Interviews

Interviews

Mr. Rohan D’SOUZA – Country Manager of Shell Upstream Albania

July 23, 2018
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“Shell wants to assist building a thriving energy industry in partnership with the Albanian Government”

FIAA: What is your role and background?

Mr. D’Souza: Earlier this year, I was delighted to be appointed as the Country Chairman and Commercial Manager for Shell’s activities in Albania. I have previously lived and worked in numerous countries around the world including in Africa, Asia and Australia across nearly all of Shell’s business’s: Upstream, Integrated Gas, and Downstream.

What are your impressions of Albania?

I was thrilled at what a beautiful and pleasant country Albania is to live in. The country has incredible natural beauty that will undoubtedly make Albania a tourist haven. But perhaps the most notable thing is the positive transformation we see in Tirana itself – improving infrastructure and a thriving atmosphere. From a Shell perspective, we are also committed to the development of this beautiful country.

What is Shell’s upstream project in Albania?

Shell is currently appraising an oil and gas prospect called Shpirag near the city of Berat. We operate under a contract with the Albanian government. As a part of that Shell puts significant amounts of dollars upfront to fund the exploration and development – with significant risk to Shell as it is exploration after all. In the chance that we are successful, the benefit is then significantly shared with the Albanian Government.

How is your working relationship with the Government?

We are delighted by the very close partnership we have with the government and the support the government gives to our development. Our partnership however is more than just sharing profits in a successful exploration effort. We as Shell want to assist build a thriving energy industry in partnership with the government.

What are your expectations from the Albanian Government in their mission to improve the business climate further?

Wherever we do business our guiding values are: honesty, integrity and respect to people. These are principles we also apply in our work with the government of Albania and I am looking forward to progressing further our working relationship in the future.

I would like to emphasize that we also speak to other foreign investors. As an Anglo-Dutch company we in particular talk to British and Dutch companies who are thinking about investing in Albania and who see our example of how contracts and business can be successfully progressed. We hope that this example encourages further investment in country.

How else does Shell support local communities?

Across our operations we invest in projects that benefit communities. We aim to make our social investment projects beneficial to the nearby society in measurable ways and to be sustainable beyond Shell’s involvement. Where possible, and when it makes economic sense, we buy goods and services from local suppliers and provide support to develop local businesses and skills. In Albania, we focus on four main things: Education and Vocational training, Road Safety, Health and Support for developing SME businesses. We are thankful of the warm welcome we get from our local communities and look forward to continuing to grow together.

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Mrs. Sonila QATO – Minister of State for Entrepreneurship

January 23, 2018
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“We want to strengthen the role of the ombudsman for all entrepreneurs operating in our country”.

FIAA:  What are your objectives and priorities as Minister of Entrepreneurship, a newly created Institution in Albania?

Mrs. Qato:  The mission of the Minister of State for the Protection of Entrepreneurship consists in the reduction of the existing gap between entrepreneurship and the public administration, by influencing in the creation of an adequate environment so that enterprises can work at their best capacities and increase their profit.

My role as a government ombudsman will result in the direct solution of the addressed complaints by various entrepreneurs. However, above all, my office will work for the removal of those administrative and corruptive barriers for which the government has already launched a deep reform of deregulation and we also plan on restructuring the inspectorates and government agencies that co-operate with enterprises.

In case of problems or miscommunication, our office mediates between any central or local institution in the country and the entrepreneur that claims an injustice. By defending the interest of enterprises through technical and legal advice, we aim at promoting the synergy of all parties and the interaction between business and government.

Are you planning any new initiatives to be implemented to meet your objectives?

We want to strengthen the role of the ombudsman of entrepreneurship through the legal initiative to establish two mechanisms that I consider to be highly important for all entrepreneurs operating in our country.

Firstly we have already sent to the government our request to transfer the responsibility for the organization and functioning of the National Economic Council and the technical secretariat under the direct responsibility of the Minister of State for the Protection of Entrepreneurship.

We want to reorganize the country’s highest economic council as a discussion forum, in which experts and policy makers can create a constructive debate and review legal proposals affecting the economy and the entrepreneurial environment, in order to increase the role of entrepreneurship in the regulation of the environment legal rights in each of the areas where they operate.

Secondly, we aim the construction of a new mechanism for the mediation of conflicts stemming from violations of the conditions of public contracts. Our mediation will be above all parties and will serve as an instrument for assessing contractual terms and conditions in order to avoid a litigation process for settling contractual disputes.

What measures are you expecting to take to improve the environment for foreign investors in Albania? What more do you think can be done to improve business conditions?

Improving business conditions in the country is a major challenge and a big responsibility of the entire government and the Office of the Minister of State for Enterprise Protection undoubtedly has a very important role for governmental coordination. We plan to regulate the environment of doing business by creating enough space for a competitive economy without barriers and bureaucratic delays, positive fiscal policies that have an impact on the growth of the country’s economy, by providing security to any foreign or domestic investor who wants to invest or re-invest their capitals in our country.

We are continuing our communication with many local and foreign investors who require our intervention to solve their problems. First of all we are pursuing step by step in each and every way the problems presented by the subjects in order to understand where the main issues lie, what is the most recurrent problem that harms entrepreneurship in Albania. Recently, in full cooperation with the entrepreneurs and their stakeholders, we introduced to the government the first package from the venture with suggestions and correction proposals, which will affect the business climate in the country.

What would be your message to the whole Business Community in Albania for a strong bilateral Partnership?

