The reputation of Cyprus, its rebranding, and why we must put our money where our mouth is
Cyprus Confidential Opinion Piece 07:19 - 18 November 2023
The events of the last several months, with the imposing of sanctions on legal and natural persons from Cyprus and the much more recent publication of the "Cyprus Confidential" investigation, brought back to the fore, perhaps more strongly than ever, the debate surrounding the reputation of our country abroad and the need to redefine it in the eyes of foreigners.
The reality is that the damage to Cyprus’ reputation did not begin over the last year. The cracks in its image started long before because of a series of cases that, rightly or wrongly, destroyed its prestige and credibility.
In the past, we, as a country, have opened ourselves up to criticism and did not even protect ourselves. The way we handled issues such as, for example, the golden passports, cast not just shadows, but "blackened" the qualities that recommend our island and removed them from the consciousness and awareness of many foreigners.
All this in addition to the recent negative publications by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which are clearly unfair and in no way reflect the true dimension of things for Cyprus and its professional services sector, create and leave - as in any similar case – distressing impressions, especially abroad.
And all this, unfortunately, as a sequence of events, undermines and constitutes a huge setback for Cyprus's effort to lock in and strengthen its position on the global investment map, for its efforts to attract an even greater number of foreign investors and companies with a presence that gives added value to the economy of our island. Also, for the effort of our country to ultimately not only be but also to appear to be the ideal destination to live and work in.
We say this is something Cyprus should demonstrate, and not just be, because it is our firm belief that, especially in recent years, huge strides have been made in terms of the fight against corruption, regulatory compliance and the more general framework that governs the operation of Cyprus as an international financial and professional services centre.
It is not the true situation of today that is being reflected, or which the occasional investigations that see the light of day are attempting to reflect. Instead, the findings they arrive at are far removed from the true picture.
But this image is the one that remains, and it is for this, and many other reasons that, not today but...yesterday, it is clear that it is more than necessary that Cyprus reintroduce itself to foreigners, and restore and improve its tarnished reputation abroad as an international business centre.
Rebranding cannot be considered the means for our country to mislead foreigners, on the contrary, it should be considered the way to demonstrate exactly that Cyprus is no longer the corrupt country that some people want to present it as, that it is not, as a financial and business services centre, suffering from the pathogens that some continue to passionately project.
It is certainly positive that the President of the Republic Nikos Christodoulides himself recognises this necessity and ranks it high on the Government's priorities. He has also repeatedly expressed his discomfort with the situation and announced policies and actions for the rebranding of Cyprus.
The point, however, is that these actions should be based on a well-organised and planned long-term strategy and that they are not spasmodic and dubious in terms of their end result. It is right for President Christodoulides to feel embittered and to express his anger at every opportunity, but we are sure that he knows that this alone will not solve the problem, it will not improve the reputation of Cyprus - because that is what must happen.
And it is precisely here that we will disagree with the recent position of President Christodoulides on the subject, that he will protect the reputation of Cyprus as an international business centre as if it were something he cherishes more than anything else. What must be done is for the President to not only preserve but to improve the reputation of our country, because quite simply it is not good. The bitter truth is that it is bad.
Just last Thursday, the President of the Republic stated that the bill for the single supervisory mechanism is being prepared and expressed the Government's determination to proceed with this decision to introduce it.
This is a decision that is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, and which should be implemented without being “watered down”, regardless of objections and disagreements from the various professional bodies involved, such as lawyers for example.
The single supervisory mechanism should be established, staffed and put into operation, having at its disposal all the necessary supplies and ‘weapons,’ all those powers, which will allow it to exercise its supervisory role strictly and without division. It should not be a single supervisory mechanism that is legislatively “toothless,” created for show and the shadow of the other existing supervisory authorities, such as the Cyprus Bar Association, the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The rebranding and restoration of the reputation of Cyprus, however, also presupposes something else that is equally very important. The allocation of millions of euros for the communication and promotion of our country as an international business centre abroad is something that has so far been done in an extremely inadequate way.
It may be that in other times such a thing was not considered and not presented as being necessary, but in the modern era in which we find ourselves experiencing, communication and image, and promotion through the implementation of well-targeted marketing campaigns, are non-negotiable conditions and indisputably important components for the achievement of the goals set in the sphere of wider policy practice, with all that this entails.
The economy, and in this case the improvement of a vital parameter for its performance should of course be included. Attention must be paid to entrepreneurship and especially the reputation of Cyprus as an international business centre, so that foreign investors can trust it again and choose it for their business activities, without any grey areas either in the forefront or back of their minds.
As InBusinessNews, for years we have argued and demonstrated that it is not possible for the state to grant tens of millions to the Deputy Ministry of Tourism for advertising Cyprus as a tourist destination, but at the same time grant Invest Cyprus for the promotion and promotion of the country as an international business centre only 2.5 million, of which one million is allocated to cover the operational costs of the organisation.
Essentially, 1.5 million euros is left to achieve an extremely important goal, that of attracting foreign investment to the island...
To achieve something like this, to perform a true rebranding, requires many millions to be allocated and spent, the… game cannot be played with pennies.
We believe it is the time for the state to redefine its priorities, it is the moment when, if it really wants and means to improve the reputation of Cyprus, it should put its money where its mouth is and reach its hand deep into its pocket.
It is time to find and assign to a prestigious foreign company with the responsibility of our country’s marketing and communication, to spend and pay as many millions as needed in this direction, towards achieving the intended targets.
It is also certain that whatever cost we bear as a state, no matter how large the expense, the future return and benefit for the country through the descent of high-value investments will be much greater.
This is the only way, any other ‘recipes’ for the rebranding of Cyprus are not going to lead anywhere. Only if we put our hands deep in our pockets, only when we pay those who should be paid what they deserve to be paid, will we see the reputation of Cyprus improve.
If the Government really means what it publicly proclaims, if Nikos Christodoulides really is determined to turn things around, now is the time and this is the way to achieve it.