By George Takkas
The seasonality of work in the free province of Famagusta is one of the main issues to which both the state and local authorities are called upon to provide solutions. Every year, up to 90% of businesses, leisure centers and restaurants close in November and reopen at Easter. After all, there are very few hotel units that remain open all the time. This long period of inactivity each year has knock-on effects both economically and socially, as well as in terms of the quality of life of local residents. Thousands of workers are forced to live for several months on unemployment benefits as their only income, with the uncertainty of whether they will have a job next year. As a result, more and more local residents are seeking their fortunes elsewhere. According to research we have conducted, four out of five young people in our region leave for the big cities in search of work.
To deal with this phenomenon, individual and jerky movements are not enough. A specific plan and cooperation of all the competent bodies of the region and the state is required. They need investments of high added value that give a development boost to the local economy and society. The region is in great need of development projects and quality jobs, as it has a large number of workers with high academic and other training.
In this effort, we must all keep our eyes and antennae open, so that we can sense the international trends and perspectives that exist for the most sustainable development possible, which at the same time respects the environment and the environmental goals set by area.
One of these international trends, as recorded in recent years, is mixed developments which can bring significant benefits to the local community and economy. The creation of high-quality health infrastructure in the area, combined with the construction of accommodation units and the provision of quality services that will operate around the clock, or even further investment in areas such as education, through specific developments, significantly improve the quality of life of the residents and the possibilities employment.
The Municipality of Sotiras is perhaps the first Municipality in Cyprus to plan the beach front before even building hotel units. In the last ten years, there has been a methodical and persistent effort on the part of the Municipality, which resulted in the attraction of investment interest, to the benefit of the entire province. At the moment there is interest in the implementation of four developments, worth more than €400 million, which are expected to be operational throughout the year. These are developments that will provide hundreds of quality jobs for personnel of various specialties, upgrading the services provided both for the residents of the area and for its visitors. Already, in the coastal area of the Municipality of Sotiras, three developments have submitted an application to the Department of Town Planning and Housing.
Given that the coastal front of Sotiras is largely part of Natura 2000, the Municipality's aim is not the uncontrolled development of the area. After all, we, as a Local Authority, are the first to worry about the protection of the environment and have included it high on our priorities. However, based on the Local Plan for the area as it was released in 2020, after long-term consultations with all the relevant government departments, very specific plots, measured on the fingers of one hand, have been set aside precisely for the construction of developments in the area. In the Municipality of Sotiras, we claim only what we are entitled to based on the Local Plan, an important pillar of which is the protection of the environment. We claim sustainable development for the benefit of the entire province of Famagusta, whose inhabitants have the right to dream of a bright future for themselves and their children and equal opportunities with the inhabitants of other provinces.
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