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12° Nicosia,
08 February, 2023
 
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Digital controversies

Here are the positions, commitments and promises of the three candidates for the Cyprus of tomorrow

by Oriana Papantoniou

The three front-runners for the presidency of the republic laid out their objectives and ideas for tackling various issues and the nation's shift to a digital economy.

The three front-runners for the presidency of the republic laid out their objectives and ideas for tackling contemporary issues and the nation's shift to a digital economy.

In a discussion that was moderated by Mr. Dimitris Lottidis, which was not short of humor and digs against each candidate, Averof Neofytou, Andreas Mavroyiannis, and Nicos Christodoulides discussed how they saw the technological future of Cyprus. 

Averof Neofytou: "Government services to be accessible through our mobile phones by 2025"

The DISY president said, "We are living in the fourth industrial revolution, and the goal should not be for young people to receive the minimum wage but to work in technology companies, a sector with a very small percentage of Cypriots. We need to give proper orientation for the professions of the future. We are at a good stage in education, but we are not at the desired stage."

According to Averof Neofytou, the effort to digitize Cyprus is one thing, while the incentives provided by the government to make the country an appealing destination for technology firms are another. In terms of vocational orientation, he stated that he has recommended that representatives from the organizations visit schools and inform students about their functional needs.

"The five big goals for the next five years are a united homeland, a strong economy, a digital Cyprus, green and with responsible citizens with the aim that by 2025 government websites will be accessible through our mobile phones," he added. "My vision is that by 2025 citizens will not have to go to the government service offices for any document but will be able to issue it from the cafeteria where they drink their coffee".

On the topic of natural gas, Neofytou said, it was not enough to find natural gas and that it must also be considered whether it is viable to transport and use it.

Regarding photovoltaics, he suggested that the installation process be made simpler and that a permit should only be granted if an AHK invoice and the ability to produce 125% are presented.

In addition, the DISY president sent a strong message to hunters, warning them that if he was forced to agree with their requests, Cyprus would not be able to transition to 100% renewable energy. According to Neofytou, the hunters urged him to avoid building sizable photovoltaic parks so as not to impede hunting.

He concluded by saying, "Yes, I am the chairman of the ruling party, and I take responsibility for mistakes and missteps as well. For the good of the government, others are credited.  I was the "co-bus driver" for 10 years. When something was right, the applause went to the driver and the ministers, while when something was wrong, the applause went to the co-driver."

Andreas Mavroyiannis: The goal is for Cypriot scientists to stay in Cyprus

"There should be a connection between the youth and the opportunities that exist in the country so that they can advance professionally and be paid accordingly.  Cyprus, if it manages to stay on the digital transformation train, has unlimited potential. Digital transformation is a wild horse that, if you manage to get it running properly, will keep winning and that is what the country needs. The 'brains' should finally stop leaving our country.

Andreas Mavroyiannis stated that the EU is lagging behind in digital transformation, noting that Cyprus must and deserves to be higher. However, doing the bare minimum is insufficient; much more is required. We must not waste this opportunity for transformation, which is why my program includes four pillars.

He went on to say that what is needed is the elimination of bureaucracy, as well as a new approach that takes advantage of technology's enormous potential.

Mavroyiannis reiterated that 11 years after the discovery of the Aphrodite deposit, Cyprus remains the only country in the EU that does not use natural gas, despite its own explanation that a 15-year transition period is needed.

Nicos Christodoulides: "Our goal in the next five years is to surpass the EU average in the digital index"

"In recent years, the government has made a conscious decision to broaden our economy's productive base so that we do not rely solely on services. An effort has been made, and we must congratulate both the Ministry of State for Innovation and the other Ministries that have worked in this direction. The problem we face is that there is no link between education and the labor market, with the economy.  We need to develop a digital culture both towards students and towards education in general," the presidential candidate said.

Nicos Christodoulides explained that his pre-election program includes four actions and 38 objectives for digital transformation, all of which are directly related to the country's competitiveness and anti-corruption efforts. "Over the next five years, our country's goal is to outperform the EU average in the digital index for the economy and society, moving up from 20th place today."

He also stated that there are ways to eliminate bureaucracy and for one public service not to request documents from another public service, implying that there should be an interconnection.

Concerning the energy barrier, Christodoulides stated that clearly more could be done, noting that some had grown accustomed to Russian gas.

"First and foremost, AHK should modernize its grid in order to increase the penetration of renewable energy sources; natural gas should be used as a transitional stage; a deposit has recently been discovered near the coast of Cyprus that can easily be exploited; we should not demonize this option, but use it as a bridge," said the former Foreign Minister.

He claimed that the hunters did not object to his plan to build photovoltaic parks in expansive areas. 

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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