Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry, Natasa Pilides speaks about business developments, rebranding Cypriot products, and the next generation of young entrepreneurs leading the nation forward.
Text: Ioanna Christodoulou
After the pandemic, Cyprus will have to take a new approach to manage its business development. When do you think it will succeed in doing so, and how?
The reboot of the Cypriot economy has already begun. From the beginning of the pandemic, the government has implemented measures to ensure financial support for businesses and workers. This has kept unemployment and non-performing loans under control. Now, everyone is working to boost economic recovery in preparation for the next fiscal year. From the beginning of 2021, our ministry announced 126-million euros in funding to boost entrepreneurship and the Cypriot economy. We will approach 2022 with the same enthusiasm and will announce in excess of €130 million in programmes for business funding. I should also mention the development of Fast Track Business Activation: a mechanism within our ministry in operation since last year that allocates facilities to foreign companies wishing to establish their businesses in Cyprus. All in all, this initiative has brought 22 foreign companies to Cyprus that employ a large workforce.
What is the strategy behind the Made in Cyprus product labels, and what is your ministry doing to promote exports?
This branding will be based on qualitative criteria, targeted promotions and other actions to enhance awareness of Cypriot products in foreign markets. It will establish confidence among Cypriot consumers and contribute to an increase in quality control. In turn, this will make Cypriot products more competitive. Other measures are in the pipeline to encourage Cypriot companies to adapt to new market conditions and requirements, including the need to familiarise themselves with the process of exporting goods. We are following a strategy to strengthen the four main exports of Cyprus: Halloumi, pharmaceuticals, fruit juices and potatoes. In addition, the first National Action Plan for Cypriot Wine 2021-2023 is set to apply a new visual identity to our wines in both domestic and international markets. What is crucial for our plans to increase exports are reorganising support infrastructure for entrepreneurs who wish to expand abroad and business sponsorships for qualified high-value industries.
How prepared are your ministry and domestic businesses to face new challenges posed by digital transformation?
Since announcing the Sponsorship Plan for Digital Business Upgrade in December 2019, a planned investment of 6-million euros, it is evident that Cypriot companies know the importance of integrating with a digital economy. The proof is in the numbers: to date, 509 submitted applications totalling investments of 18.5-million euros. We believe that digital maturity is crucial to our businesses’ survival. We need additional support from information systems technology and more e-commerce profiles to promote products and services worldwide. During the 2021-2027 period, our ministry will continue to urge and support companies in their digital transformations with allocated funding for this purpose. In early 2022, funding worth 20-million euros will be announced, followed by an additional 10-million at a later date.
How do you see the new generation of entrepreneurs? How could they change or impact the business environment?
The new generation is already upgrading businesses and the business environment in Cyprus. Their academic backgrounds, digital know-how and university experience concerning the future of eco-friendly economics, personnel management and culture is invaluable. We are encouraging the next generation of young entrepreneurs by providing them with significant financial incentives. This has resulted in increased success stories among young people who have taken advantage of our funding. They are now the driving force for new developments within their chosen fields. I am confident that young entrepreneurs will make decisive contributions to reducing our deficit in applied research by adopting new, innovative and green approaches to entrepreneurship.