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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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By George Psyllides PRIVATE auditors have expressed doubt the electricity authority (EAC) could be considered a going concern and have asked its board to draft a credible plan to tackle the problem, according to the auditor-general’s 2012 report on the semi-state company. Among other issues, ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Paphos-Polis road: a 1 billion euro scandal? Critics says road will shorten travelling time by a mere eight minutes ]

Paphos-Polis road: a 1 billion euro scandal? Critics says road will shorten travelling time by a mere eight minutes

SERIOUS doubts are being raised over the nearly €900 million earmarked for the construction of a new road linking Paphos to Polis, the costliest public project on record.

Sources inside the Scientific and Technical Chamber (ETEK) tell the Sunday Mail the road would shorten travel time to Polis by a mere eight minutes (and perhaps as few as five), and wonder whether good sense has flown out the window.

The sources, engineers who are members of ETEK and who spoke on condition of anonymity, estimate the tab will ultimately spiral to beyond €1 billion, since state expropriation of private land will cost an additional €100 million.

Needless to say, taxpayers will be picking up the tab.

By comparison, the Nicosia-Limassol highway, which is twice as long, cost around €100 million in present-day prices.

The same sources said that figures cited in a local paper last week estimating that each kilometre of road would cost €23 million were “pretty accurate”.

Former Finance Minister Michalis Sarris said the fundamental issue was the relationship of cost to benefit.

“It is not so much the figures in absolute terms, but rather, could we build something else with comparable amounts of money? It would seem the project is hard to justify,” he said.

Because the road will be cutting through hilly terrain and shrublands, it will require building nine flyovers, two tunnels, underground passes and bridges. That’s the main reason why the price tag is astronomical.

Negotiations are underway between the government and contractors, and the green light is expected to be given around springtime. The contractors have reportedly secured financing from the banks.

Defenders of the scheme argue that it will help curb urban depopulation and ease transit from Paphos to Polis, which at present is extremely cumbersome due to the meandering narrow road. It is also said that the €867 million covers also the cost of upkeep. And the Department of Public Works states that, according to its own calculations, it will shorten travel time by as much as 12 minutes.

Skeptics say it’s a lose-lose situation.

“The key question here is whether it’s cost-beneficial. There can only be one answer: No,” said one source.

“For one thing, tourists like to travel through picturesque countryside, look at the vines etc. So much for the ‘modernisation’ argument. Next, and this is the core question, how useful will the road be?

“In all frankness, I don’t think that enabling farmers to reach their fields eight minutes earlier really justifies the gigantic costs involved. And that’s putting it mildly,” the source said.

“The money could easily be used to improve the entire transit grid of Paphos. In a country with so many problems - water shortages, lack of energy infrastructure - you don’t go spending billions on one road. Not to mention the current economic conditions.

“You could achieve a similar outcome simply by improving the existing road. You don’t see other countries obliterating traditional roads just because they are impractical.”

The source pointed out that the road will end at the site of a planned golf resort at Limni. The master plan for the project, the contractors of which are the Shacolas Group, includes high-end residential villas as well as a boutique hotel and spa.

“Could it be a case of vested interests? Have you heard anyone from the political opposition complain? Let’s leave it at that. Excuse my French, but they’re going to screw the entire area for one road,” he told the Sunday Mail.

The necessary expropriations should not be underplayed, either, the source said: “There’s going to be a lot of angry folks out there.”

Auditor-general Chrystalla Yiorkadji, whose job is to monitor the utility of government expenditures, has also issued a damning verdict on the Paphos-Polis road.

In her report for 2006, Yiorkadji noted that initial plans to improve/upgrade the existing road were shelved in 2000, when it was decided to construct a new road under the method PPP (Public Private Partnership), whereby the private sector would study, construct, finance and upkeep the road, “as a result of the reactions raised by the agencies involved”.

According to the technical and financial study, the cost of the project was estimated at €124 million in prices of 1999, while this was increased to €255 million (in 2005 prices), “as a result of the very expensive constructions (junctions, large bridges and tunnels) and the additional works, which were subsequently decided, after political decisions.”

The Auditor-general goes on to say: “In my letter, addressed to the Ministers of Finance and Communications and Works, in October 2005, I observed that the Government decided for the construction of the above project, despite the fact that the financial and technical study has shown that the internal return factor (IRR) was lower than four per cent, while according to the requirements of the International Bank the factor should be higher than 12 per cent, for the financing of the road projects.

“In my view the cost of the project should be reduced to reasonable levels, which may be effected only with the modification of the planning philosophy of the project, so that, the number and the type of expensive constructions (junctions, large bridges and tunnels) to be reduced, with the objective the internal return factor to be increased to 10 per cent, at least.”

She went on to cite the International Monetary Fund mission, which in March 2006 investigated the possible financial effects from the execution of the projects under the PPP method. The IMF said the decision for the construction of the road was taken "in an ad-hoc fashion", without taking into consideration the value for money of the project. It also said that “due to the absence of clear specifications from the part of Government, the consultants were allowed to specify an over-designed project.”

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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