Founded a decade ago, the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) is focusing its work on three key pillars: the promotion of the country’s potentials abroad; facilitation and support to potential and existing investors; and development of favourable, business-friendly legislation. Natasa Pilides, Director General of CIPA, is leading a small, but very energetic and passionate team, which serves as a vital link between the government, the domestic private sector and foreign investors.
European Times: Could you please elaborate on the three pillars of CIPA’s work?
Natasa Pilides: Our first pillar is the promotion of Cyprus abroad and enhancing the country’s image in front of the international audience. This also includes finding potential investors and getting them interested to explore our investment potential. The second pillar is facilitation and support; it encompasses helping both potential and existing investors. Existing investors are equally important to us; we help them in solving investment issues and we try to be the first point of contact they would come to regarding any plans of expansion or changing of their activities. The third pillar is looking at the legislative framework and finding ways to improve it. Our aim is to improve the business environment, as well as to introduce incentives for specific sectors which could make those sectors more competitive.
European Times: Cyprus has built a reputation as a business hub of regional and global importance. Why should investors choose Cyprus?
Natasa Pilides: There are many important reasons why investors choose Cyprus. To begin with, we have high-quality professional services, as our economy has been service based over the last decades. When businesses move their offices here or set up a regional base, they are confident that they will find qualified, multilingual employees, as Cyprus has the highest level of tertiary education graduates in the EU. We are a part of the European Union, and its vast market can supplement investors’ needs in all sectors and specialisation areas. Our island is small but cosmopolitan, with an attractive tax regime which applies both to individuals and companies. The emerging investment funds sector allows investments through these funds, choosing from a variety of exciting industries such as shipping, tourism or start-ups and technology. In addition to the advantages that apply to all companies and individuals, we also have incentive programmes specifically targeting start-ups and intellectual property.
Everyone here realises that foreign investments are a big part of the country’s success, which is why everyone understands the importance of catering to investors’ needs. People are eager to offer their services to investors and work in their companies, since many investors have earned a reputation of outstanding employers.
European Times: What are the key incentives offered to investors in Cyprus? What attracts the growing international community of investors to the country?
Natasa Pilides: There are several important advantages, such as the ease of doing business, an advanced legal system based on English common law, a straightforward and attractive tax system. Other important incentives include the relatively low operational costs needed to run a company in Cyprus and high availability of qualified, English-speaking professionals. Furthermore, when employees move into the country, if they are high earners, 50% of their income can be exempt from income tax for a maximum of ten years. We have an excellent tax regime applying to non-domiciles – they do not pay tax on their dividends and their interest. Regarding the socio-economic situation in the country, the education system is very strong and we have several excellent universities which offer everything from medical degrees to high quality IT degrees. Cyprus also offers high quality of life and stunning natural beauty; you can travel from the mountains to the sea on the same day. I would say that we offer the best of both worlds – people can have a quality family life, they can enjoy the infrastructure, the efficiency of government and private sector services and benefit from a prosperous business as well.
European Times: Which are the major investment projects currently in development on the island?
Natasa Pilides: Several major projects exist, such as the integrated casino resort, the Ayia Napa Marina on the east side of the island, and several other marinas in the works, one in Paphos, and one in Paralimni. The Limassol port was recently commercialised with a view to developing it into a central port for the region, while the Larnaca port is also in the process of being privatised. We have numerous projects which include existing businesses which decide to move part of their activities to Cyprus and establish regional headquarters here because of our strategic position in the eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus is a stable base with an advanced business environment and various activities the energy sector and the shipping sector, so companies are choosing to base their regional activities with offices in Cyprus. Their decisions are also influenced by other international developments, such as the “Brexit”, since companies based in Great Britain may no longer have the same access to the EU, so they want to have a base here in addition to their headquarters in the UK. Additionally, Cyprus is the strategic bridge between the European Union and the Middle-East, offering access to the Middle East and Asia for those seeking to penetrate these markets.
European Times: What is your personal message for the European Times audience?
Natasa Pilides: The number of companies investing in Cyprus is constantly growing, due both to companies seeking access into the EU, as well as European companies wanting access to Asia and the Middle East. Invest Cyprus stands at the disposal to all potential investors and we would be pleased to provide any information regarding specific opportunities which Cyprus has to offer and jointly analyse the investment climate in detail. I would like to encourage all interested parties to contact us through our website, by telephone and especially to visit us in person.