President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias sent a “message of optimism for the economy of Cyprus and its prospects“ on Friday, noting that “in a spirit of cooperation and understanding we have much to achieve, so let us collectively undertake the responsibility, with the benefit of the country and the welfare of the people in mind, for an economic and social uplift.“

Speaking at the opening of the 36th Cyprus International Fair, President Christofias said that “our top priority and aim is not only to overcome the current crisis but to establish a stable economy with sound foundations and dynamics for growth,“ adding that “such an economy is a substantive parameter of support to our national problem and at the same time is a factor of prosperity for the people of our country.“

President Christofias said “the Government is alert and monitoring and evaluating international developments, with an aim to determine in time any possible opportunities and strengthen the effort with the private sector to exploit them, with the implementation of the best possible policies, measures and plans.“

He pointed out that the Fair has become established as a major event aiming at bringing Cypriot and foreign companies into contact and creating opportunities for cooperation and exchanges with mutual benefits, and at the same time provides the people with the opportunity to become acquainted with new products and pioneering developments in technology.

“The unprecedented global financial crisis caused problems in all the economies of the world and created the need to readjust our goals. The main element of our policy is the fact that, in contrast with many countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world, we are facing the repercussions of the financial crisis and at the same time enhancing the welfare state. Contrary to many other countries, in Cyprus salaries, pensions and social benefits have not been slashed but instead our compatriots who are in need have been supported,“ he said.

Referring to the economy`s indices, President Christofias said they deteriorated with the crisis, along with those of all EU member states.

He mentioned the Government`s schemes to support significant sectors of the economy and measures to overcome the crisis.

“The deficit was restrained under 6% of the GDP and in 2010 closed at 5.3%. Furthermore, the growth rate for 2010 was around 1%, twice as much as had been forecast. This was achieved with the support of growth and the restraint of state operational expenditure. Cyprus` growth rate over the past three years is the fourth highest in the EU and the third highest in the Eurozone,“ President Christofias pointed out.

He added that, “in order to tackle the consequences of the global financial crisis, we drafted and submitted to the EU a Stability Programme, which contains specific measures to restrict the public deficit at 4.5% of the GDP in 2011 and below 3% in 2012.“

Referring to unemployment, President Christofias said that it rose during the crisis and that “we are very concerned,“ adding that out of the approximately 29,000 unemployed persons, 25% are EU citizens.

However, he pointed out that “Cyprus is the fourth best in the percentage of unemployment among the 27 EU member states.“

Furthermore, President Christofias said that Cyprus` location in the southeastern Mediterranean, at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Asia, combined with its capacity as an EU member state and a member of the Eurozone, provides advantages, adding that “Cyprus` international competitiveness is high and efforts are being made to further improve it.“

He noted the increasing number of foreign companies registering in Cyprus and agreements signed to avoid double taxation, as well as the robust banking system of the island.

The President also referred to small and medium sized enterprises, which comprise 99% of the Cypriot businesses, noting that they play an important role in the island`s economy and efforts are continuing to strengthen them.

Referring to globalisation, he said economic activity has taken on a cross-border character, adding that Cyprus, with few resources and a comparatively small economy, has no other choice than to become extrovert and aspire to world trade, and that the Government is supporting private initiative in order to promote commercial activity in the new international competitive environment.

President Christofias said that much work was being done in the sector of services, noting that the aim of the Government was to establish Cyprus as an international hub for services.

Regarding tourism, President Christofias said it was a major chapter of the island`s economy and has always been at the core of the Government`s attention, noting that in 2010 there had been a 4% increase in revenue compared to 2009, and that 2011 had kicked off with the best prospects and further increase was expected.

Referring to energy and Cyprus` dependency on imported fuel, President Christofias said the Government has intensified its efforts to save energy, use renewable energy sources and exploit the country`s energy resources.

He added that energy was a major issue for the prospects of the country and its people, and that “we have achieved that which for many was considered to be unthinkable, the delimitation of Cyprus` exclusive economic zone with neighbouring countries to the southeast of Cyprus.“

“The sea area of Cyprus is very promising, with great possibilities for the existence of financially exploitable hydrocarbon reserves,“ he pointed out.

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