OPPOSITION MPs yesterday accused the administration of sheer incompetence, after Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly told them that a touted multi-million Qatari investment in Nicosia may have fallen by the wayside.
“It would seem that the investment in question may likely not go ahead, for various reasons,” Shiarly informed members of the House Watchdog Committee, who had requested an update.
Back in November 2008 Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company and the government signed an MoU to conduct feasibility studies and land evaluation for the project, located on a prime site opposite the Hilton hotel.
The plan was to have a mixed-use development involving a luxury hotel, apartments, shops and offices which would be available to Cypriot and foreign investors.
The Finance Minister did not elaborate on why the “deal” has apparently gone sour, but said that the President has personally written to the Emir of Qatar asking the latter to clarify his intentions vis a vis the project.
The letter was sent on April 2, but so far and to his knowledge, no response has been received, he said.
Shiarly went on to inform MPs that “at various time periods” the Emir of Qatar had asked for a report on potential investments in Cyprus, and that the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency obliged by sending the Emir such a list – hinting that the Qataris may be interested in other projects here.
Lawmakers, however, were clearly not sold on talk of other investments, dismissing this as nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
“The much-trumpeted Qatari investment has turned out to be cursed,” DISY deputy Georgios Georgiou told newsmen later.
“In a roundabout way, the Finance Minister today has told us that it is not happening. And to make it appear as if the Qataris will not leave without investing a single euro, they [the government] are now making vague references to other investments, and this to justify their incompetence for failing to bring to fruition a development project which they have been advertising for more than two years.”
Georgiou said the Finance Minister was not in a position to explain the reasons for this turn of events.
Last year the Cypriots and the Qataris agreed to set up a joint venture for the development of a leisure complex at the site opposite the Hilton hotel. A six-member council comprising three members from each country would run the venture. The three Cypriot members are Christos Mavrellis, Andreas Pittas and Pambos Papageorgiou, an AKEL MP who sits on the House Watchdog Committee.
Any insight into the Qatari hitch might therefore have come from the Cypriot members of the council. But at the House committee session yesterday, AKEL deputy Aristos Damianou said it would be inappropriate for his colleague Papageorgiou to brief the committee because the two other members of the council – Mavrellis and Pittas – were absent.
The committee therefore decided to arrange for another session for a briefing.
Greens deputy George Perdikis suggested the government should at least get its story right. He said that the former finance minister had claimed that he personally encouraged the Emir to proceed with the investment. However, during the President’s press conference on domestic policy issues, Christofias said it was the Emir who was keen to invest here.
“At the end of the day, this government does not know its left from its right, and I doubt whether the President himself knows what he is doing,” Perdikis quipped.