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From junk to jewel

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Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides made a bold declaration this week, telling investors that Cyprus can be a financial hub in the eastern Mediterranean and very soon become a ‘triple A’ economy.

But before we get there, he also told MPs that the new administration next February should prioritise reducing public debt in the long term.

At the same time, Moneyval said in its regular review of transparency and procedures that Cyprus has made great strides in combatting money laundering.

This is music to the ears of investors who, primarily, need to see a measure of stability, not just economically but also in social and market terms.

During the past decade of this government, the economy saw major improvements and steady growth, while the opposition has been critical of a stagnant situation, depending on if you see a glass as half full or half empty.

What’s clear is that the new government to be elected in February must focus on the economy.

The past two years of Covid restrictions and the impact these had on the tourist sector are a sign that we should not place all our eggs in one basket.

On the other hand, a hesitation in speeding up regulation and diversifying the services economy has slowed Cyprus’ hopes of becoming a financial or any other hub, an ambitious policy declaration made by almost every administration in the past four decades.

What is needed is a commitment to push through the necessary legislation and effective regulatory changes that will place Cyprus at the forefront of various industries, be it the cryptoverse, a truly green economy or innovation.

Setting an ambitious target of reaching four million visitors, the record achieved pre-Covid, is worth nothing if the quality of tourists does not increase.

Hoping to secure record exports, driven by the ‘white gold’ of halloumi, is also meaningless if that success is not redirected to investing in a modern agricultural sector revival.

Wishing that Cyprus could once again compete with the likes of Malta or Dubai in digital commerce, gaming, and new technologies is pointless if we do not have the right regulatory framework to ensure transparency and a sense of security.

There are many changes that consumers, the general public and the business community will expect and demand even from the new president, building on past successes and developing new areas.

We have not heard of any fundamental reforms and changes from the candidates.

Let’s hope we don’t have another five years of baby steps.

Otherwise, we will not even get close to the triple-A that Petrides would have us believe achievable.