CYPRUS EDITORIAL: SMEs, exporters need immediate help

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Within all the hype to bail out the tourism and construction sectors, the government has completely ignored the small-to-medium sized enterprises of Cyprus and the small, yet flourishing, exports sector.
SMEs account for 90% of all businesses in Cyprus, be they services, retail shops and tradespeople, or even the workshops that employ anything from a married couple to, at most, 15-20 people.
These are the backbone of the Cyprus economy and yet the government has decided to throw a lifeline to the two most vulnerable sectors that are still dependent on large numbers of holidaymakers who we know will not materialise this year.
It is the small businesses that pay their local tax, social insurance and VAT contributions regularly and support the government’s bailout measures that are being generously thrown at the large contractors and hoteliers. These are the people who pay their bills on time and keep the wheels of the economy turning, by paying on to the next service or business.
All that these small enterprises need is the occasional breathing space and pat on the shoulder or even a small incentive to keep them going and hopeful of the future. Short-term tax breaks or renegotiation of debt could go a long way, as was proven by the two successful amnesty packages in recent years, where people declared their wealth and assets that also helped inject much-needed cash into the state coffers.
Some companies have also secured export contracts or are on the verge of doing so. These enterprises, too, deserve some help, which does not necessarily have to be in the form of cash or tax discounts.
Company executives and export managers are often frustrated by the amount of paperwork they still have to process or the often illogical procedures at some government offices, such as the Customs Department. Simplifying the work will help speed up exports and reinvigorate local industries to seek out new markets for their goods or services.
Any crisis also creates great opportunities for companies to restructure operations, improve their methods and production lines, while state and public services can reform and modernise many of their services.
Those that capitalise on these opportunities are the ones that will help take Cyprus out of the financial crisis and keep it on a firm footing by promoting the “Made in Cyprus” brand we have become so overconfident about in recent years.