t is a great pleasure and privilege to address today the distinguished members of the Business Communities of United Kingdom and Cyprus.
At the outset, I wish to convey my appreciation to Bloomberg Media for the kind hospitality and, of course, commend “Invest Cyprus”, not only for organizing today’s event but also for its tireless efforts to promote Cyprus as an attractive investment destination across a wide range of sectors.
Furthermore, I would like to welcome and thank each and every one of you, for your presence and participation at the discussion panels which are to follow.
A presence which aptly demonstrates that our countries enjoy a solid economic partnership which we genuinely aspire to move forward, through exploring the business opportunities that Cyprus has to offer and through exchanging ideas and means of further strengthening our economic, trade and investment collaborations.
Cyprus and the United Kingdom share a deep-rooted friendship based on mutual respect and understanding and shared values on democracy and human rights, tolerance, respect of law and good governance.
Over the decades we have closely and effectively co-operated and established synergies on a wide range of issues at the bilateral, European and international level, including as partners in the Commonwealth and the European Union.
At the same time, it is well-known that our economic, business and investment relationship constitutes an integral and fundamental part of our partnership, with the UK being one of Cyprus’s main trading partners for both goods and services.
Last but not least, given the large Cypriot community in the UK, as well as the sizeable British community in Cyprus, the number of Cypriots who pursue their studies in the UK and the continuously growing number of Britons who choose Cyprus for their holidays, strong people-to-people contacts have developed which provide a solid base for the further enhancement of the already excellent relations we enjoy.
The fact that at today’s event I am accompanied by the Ministers of Finance and Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, as well as by a dynamic business delegation, manifests the importance my Government attributes to further widening and deepening our mutually beneficial partnership, particularly in the fields of financial services and investment funds, energy, shipping, technology and innovation, tourism and trade.
To this end, it should be stressed that Cyprus’s comparative advantages as an attractive investment destination and a highly competitive center for International Businesses, not only have been time-tested, but have been further enhanced and expanded, setting them apart from most investment destinations.
These advantages include, among others:
Ø A significant network of Agreements for Avoidance of Double Taxation with more than sixty (60) countries;
Ø A highly qualified and professional workforce;
Ø A robust and attractive tax and legal system, based on the British Common law, fully harmonized with the EU and international best practices;
Ø One of the lowest and most competitive corporate tax rates in Europe, at 12.5%, establishing Cyprus as an attractive investment destination for international corporations and offering a platform for operations and preferential access to markets in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia;
Ø The safe environment which Cyprus provides, our traditional hospitality and an all-year-round good weather which have been pin-pointed by various studies as comparative advantages, have made our country a “value for money” destination for both the occasional visitor and the investor.
In parallel, it is worth mentioning that the positive repercussions of an ambitious reform programme and the careful management of state finances are being reflected through, among others, successive budget surpluses, a dynamic growth rate of 4%, a drastic reduction in unemployment, as well as a significant reduction in taxation charges in an array of areas.
The combination of the above, in conjunction with the reforms in the public sector and the enhancement of the overall tax and legal frameworks, have resulted in renewed substantial investments in a wide range of sectors.
Moreover, the operation of oil and gas giants in our Exclusive Economic Zone, the licensing of the first integrated casino resort -with an investment of more than half a billion euro -, an impressive 18% (eighteen percent) annual increase in investment funds’ registrations, the record numbers of the tourism industry in both arrivals and revenue, as well as the commercialization of the Limassol port, it is evident that our efforts have borne fruit.
A testament to the above-mentioned are the consecutive upgrades of our economy by international rating agencies, with Cyprus only last week rated to investment grade, after being in the “junk” category seven years ago.
This is a confirmation of our economic management, with obvious positive repercussions as regards the country’s financial potentials and the investors trust in Cyprus.
The challenge now is to keep up the momentum and ensure that Cyprus remains on the path of sustainable growth. Hence, the objective is to continue to pursue the sound governance of public finances - complemented by a business-friendly investment environment - to carry on with a comprehensive government strategy for investment facilitation and to continue to invest in education, research and development and entrepreneurship.
We also aim to continue with the policy of tax reductions and providing new incentives in order to further boost entrepreneurship and attract new investments, with emphasis placed on innovation and start-ups. The new Investment Law to fast-track licensing procedures for large investments and the establishment of a new enhanced Investment Funds Framework are crucial steps in this direction.
In this demanding endeavour of transforming Cyprus and further reinforcing our position as a reliable, investment-friendly and business competitive hub, we are grateful to have such devoted and equally strong-willed partners, such as the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency, as well as the wider public and private sector bodies and institutions
Before concluding, it would be an omission on my behalf if I did not refer to Brexit. There is no doubt that we are now entering a very critical point as regards the future relation and partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Cyprus is part of the consultations and the process currently underway. To this end, I wish to assure you that we are committed in supporting the dialogue conducted in order to achieve a mutually beneficial future partnership between the EU and UK.
At the same time, we are determined and committed to work closely with Her Majesty’s Government towards ensuring that our two countries forge an even closer and reinforced bilateral relation, building upon our solid foundations of bilateral and multi-dimensional understanding and cooperation.
In concluding, I wish to, yet again, thank you all for your presence here today and wish every success in your deliberations and a successful conclusion of the Forum.
I am confident that all of you, during the numerous meetings to be held today, and given also your entrepreneurial inventiveness, will identify a number of new joint business initiatives, as well as new areas for future co-operation for advancing our economic, investment, trade, commercial and tourism partnerships.
Rest assured that the Government will offer any assistance deemed necessary towards materializing this joint goal.