Attracting Business from Abroad

September 10 2019

The embassy of any country abroad is the mirror of the country back home. In the business world the embassies should promote business interest of the country that it is representing, keeping an eye on opportunities that the host country may offer regarding business back home.

It should then be up to the locals (Cypriot) firms and those in the host country to get together. The embassies should try to deal with any problems that there are and host events in the host country with Cypriot firms and the host country representatives, keep an eye on developments and suggest to the Cyprus Government and especially the Ministry of Commerce & Industry what action local (Cypriot) firms to be undertaken.

Are our embassies up to these basic requirements? We very much doubt it. From what we read, embassies and the staff are looking after themselves on personal comforts and the recent report of the Auditor’s General on their inactivity is an example in hand.

In addition to the excessive costs, existing staff bring over their spouses, medical bills are over charged and so on. How can we depend on any Cypriot embassy for business regarding Cyprus? Don’t depend on them we say. Our embassies in terms of business promotion are absolutely useless.

We, as a firm, a few years ago, we wished to expand our activities in Germany in order to promote Cyprus to this affluent country for real estate investment. We have even visited at the time the then Minister of Commerce due to the fact that we received no replies from our Germany embassy. We offered the embassy to invite at the embassy house certain business firms in Germany, who might be interested and offered to pay whatever the cost was. After a six month delay in responding and after the Minister’s intervention, we duly got an estate agents (German) directory for us to call etc and no investigation or any offer for help on their part!! We understand that we pay handsomely those civil servants, neither we asked for an overtime work, but the interest on their part was zero. We also offered at the time our Iranian ambassador a similar proposal (at better times mind you – prior to suctions etc), who replied that he had no staff to deal with it – being also a bit upset that we have reported this in the press.

The role of the embassy is a major asset for any country in its business development and we are addressing this letter to the Minister of Commerce, as well as that of the foreign Affairs Mr Christodoulides (in hope for what mind you). On the opposite side, we give the credit to the U.K. High Commissioner in Cyprus at any time, who does not let a month go without some sort of reminder of his/embassy presence and the needed exchange of views. Invitation of locals based on enquiries by U.K. firms, including lunches, questionnaire on our views on the Brexit etc etc. Well done Mr High Commissioner and we hope that our own “lot” in this country copy your actions.

When the business associations in Cyprus realize this state of affairs (such as OEB-KEVE and others) they should pressure the Government in hope that it will wake up our embassies abroad, especially to those people who bear the title “commercial attaché”. We feel that it is time for a business/foreign ministers’ forum to be set up in order to examine the setting up of a road map on the subject of Cyprus Business promotion through our embassies abroad in collaboration with CIPA and other bodies who have the duty to explore exports and Cyprus investments. In order for this to happen and be successful, the people on spot must have the aptitude and the energy to investigate the host country’s opportunities, to report back to the home country and set up meetings with local commercial representatives say every 6 months. With the low deposit rates that prevail, there must be businesses with cash which might be looking for “unknown” countries in the investment field (such as Cyprus) to investigate.

Will it happen? We very much doubt – This is the period of indifferent civil service of Cyprus – See the Halloumi Trade mart disaster as an indication (and for which disaster nobody had any repercussions).

Staying with the happy go lucky holiday spirit we must report to you our encounter with a prospective film producer from the U.S.A. He was exploring the possibility to produce films in Cyprus with our (Cyprus) main attraction being that 30% of the cost is for Cyprus to participate, plus the tax benefits etc. It was explained to us that the setting up of such film studios comes with a “whole village” of people and trades, from electricians to carpenters, car vehicles to rent, make-up and hair artists and so on. Being on the beach we got exited suggesting to the unsuspecting film producer the film theme and proposing the participants role in them (for my part I have offered to become the new Corleone godfather!!). We ended up to Cornos/Shia area, where there is an operational studio. Having had lunch there, at a local restaurant and on our way back we had a call from our Cornos/Shia associate who informed us that the asking prices for real estate have shot up, whereas the local priest voiced his objections that the village will be occupied with mini skirted women, upset the local population and family living. The deal is not yet off, pending Governmental approval for the license, but it shows you also how local attitudes, be it antiquated, can prevent the export industry (next time we will take such prospective investors to the Archbishopric real estate office!!).