By Stelios Orphanides
The chairman of the House finance committee Averof Neophytou said that he is optimistic that political parties will support a government bill to establish a junior ministry for tourism replacing the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) reported on Monday.
Neophytou, who is also the president of Disy, the only parliamentary party supporting Nicos Anastasiades’s government, said he was optimistic that a subsequent party majority in the plenary would pass the bill, the CNA reported after the committee debated on the bill on Monday.
He added that the government had made its final position clear that with the establishment of the junior ministry, the CTO, a government-sponsored body tasked with advertising Cyprus as a destination and licencing and supervising Cyprus’s tourism industry, would cease to operate in its current form.
Neophytou said, according to the CNA, that all but one participants at the meeting, extended their support to the bill.
Earlier, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides, who in his previous capacity of Undersecretary to the President, oversaw the creation of the current draft bill, part of a reform agenda, said that tourism could not be one of the four areas currently under the ministry of energy, commerce, industry and tourism.
Directly or indirectly, tourism accounts for roughly a quarter of Cyprus’s economy, which in 2017, four years after the twin banking and fiscal crisis, expanded 3.9 per cent. Tourist arrivals rose last year 15 per cent to almost 3.7m against a 12 per cent increase in revenue to €2.6bn, which was in both cases an all-time record.
Petrides said that the establishment of the junior ministry would allow more effective policymaking via improved coordination and the implementation of a horizontal strategy as its head will participate in the meetings of the council of ministers and will be accountable directly to the president.
The head of government-sponsored organisations such as the CTO, cannot do so, he added.
“It is inconceivable to be the only tourist country in the EU which has neither a ministry nor a junior ministry for tourism, no clear political chief participating in cabinet meetings with accountability while the fate of tourism is regulated by the operation of a nine-member board of directors lacking the authority to implement a single horizontal tourism strategy,” Petrides said according to the CNA.
The enactment of the proposed government bill will allow the operation of a specialised tourist police and an inspection body that will address the lawlessness and disorder in the sector, he continued. Local administration and the police cannot oversee the operation of recreation establishments, safety, working hours and more.
SIDIKEK-PEO, a branch of the Akel affiliated umbrella union representing workers in the tourism area, said that it disagreed with the government’s bill as by scrapping CTO, it places all powers in the hands of a single person. The junior ministry will as a result lack the independence, flexibility and collectiveness in its decision making, SIDIKEK-PEO said in a statement.
On the other hand, EYKOT OIO-SEK, which represents CTO workers, said that it supported the bill.
In November last year, nine months after the government and the unions reached an agreement regulating labour issues that would arose from the transformation of the CTO into a junior ministry, the government signalled that it could incorporate changes in the bill proposed by Akel. They included the preservation of CTO under the junior ministry’s umbrella.