It is truly a great pleasure to be in India for a state visit, accompanied by government officials, and a sizeable delegation of businessmen. My presence here today reaffirms in the strongest possible terms the strong will of the Government and the people of Cyprus for even closer bonds with the Republic of India.
Allow me to express my appreciation to the organizers �the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency, the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Cyprus-India Business Association, and, last but not least, the High Commissioner of Cyprus to India and especially our Consul General, Mr Rana Kapoor-, for their invaluable contribution in organizing this important forum here in Mumbai, India’s financial and commercial capital.
Thank you for your presence here today and for your interest both in exploring the unique business opportunities that Cyprus offers, and in strengthening the economic, commercial and investment ventures between our countries. Your participation today amply demonstrates that our business communities enjoy a solid and mutually beneficial economic partnership, which they genuinely aspire to move forward.
India and Cyprus enjoy long-standing, excellent relations, based on deeply-rooted historical, political, economic and cultural ties, and amicable interactions between our two peoples.
Our close relations are not only limited at a bilateral level. They also extend further, through our close cooperation within international fora, in accordance with our shared principled stance with respect to international law, as well as the values and principles of the United Nations, including the respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of our countries.
In this light, my official visit to India is not only a manifestation of how deeply we value our partnership, but also a testament of our determination to actively upgrade it, in order to inaugurate a new era of prosperity between our countries.
It is precisely for this reason that I am accompanied to India by the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, the Minister of Transport, Communications and Works, the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, and the Government Spokesman. My delegation also comprises of a strong business delegation from a range of fields, including the legal, financial, property, construction, and services sector.
The aim is to shed light on the unique investment opportunities Cyprus �an EU member state at a strategic location at the cross roads of Europe, North Africa and Asia- has to offer, and to exchange ideas, establish contacts and channels of communication, which will enable us to achieve a strategic re-orientation of our economic partnership.
A partnership, which has significant potential to grow even further; on this the Ministers’ presentations will thoroughly inform you, particularly on key fields such as banking and finance, shipping and transportation, education, science and technology, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy and tourism.
Our two countries have established an extensive bilateral legal framework of cooperation, which, among others, covers areas such as science, technology and innovation, tourism, merchant shipping, telecommunications, health and agriculture.
In parallel, a Cyprus � India Joint Committee on Economic, Scientific, Technical and Industrial Cooperation has been established since 1989, with its 8th session taking place last June, culminating in a Protocol, which identified ways and means of developing, expanding and diversifying the bilateral economic relations between our two countries.
Moreover, in 2005 the Cyprus � India Business Association was created, in order to facilitate our relevant professional bodies and the extensive business ventures towards promoting, expanding and encouraging economic and commercial relations.
Further, the recently signed double tax avoidance treaty, which entered into force in India as of April 2017, and which removed Cyprus as a Notified Jurisdiction Area, can give a completely new dynamic to the link of our economies. Undoubtedly, it will contribute to further strengthening the economic ties between Cyprus and India, particularly in the field of investments, on which Cyprus ranks as the 8th biggest foreign investment country to India.
The framework I have described aptly demonstrates that Cyprus and India have established a comprehensive framework of institutional collaboration, which we constantly aim at expanding in order to fulfill the huge potential that exists for increased cooperation.
In this regard, I am pleased to inform that during my visit to New Delhi, a number of bilateral agreements and Memoranda of Understanding will be signed in the fields of Merchant Shipping, Air Services, Agricultural cooperation, education and culture.
And I have specifically mentioned the said agreements, because I believe that these areas of cooperation are some of those that have the potential to significantly boost our economic and commercial exchanges.
I could not be in the great, historical port city of Mumbai, and not talk about shipping.
Cyprus’s shipping industry has been one of the most successful export services of our country, as Cyprus enjoys the privilege of being one of the most influential global hubs for ship owning and ship management services; being home to some of the world’s most prominent names in shipping; offering competitive ship registration costs, and favourable tax regime for ship management and other international business enterprises.
In fact, more than 1,000 registered vessels with 21 million gross tonnage are registered under the Cyprus flag.
– the10th largest merchant fleet in the world;
– the3rd largest merchant fleet in the EU;
– Cyprus’ Ship management Centre is amongst the top three in the world, and, the largest third party Ship management Centre in the EU.
The education sector also has the capacity of becoming another significant area of collaboration between Cyprus and India. The three state Universities and the five highly esteemed private Universities offer a wide range of courses and degree programmes, attracting foreign students from all over the world, rendering the island a major educational centre in the region.
