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Speech by the General Secretary of AKEL Stefanos Stefanou at the meeting – discussion on the Sustainable, Modern and Socially Oriented New Developmental Model


10 July 2023, Journalist’s House, Nicosia

Dear friends,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to today’s Meeting on the Economy. Our goal with this Meeting is to establish and strengthen a channel of communication with all of you progressive and socially sensitive people in the economy, production and business.

Economic issues are very high on the political agenda and in AKEL’s daily activity. And this is perfectly normal. Without a strong and robust economy, no state can survive in today’s world. Without a strong and robust economy, no state can pursue a comprehensive and effective social policy.

At today’s meeting we want to open a debate on the Cyprus economy and its prospects, drawing on the knowledge, experience and expertise of all of you who are involved in the real economy, production, trade and services. This debate will help us to further elaborate and develop our political positions and to formulate specific proposals for the economy and, by extension, for society.

Some people perpetuate the misconception that AKEL is supposedly not concerned with the economy. If they mean the entanglement/interwoven interests and corruption, the “get-rich-quick-policies at any cost” and the fake investments of the golden passports scheme, then yes, we are not and will never be concerned with that. For some, that’s what economic policy is.

For us it is not and never will be. We will never accept policies that over the past few years have generated major imbalances in the economy and undermined its future by discrediting our country internationally. We will never support economic policies that serve the powerful interests of establishment powers to the detriment of society or the selfish interests of some friends, relatives and acquaintances that harm working people, business activity and the economy as a whole.

We want an economy that is healthy and shows dynamic growth. A growth that results in policies for the progress of society, for the prosperity of people. For this to happen, of course, there needs to be comprehensive policies for both the economy and the welfare state. These are the two pillars on which AKEL bases its policy and intervention in the public sphere. Pillars that are interlinked and complement each other.

For AKEL it is clear that Cyprus can no longer tolerate the predatory economy based on a “get-rich-quick” philosophy and circumstantial profit. It needs a sustainable, modern, socially-oriented economy.

The economy isn’t just about numbers and accounting formulas. Behind the numbers there are always people and workers and they are the ones we want to serve first and foremost. We want to give the country a perspective, to lead it away from risks and adventures.

We want an economy that can create quality jobs with rights for all.

We seek to formulate policies that address social inequalities, ensure environmental sustainability and sustainability in public finances.

We want stability in the economy, but also in the financial system. We need to change the political perception, which is damaging to the economy, that in order to have stability we supposedly need to shift the burden, especially in times of crisis, horizontally on everyone and normally it’s the workers who are footing the bills.

The economy needs a state governed by the rule of law characterised by the objective, transparent and impartial functioning of institutions, as well as equality in all sectors and manifestations of economic activity in the country. In recent years in our country these have been reduced to a great extent. I could cite many examples, not out of any weakness, but out of concern for the future. It is with an eye to the future that we want to hold today’s debate on our developmental model. We want to see how we can build the Cyprus of tomorrow.

Dear friends,

When planning for the future it is crucial to know what the facts we have before us.

The first conclusion concerns the reality on the domestic scene. The Cyprus economy in recent years has been based on anarchic growth resulting in widening income and social inequalities. Expensiveness, increased rents in urban areas, the burden of private debt and the stagnation of wages and incomes – especially in the private sector – have led most of society to view the future with pessimism and to feel financial insecurity.

The second has to do with the country’s image abroad. The depreciation of the country abroad and the proliferation of entanglement/interwoven interests and corruption are damaging the prospects of the Cyprus economy. They limit investment opportunities, reduce flexibility in exercising economic policy and render the country an unreliable economic partner.

We know that things in the economy are not easy.

We are aware of the economic difficulties a large part of the population faces and the ever-increasing challenges for the productive forces of the country. That is precisely why we believe that our developmental vision for the future must encapsulate two key components: Economic growth and a parallel strengthening of society’s income.

The compass guiding our long-standing positions are:

  • Sustainable growth by reshaping the country’s developmental model
  • Combatting the growing income and social inequalities
  • The sharing of economic burdens according to one’s income and economic capability.
  • Ensuring quality jobs with rights, dignified wages and pensions.
  • Support for business, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of the Cyprus economy.
  • Protecting the environment from anarchic development.
  • The existence of equality and fairness at all levels of economic activity, both in the private and public sectors.

We base our actions on these positions and we move forward with these positions. We know how the economy works and we understand how market forces work. But we do not believe that some invisible hand will magically distribute the wealth produced by society as fairly as possible and correct inequalities. Nor does it provide solutions in the public interest and for the benefit of society in general. It is clear that without changes in economic governance, without reforms and infrastructure, the Cyprus economy cannot meet the modern needs of growth and society.

In our understanding, the new developmental model should serve the following objectives:

Firstly, the economy should grow through productive investment.

Investments, both domestic and foreign, should not be circumstantial but permanent and serve broader social and environmental objectives. We want a solid foundation in the economy so that we can finance a better quality of life for all and make the transition to a more energy and environmentally friendly development.

We do not want Cyprus to remain tied to the sun and sea and to the provision of international services. We want it to become a tourist destination on a year-round basis, to develop into a specialised centre of medical services, to become a hub of Research, Innovation, Technology, University Excellence, to strengthen its position as a maritime centre of international importance. To develop the primary and secondary sectors.

Secondly, we want the new developmental model to support society. This is a priority objective, especially now in times of rising inflation and expensiveness. We urgently need a comprehensive plan to provide effective support for vulnerable groups and the middle strata, who feel expensiveness and the high cost of living overwhelming them.

Thirdly, we want to make the citizens of our country proud to live in Cyprus by providing essential goods and services to citizens. Starting with access to housing, quality health and social services, dignified pensions and modern education.

Fourth, ensuring stability in public finances. We are convinced that an in-depth tax reform must be promoted. The State needs adequate resources to be able to support society. And to do this, those who own the great wealth must contribute more. When those who have the most ability do not contribute it means that those who have nothing will pay much more.

Fifth, we need to invest in a model state, far from “less State” logics and policies that in hard times leave citizens without any protection. There is no better example than the pandemic. Without public hospitals, without the state health infrastructures, we could never have confronted this unprecedented situation. Cyprus is a small semi-occupied country, isolated in the Eastern Mediterranean, and cannot leave strategic sectors without any control.

Sixth, we need to ensure dignified wages and working conditions by ensuring basic labour rights, restoring the purchasing power of wages, giving employers incentives to move in this direction.

I have left the financial system for last as it is crucial to the economy. We need a reliable financial system that works for the benefit of the economy and not against it. Leaving behind the banking crisis of 2013 and putting an end to the phenomena of impunity and opportunism of the past. Respecting the efforts and labour of working people and businesses. In other words, those who have put their backs into the last few years to get us here today. That understands that its relationship with society is not based on blackmail and exploitation, but on cooperation, putting an end to the abuses and illegal practices that are so damaging to the economy. Ensuring strong supervision, with accountability and transparency, allowing even cooperative institutions to have a place on the new banking map.

Dear friends,

We outline our next steps within this framework. We do not want to see the economy being driven down dark paths. However, we are not here to leave society at the mercy of impunity and exploitation. We do not want to see corruption constitute the main pillar in generating wealth. Nor can we accept that future generations will continue to live worse than those before them.

We call on each and every one of you together and separately to contribute and add to this effort along this path. I know that we cannot agree on everything. I understand the different starting points and backgrounds. However, the need to put the country and its prosperity above all else is a sufficient basis that can enable a common understanding, a common effort and a common course.

Thank you very much for your participation!




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