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Ministers commit to foreign investors to solve the problems they face in Cyprus

08/11/2021 09:33

The Cypriot government on Friday presented to the business community its new strategy to attract and facilitate the expansion of foreign companies in Cyprus, featuring the road map to step up and facilitate faster procedures and attract talent especially in the fields of technology, innovation, shipping and research and development, during a roundtable at the Presidential Palace.

The new strategy was formed after Ministers of the government have heard the problems and requests of foreign businesspeople, some of whom during the roundtable discussion expressed strong complaints for time-consuming procedures or “dehumanising attitudes” by government departments, expressing hope the vision encompassed in this new strategy is endorsed by the government services.

Minister of Finance Constantinos Petrides said a vision for a new Cyprus is materializing and thanked the investors for choosing Cyprus as a place to do business, a place to live and invest, to consume and expand their business.

“In cooperation with you we’ve tried to have a holistic program of incentives in order to help the expansion of your business to Cyprus”, he said.

The Minister also said that after the investors indicate some distortions such as the need for facilitating the employee’s settlement process, the need for tax incentives, for opening the access of the labour market to the spouses of employees, the need for incentives to attract talents but also for quick licencing procedures, the Government has incorporated all these to the incentives' program.

He said that this could be an example of the government policy moving fast without getting lost to the bureaucratic procedures.

He also said that the program will enter into force from 1st January 2022 provided that two bills will be voted by the parliament and said that the Government was committed to submit the bills by the end of the year.

The Minister furthermore told the investors that their presence in Cyprus strengthen the resilience of the country’s economy and helped to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. “You are one of the factors that have contributed both to a lower recession in Cyprus in regards to other European countries but also to a faster recovery to 2022”, he said.

On her part, Natasa Pilides, Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry said the new strategy and the Business Facilitation Unit is an upgrade of the fast-track mechanism initiated in October 2020 that was embraced and was successful despite the limited simplifications introduced.

She recalled that the fast-track mechanism has attracted 22 companies from all over the world which joined the mechanism.

“So there is every reason to be optimistic about this new strategy because it encompasses everything we’ very learnt from you,” she said, noting that the aim "is not just to introduce incentives but to make peoples' lives easier. ”

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said that the government was facilitating existing companies and was trying to attract more foreign companies wishing to operate in Cyprus.

“We believe that such a development will be a catalyst for the creation of growth dynamics and conditions for long - term strengthening of our economic prosperity”, he said.

Regarding the employment of third countries' nationals, he said that the new strategy cancels quotas for directors, specialists and key personnel positions. Companies he added can freely employ any number of highly skilled third country nationals under some simple conditions. He also said that the new strategy is further encouraging family reunification in order to facilitate the employment of third country nationals.

“By modernising all above procedures we are taking steps away from the bureaucratic procedures of the past facilitating business and third country applicants”, he said.

He also said that since January 1st of this year almost 270 new companies have already been registered to the civil registry and migration department for employing third country nationals under favourable provisions in comparison to 198 registered in 2020. By November 1st, he said, almost 600 resident permits were valid for employment purposes in companies of foreign interests in comparison to 480 at the end of last year, which was an increase of almost 25%.

“We believe that the above reforms will directly contribute to increasing liquidity and create a large inflow of new capital from abroad”, he said, adding that they also expected additional job seats.

Deputy Minister for Research, Innovation and Digital Policy Kyriakos Kokkinos said in his address that the new strategy establishes “a new kind or relationship, a collaborative and dialoguing approach on how we interact with each other.”

He stated that the strategy features an action plan with time frames “for a vigorous execution” and asked companies operating in Cyprus for their contribution and close cooperation for Cyprus' digital transformation.

Highlighting Cyprus’ geographic position, Kokkinos stressed that the country was a natural choice to be acknowledged as the tech capital of the Eastern Mediterranean.

“We want to contribute and make a vibrant sustainable pillar of the economy through the collaboration with you. Together, I firmly believe that we can co-create our future and shape digital Cyprus.”

The experience of foreign businesspeople in Cyprus

Alexey Gubarev, co-founder of Bala, praised Cyprus’ advantages and referred to the tech island initiative aiming to accelerate innovation and technology growth in Cyprus with a membership of 140 companies which employ 7,500 people in Cyprus. “We are living here, we view Cyprus as a home and we want to develop together,” he said.

Hamza Afifi, PR Director of BrainRocket said his company began operations in Cyprus in 2020 and currently employees 300 persons aspiring to reach 1,000 by 2022.

“Cyprus is strategically located in the middle of Africa, Asia and Europe,” he said.

But he added that during the company’s operation they had challenges especially with the migration department and added that the fast-track process will help the company to tackle its needs. “When our people go to close an appointment in Limassol with the Immigration it takes approximately two months, where if we had a fast-track it would be much helpful to attract talent from non-EU countries,” he said.

Furthermore, Arthur Mamedov CEO of The Soul Publishing, a company established in Limassol with 400 employees of which three quarters are locally-hired, spoke of a “fundamental improvement.”

He also referred to the problems in immigration as the company is “shopping for talent worldwide” noting that talent will not only consider remuneration but will also examine how a country would help them to settle and the route to citizenship.

Prabha Jha, Group Managing Director of MSCH Shipmanagement, said since 2008 the Cyprus office was managing 470 ships, making the office the largest shipping company in the world operating from one office, and added that the company injected more than 30 million euros in the local economy.

He praised the new steps taken allowing for longer-term work permits allowing family reunification and allowing spouses to work. “These are steps in the right direction,” he said and expressed hope the Ministers’ vision “is transferred to the last person working in the Migration (department) and any other departments.”

An Indian entrepreneur who said he’s working in Cyprus since 1989 expressed complaints about the lengthy processes in the various government departments. He also spoke of dehumanising attitude in many government offices, of the need to "choose their words carefully towards people of colour" and said that "I hope we can deal with a computer because dealing with some human beings at these offices is truly dehumanising". He also said that two months ago, 160 calls were made in two weeks for a very simple matter at the civil registry office to get an appointment.

"No appointment received, no call back, nothing happened, we paid 200 euros to an agent across the street (and the) matter settled in one day. I hope that the reality is taken into account, this is very important,” he added.

“We came because many of us we fell in love with the island, the nature of the people, the culture heritage and the environment”, he said noting that he moved his operations in Norway.

He also expressed his big disappointment for the destruction of the environment in Cyprus, forest fires, destruction of the coastline and out-of-control traffic, noting that "it seems the Municipalities are absent, it seems the government doesn’t care. Concluding, he called on Cyprus to put priority to the protection of the environment “as an emergency for the country.”