Another field of great prospect relates to science and technology, on which India possesses much-needed and much-welcomed experience and expertise, which could greatly benefit Cyprus. Attracting talent is very important for boosting our entrepreneurial and start-up ecosystem. For this reason, we have very recently introduced an attractive Start-up Visa Scheme, under which startups from India can easily locate in Cyprus and have easy access to the EU market.
Furthermore, in an effort to further diversify our economy, the Government has decided to develop and operate a Technology Park as a basic infrastructure for the promotion of applied research, innovation and technology in Cyprus, as well as a tool for both the development of entrepreneurship and smart specialization.
Other areas of cooperation, which could be actively explored, are those of renewable energy, on which Cyprus has a long-standing expertise, and tourism.
In this respect, the Protocol on Air Services Agreement to be signed on Friday in New Delhi can pave the way for establishing direct connectivity between our two countries; thus increasing the so far very modest number of tourism exchanges if one considers the potential that this sector holds. A new strategy recently completed aims to diversify and enrich the tourist product. With the first luxury casino resort, the marinas and other major projects, this is a space to watch out for new investments.
During my stay here, I had the opportunity to meet with leading personalities of Mumbai and of Bollywood industry. My meetings are not a coincidence. Following the recent introduction of tax incentives for investment in innovation and start-up companies, Cyprus will soon be introducing an incentive scheme specific to the filming industry. The beauty, climate and cultural wealth of our country, in combination with incentives we plan to introduce, will make Cyprus an ideal filming location.
We welcome production companies from India to consider Cyprus, and we commit to ensure that their experience, should they choose our island as a filming location, will be as smooth as possible.
Cyprus is now emerging stronger than ever from an unprecedented crisis and our journey along the road to recovery has been faster than anyone could predict, enjoying one of the fastest growing economies of the EU; currently just short of 3% of the GDP. These numbers are given by the IMF and financial institutions. We are confident that we can do much better.
Today, following successive upgrades by rating agencies the sovereign rating of Cyprus economy is just one notch below investment grade, which confirms in the best possible way that we are on the right path towards full re-establishment of confidence towards Cyprus in the international investor community. Allow me to recall at this point that the economy of Cyprus was 12 notches below investment grade at the peak of the crisis or at the time when I was elected.
Further, our banking sector has undergone an ambitious restructuring, and now stands on a much healthier footing, with a strong presence of foreign investors, which we welcome and support.
From my side, what I feel I should emphasize is the strong commitment of my Government to continue working, so that Cyprus remains firmly on a path of sustainable growth.
We recognise the importance of maintaining sound public finances. We are committed to maintain a stable and competitive tax regime. We shall continue to invest in our human capital, supporting higher education and research.
And we shall continue to stand by the local and foreign business community, always striving to create a business friendly economic environment.
We know that it is through the joint efforts of Government and industry that we shall succeed in making Cyprus a top-notch destination for business and investment. This is how we shall continue creating jobs, opportunities and prosperity for our people. And this is exactly the ambition and commitment of our government.
Let me underline that Cyprus, despite its small size, offers exceptional comparative advantages as a major center of international business, but also as a base, from which inroads into regional markets can be achieved.
The unique combination of EU membership, our common Anglo-Saxon legal framework, the beneficial tax regime and the highly-skilled workforce, all contribute to Cyprus’ establishment as an attractive investment destination, offering significant opportunities and easy access not only to European markets, but also to those of North Africa, the Near and Middle East, the Gulf region and of course Asia.
In this light, the Government is committed to the implementation of a series of specific incentives, aiming to further facilitating investment and establishing a business-friendly environment.
In particular, the Government has developed a new legal framework, which establishes the procedure of direct licensing of large investments, and it applies on pilot cases a fast track licensing mechanism for investment projects.
Based on this framework, I would encourage foreign investors, including Indian investors, to invest in projects in Cyprus, which the Presidency can promote through its fast track mechanism for receiving the relevant licenses within short and specific timeframes.
I am certain that during the presentations and panel discussions to follow, you will have the opportunity to explore the comparative advantages of our economy and be informed of the prospects of new sectors where Cyprus is set to play an important role, including the development of the Investment Funds Industry, as well as energy as a new source of interest for a lot of business people.
I am also confident that you will all find the opportunity, during the various meetings and panel discussions, to exchange ideas and establish links, which will enable you to act as the main drivers of the effort to further widen and deepen our economic ties.
In concluding, I wish to once again express my appreciation to the organisers of today’s event. As a final note, let me reiterate Cyprus’s commitment to even closer economic and business ties between our two countries, and underline that my Government is committed to remaining a reliable partner in facilitating business and investment initiatives involving India.
Source: Press and Information Office