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Cyprus Editorial: Growth and reforms, but when?

10 July, 2014 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

President Nicos Anastasiades pledged last Friday that growth constitutes a priority for his government and that he will follow through with reforms to change the country for the better.
Alas, the president was preaching to the converted, saying that “there is a need for a modern, long term and comprehensive National Growth Strategy which will pinpoint what needs to be done and how and what results it ought to bring to the country’s economy in the coming years.”
But surely, this strategy, that aims to abolish “bureaucratic hurdles via a simplification of complicated processes for the attainment of permits, the abolition of unnecessary regulations and overall better regulation” should have been implemented a long time ago.
After all, is this not what the purpose of the ill-fated one-stop-shop had been all along? That, through better coordination between government services and (ghasp!) the private sector, we could offer a streamlined package that would include quick company formation and online documentation, speedy work permits and operating licenses, as well as housing and education incentives, etc.
Investors have shunned Cyprus not because of the bail-in by depositors and the exposure to Russian investments, but simply because foreign executives often find that red tape is too much to handle. They find it ridiculous that there are multiple layers for a housing permit and that getting electricity connected to your home could take months.
As regards registrations, we have tired of repeating the boringly same old observation that Company House is too slow to register or process, with past Commerce Ministers echoing parrot-like statements that “we are faster than ever before.” The only reason the incumbent trade minister hasn’t been duped into this civil service lingo is that he has been too busy with his Energy portfolio.
Anastasiades said that one of his most trusted aides has undertaken to draft this new strategy and have it ready by September. This is a full 18 months from the day he took office and nearly half-way through his term, ignoring the ‘pro-business’ declarations he made during his election campaign.
You don’t need a new strategy to get the government machine working again, Mr President. The private sector is doing fine on its own, so all that should be done is for Anastasiades to crack his whip and get civil servants to start working for a change.
Oh, and by the way. While you’re at it, why not do something about the six Deputy Minister portfolios you were supposed to create.
Or did you forget, Mr Anastasiades…