President reiterates support for businesses — wants to “turn challenges into opportunities”

President reiterates support for businesses — wants to “turn challenges into opportunities”

President Nikos Christodoulides on Tuesday addressed the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation (Oev), during the federation’s annual general meeting, where he reiterated the government’s support for the local business communication.

“Any government cannot fully develop the potential and prospects of the economy without the active participation and cooperation of businesses,” he said.

Businesses are the driving force behind economic development,” he added, noting that it is “our responsibility to provide the necessary favourable environment and systematically support their efforts for growth”.

Moreover, the president said that he seeks “genuine and substantial cooperation between the public and private sectors”, saying that through this collaboration, the government can facilitate a better environment for businesses, promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and achieve sustainable economic growth.

As a recent example, he cited his participation last week in an event in London, which Oev helped to set up, aiming to promote Cyprus and attract quality investments.

“I have reiterated this many times, and I mean it wholeheartedly, that I consider both Oev and the Cypruss Chamber of Commerce (Keve) to be our partners in the effort to strengthen the developmental path of our economy,” he stated.

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“In the same context, and with reference to my presence here today, I want to announce our decision as a government to institutionalize direct dialogue with the business community,” he added.

He said that the federation, along with Keve and the Association of Cyprus Banks, will meet at the Presidential Palace in late May.

The president explained that this will allow everyone to work together and share plans, leveraging everyone’s expertise, including the entire Council of Ministers, who will listen to feedback before moving forward. He noted that similar meetings with foreign investors last year had positive outcomes.

Christodoulides also stated that instability in the Middle East, as well as the broader geopolitical environment, is a source of uncertainty, negatively impacting both markets and trade.

“At the same time, our economy’s dependence on exogenous factors – and it is for this reason that we must give more importance to Cypriot entrepreneurs – combined with the fact that we are an island, leads to an increase in the cost of goods and energy,” he stated.

“In this unpredictable scenario, we are called upon to adopt actions and follow policies that strengthen the resilience and competitiveness of the economy, while also safeguarding the country’s social fabric,” he added.

The president also underscored the importance of clear planning, continuous vigilance to avoid past pitfalls, and the implementation of government programmes for 2024.

He stressed the need for fiscal responsibility, a stable financial sector, and ongoing bold reforms.

These pillars, he explained, underpin the government’s economic policy, guiding decisions throughout the administration’s term.

Moreover, he noted that despite challenges, Cyprus’ economy shows positive trends, projected to have the second-highest growth rate in the eurozone in 2024, as per the European Commission.

Christodoulides also said that the country’s credibility is crucial for stability and achieving common goals, necessitating actions like establishing a National Sanctions Implementation Unit and a Unified Supervisory Authority for administrative service providers.

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Additionally, initiatives such as signing a memorandum with the FBI to bolster the Economic Crime Unit and launching a coordinated effort for the country’s rebranding abroad are underway, seeking to enhance Cyprus’ reputation internationally.

“As you are well aware, among the most significant challenges facing businesses in Cyprus are the high cost of energy and finding suitable human resources,” the president stated.

“Regarding the energy sector, our actions, along with our corresponding obligations, have a long-term goal of the green transition,” he added, noting that he “is very familiar with the problems and challenges” related to this issue.

“We are here to collaborate to address these immediate challenges that arise. I believe that the long-term benefits that will arise in strengthening the resilience and competitiveness of our country are significant,” he stated.

Furthermore, he said that promoting the use of renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency are “key, strategic pursuits for 2024”.

He recalled that in January, the Council of Ministers approved a scheme promoting renewable energy and energy saving in households for 2024-2025.

At the same time, he said that a national hydrogen strategy is underway, alongside support for business energy upgrades through financing schemes.

In addition, he noted that a support scheme for large enterprises’ energy efficiency and competitiveness was introduced for the first time, aligning with green transition goals while boosting business competitiveness.

He also said that “our aim is to complete the necessary infrastructure for the arrival of natural gas for electricity generation”, as well as for the electrical interconnection of Cyprus with neighbouring countries.

Regarding the labour shortages, Christodoulides said that “we are advancing initiatives to expedite relevant procedures and facilitate businesses”.

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“We are engaging with an external collaborator to review all our application procedures in order to expedite them,” he added, noting that “we have already begun reviewing the strategy for employing foreigners, focusing on the real needs of the business community and the labour market”.

Regarding the hotel industry, Christodoulides mentioned that since December 2023, the government has announced training programmes for employees, aiming to improve the professional skills of hotel workers and improve Cyprus’ tourism product.

“I want to highlight that a proposal for a multi-year training programme for staff utilisation during the winter period has been developed,” he said.

“This proposal will be presented to social partners and submitted for approval to the Council of Ministers,” he added.

Christodoulides also touched on the issue of highly skilled workers. “Continuing the successful strategy presented by the previous government, the bill for implementing the Blue Card has already been submitted to the House, and its approval will help attract and retain highly skilled workers in sectors facing skill shortages”.

“To strengthen entrepreneurship in Cyprus, we all need to focus even more, and this will be the agenda of our discussion in late May, on sectors with high added value and research and innovation potential,” the president said.

“Therefore, we are advancing with a new strategy that will not be limited to a simple reference document. This policy will include actions and performance indicators, allowing us to monitor the effectiveness of our actions and decisions and make the necessary adjustments where needed,” he added.

What is more, the president stressed that “the road ahead is filled with challenges“.

“I can assure you today with absolute certainty that the government, as it did in its first year of governance, has the political will to work systematically and effectively so that together with our partners—all of you—we can create the conditions to turn challenges into opportunities,” Christodoulides added.

“It is something we have done in the past, and I am confident we will do it again now,” he concluded. (Cyprus Mail)

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