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Five ministers lay bare their priorities for Vision 2035

Five ministers, whose portfolios are directly connected to the government’s Vision 2035 strategy, have spoken about their ministries’ main priorities and plans for implementing the country’s sustainability targets.

The ministers of energy, labour, tourism, education and research relay their plans in a special edition published in February by IN Business Magazine.

George Papanastasiou, Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry

The Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry has a leading role to play in Cyprus’ transition to green and sustainable growth.

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“More specifically, it implements an integrated strategy whose main priorities include reducing the cost of energy, partially through bringing natural gas to Cyprus to use for power generation,” Minister George Papanastasiou explains. “At the same time, based on our industrial policy, we are working towards creating a robust, flexible, smart and technologically advanced industry by 2030. Meanwhile, we are promoting green investments, taking advantage of the sponsorship schemes for renewable energy sources (RES) and energy saving, which aim, for example, to install photovoltaic systems in as many homes as possible, as well as co-funded sponsorships we have secured up until 2027, worth €590 million.”

Among other things, the ministry provides incentives for energy efficiency measures and the use of RES by households, businesses and public bodies, supports the competitiveness and digital upgrading of businesses and promotes the circular economy, the operation of the competitive electricity market and the electrical interconnection of Cyprus with Greece and Israel.

“In cooperation with the competent ministries and agencies, we have also intensified the process of revising the national plan for energy and climate, in the context of the EU policies - Fit for 55 and RePowerEU. The final plan, which sets much more ambitious energy targets, is scheduled to be submitted to the European Commission by June 2024,” Papanastasiou concluded.

Yiannis Panayiotou, Minister of Labour and Social Insurance

Labour is at the centre of the Ministry of Labour Insurance’s actions, through the targeted development of human resources, appropriate staffing of the market, better regulation of labour relations and the efficient operation of the pensions system, says Minister Yiannis Panayiotou.

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“Our ministry has set specific priorities in this direction,” he said. “To promote modern professional development, an action plan is being implemented, formulated in the context of the European Year of Skills, with green and digital skills as reference points.”

At the same time, in order to implement an integrated employment policy, the ministry has increased the use of modern tools for effective monitoring of work, strengthened the employment of the country's human resources through targeted interventions and modern forms of work, such as teleworking, and improved its response to the market’s staffing needs with rational utilisation of workers from Third Countries.

“Also, our agenda includes priorities, such as improving the institutional labour framework through the submission of specific bills, the formulation of an action plan to extend the coverage of collective agreements and the promotion of the institutionalisation of basic health and safety education in specific sectors of the economy,” Panayiotou pointed out. “However, the most important reform being promoted is that of the pensions system - planned for 2025 - and for which 2024 will be a year of preparation,” he stressed. “During the year, we aim to complete the relevant studies and develop a social dialogue, to implement targeted corrective interventions that are in line with the capabilities of the social insurance fund, to upgrade the digital infrastructures and to modernise the relevant services.”

Dr Athena Michaelidou, Minister of Education, Sport and Youth

“Our main priority is to move to the modern, inclusive school, in which our children will be given the opportunity not only to acquire the necessary knowledge, but also to develop their abilities and skills to the maximum extent possible,” said the Minister of Education, Sport and Youth, Dr Athena Michaelidou.

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In an effort to change and modernise Cyprus’ education system, as well as to improve learning outcomes, she said the ministry is already implementing a new student assessment system. “At the same time, we are proceeding with the revision and updating of our analytical programmes.”

She added, “Also, responding to the needs of modern society, we are promoting the digital transformation of our school units, improving the institution of the full-day school and taking actions to link education with the labour market, formulating an upgraded policy for technique, reorganisation and improving higher education”.

Meanwhile, with targeted measures, the ministry is strengthening the country’s schools against violence and delinquency, while it is also working for the more effective integration of children with an immigrant background in the education system, as well as for the reconstruction of special-unified education.

“Our aim is to gradually and systematically create the modern school,” said Michaelidou. “A school that will give our children the opportunity, in time, to cultivate all those skills that will make them complete personalities, democratic and active citizens in society, capable of shaping the future and leading our country to growth and prosperity.”

Costas Koumis, Deputy Minister of Tourism

The fundamental goal of the Deputy Ministry of Tourism is the continuous strengthening of the competitiveness of the tourism sector, says Deputy Minister Costas Koumis. “The ultimate goal is to increase its contribution to the economy of our country and to the well-being of citizens, always in the context of sustainable tourism development,” he added.

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With this as a guide, the deputy ministry is proceeding with the update of the national tourism strategy with a horizon of 2035, with a particular emphasis on the green transition, digital transformation as well as improving accessibility.

“In the same context, our actions aimed at the substantial interconnection of the country's tourism economy with the goals of Vision 2035 are included,” said Koumis.

The sponsorship schemes that have been announced in recent months by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, aim at the implementation of actions by tourism businesses in these directions. “By operating in this way, we consider that we are simultaneously pushing tourism businesses to follow the same path and apply similar practices,” Koumis explained. “This is how the competitiveness and resilience of the tourism economy and by extension the economy of our country is strengthened.”

In fact, he said, the highlights and data that were recorded at the conference organised by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism last October in collaboration with the Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Association, on the topic: “Is climate change a threat to tourism?”, will be the compass for specialised actions, said Koumis. “The aim is to adapt the sector to the rapidly changing climatic conditions and limit, as much as possible, their effects on our tourism sector.”

Finally, the deputy ministry is promoting the development of special forms of tourism.

Nicodemos Damianou, Deputy Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy

“With horizontal extensions to a multitude of reforms and actions foreseen in the framework of Vision 2035, digital transformation and innovation are key components for a more modern and more sustainable development model for our country,” said Nicodemos Damianou, Deputy Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy.

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“The Deputy Ministry, committed to its goals and utilising national and European resources, has undertaken an integrated plan to accelerate the digital transition, which focuses on multiple and equally important axes,” he explained.

“We place particular emphasis on the modernisation of public infrastructure and the digitisation of public services - while simplifying the relevant procedures - in order to provide fast, direct and quality service to citizens and businesses.”

With the aim of universal access to ultra-high-speed networks, the deputy ministry is also upgrading the telecommunications structures throughout the country and strengthening the security of the digital space and the protection of the critical infrastructures of Cyprus.

“To ensure that everyone has the necessary resources to harness and benefit from the digital revolution, we are implementing actions to improve the digital skills of the country's workforce and society as a whole,” Damianou added.

At the same time, he said the deputy ministry give impetus to the digital upgrading of businesses and practically encourage investment in innovation and productive collaboration between the research and business worlds.

“The goal is for the innovative solutions to find their way to the market and to bring about a substantial change in the everyday life of the citizen while simultaneously strengthening the economy,” the deputy minister explained. “In cooperation with all relevant agencies, we work methodically and decisively for a competitive Cyprus, with technology and innovation as the cornerstone.”

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