our goal was and is twofold. On the one hand, to offer a safety net to companies that have been hit hard by the crisis, and on the other hand, to support a return to normalcy as soon as possible.
For this reason, despite the very difficult conditions, the Municipality of Limassol continued in the midst of crisis the implementation of its development program, proceeding to the formation of the Integrated Limassol Development, but also to the completion of a series of co-financed projects, such as the employment centre and the innovation centre.
Q: How are companies emerging from the pandemic?
A: It is true that it is with great effort and personal sacrifice that local entrepreneurs are trying to return to normalcy. We stand by them, not only to help them get back on their feet but also to keep job numbers stable and create the conditions for a speedy recovery.
Q: How do you see the business activity in the city during the next 3-6 months?
A: Although according to experts there is a risk of a fourth wave, we remain optimistic that we will gradually return to a smoother state of affairs, to normalcy.
We do not expect the virus to disappear overnight, but we believe that there is both the will and the potential, but also the prospect, for local businesses to recover, with a focus on public health.
As a Municipality, we are proceeding normally with the major development projects that will help transform Limassol. We hope to be in a much better position by the end of the year with the aim of recovery in 2022.
Q: Are there any plans to help promote business activity?
A: We place great emphasis on cruise tourism which will allow us to extend the tourist season in our city.
At the same time, we are taking advantage of the summer tourist season and its peak, planning events that will attract visitors to our city.
But apart from tourism, we continue the major development projects in various neighbourhoods, the digital upgrade of the municipality and the major flood control projects.
We are proceeding with the second and third phases of the renovation of Ayia Fyla and the Environmental Neighborhoods in Agios Spyridon, Omonia, Zakaki and Agios Nikolaos, while having started, after decades of inactivity, the huge project of flood protection of the city.
At the same time, other smaller projects are continuing at a total cost of many millions that will upgrade the quality of life of citizens and create conditions for healthy and sustainable business development.
Also, the procedures for the very important and pioneering project of the construction of 600 affordable housing units in collaboration with the Cyprus Land Development Corporation (Koag), with a total budget of €100 million, are progressing.
The pandemic did not stop the development of Limassol. We may have had some practical difficulties, but we continue to realise our vision for a Limassol with modern infrastructure, high quality of life, technologically advanced and sustainable development and strong social cohesion.