I invite all the investors operating in our country, whether foreign or domestic, to have trust in us and contact us for every problem that they may have. My staff and me are at complete disposal to offer assistance and track everyday problems that they may face regarding public administration. We are open to any cooperation, or proposal offering concrete suggestions on the correction of the legal framework. My office is at the service of any entrepreneur in our country and we act in the defense of any unjustly violated interests. The Albanian government considers entrepreneurs as partners and their indisputable role in the economic development of the country requires a proactive approach and co-governance together!

 

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Mr. Dietmar REINER – VERBUND’s Country Representative and CEO of Energji Ashta

April 20, 2017
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An independent, functioning and reliable justice system is a basic element required for all!

FIAA: During the first four years of the operation phase of the Ashta Hydro Power Plant, what have been the most significant challenges that you have had to overcome?

 Mr. Dietmar Reiner:  We have invested more than 200 Million EURO until end of 2012 to build a state of the art Hydro Power Plant. VERBUND and its partner EVN were the first large–scale private investors entering the Albanian Energy Sector. Due to the difficult situation in 2008, the time when the concession agreement has been signed, it was agreed with the government to enter into a long-term power offtake agreement. This agreement entered into force in April 2013, until June 2016 KESH was the off-taker, but then it was transferred to OSHEE. In the last four years there were a lot of challenges in the Albanian energy sector, especially in the downstream business, with the difficult situation in the distribution system and the supply to endcustomers. These difficulties also influenced our business; we were mainly suffering from payment delays which created for some periods huge arrears mainly to our lenders. Due to the background of our shareholders as large public utilities in the energy sector in Austria, the understanding of the situation and our belief in the success of the necessary reform in the energy sector, we and also our shareholders and lenders kept calm and focused during this time.

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Mrs. Laura QORLAZJA – IFC’s Country Representative in Albania

October 24, 2016
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“It is important that state institutions play a greater role in creating a business environment able to retain current investments and attract new ones”

FIAA: What is the IFC’s current long term finance investment strategy in Albania?

Photo L. QorlazjaMrs. Qorlazja: Thank you first of all for giving me the opportunity to talk about IFC in general and its work in Albania.

IFC was established in 1956 as part of the World Bank Group to support private sector investment in emerging markets to create jobs and raise standards of living. IFC’s financial products enable companies to manage risk and broaden their access to foreign and domestic capital markets. Our financial products consist of fixed and variable rate loans extended to the private sector, which finance both early-stage companies and expansion projects. IFC also makes loans to intermediary banks, leasing companies, and other financial institutions for on-lending. In addition to lending, IFC engages in equity investments that provide developmental support and the long-term growth capital the private sector needs. IFC invests directly in companies’ equity and also through private-equity funds.

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Mr. Tom Kristian LARSEN – CEO of Devoll Hydropower Sh.A.

October 24, 2016
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“Albania needs greater trust in law and order”

FIAA: During your time here in Albania, have you seen any change in the operating environment for foreign businesses in the country?

Photo T. LarsenMr. Larsen: Yes – several laws which have been passed, for example. I think the law on strategic investment is beneficial for investors that want to do business here in Albania. It gives businesses a one-stop window in terms of interaction with the government, and so on. We already have that kind of one-stop window in the energy ministry and in the project implementation unit which has been established in the Ministry of Energy, and I believe that the law on strategic investment should help all businesses.

The fact is that Albania is in a period of active reform and we are hopeful of seeing changes in the energy sector as a result. The whole energy sector is undergoing reform and the new energy law passed last year makes commitments to changes in the institutions, for example, liberalization of the market for power trading. We were originally expecting these things to be in place by now, but they will come. The government is committed to reform and it will make it happen. I think it will take some more years still before we have a fully functional power market here in Albania.

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Mrs. Romana VLAHUTIN – European Union Ambassador to Albania

July 23, 2016
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“Justice Reform will contribute to creating a more predictable and transparent business environment in Albania”

Romana Vlahutin, Ambassador of European Union in Albania, panelist 2 Session 1FIAA: What is your impression on the current business operating environment in Albania?

Mrs. Vlahutin: Despite its dominant role in the economy, business is held back by significant shortcomings in the regulatory environment and the rule of law. To Business Operating in Albania, the challenges remain mainly related to judicial system, property rights enforcement, contract enforcement, fight against corruption and informality.

Whereas, Albania has great potential to develop in terms of its geographical position, natural resources, and relatively cheap labor force, it still has to improve labor skills, to improve trade logistics, reduce the regulatory burden to businesses and ensure law enforcement in order to increase its competitiveness and attract foreign investors. 

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Mr. Christian CANACARIS – CEO of Raiffeisen Bank Albania

July 23, 2016
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“Justice Reform can increase investment in Albania”

Christian AR

FIAA: What are your impressions of the business operating environment in Albania currently?

Mr. Canacaris: The environment has improved a lot in recent years, especially after the international crisis of 2008. For sure the growth in 2016 is much higher than in 2015, which was higher than 2014. The overall environment is not so bad. Of course, it can always improve.

What have been some of the drivers of this change in recent years?

The payment of the arrears by the state was an excellent move; the state needed to do it and it did it properly. And the power reform was also a good move; it has improved the business climate.

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Mrs. Milva EKONOMI – Minister of Economic Development, Tourism, Trade and Entrepreneurship

April 5, 2016
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 “Albania is going to improve the climate of dialogue”

 

Foto Milva Ekonomi

 

FIAA: What are your expectations for the Albanian economy for the remainder of 2016?

Mrs. Ekonomi: The Albanian economy faced difficulties during 2012 – 2013, partly due to the global crisis which made the economic model unsustainable – a model depending on remittances, debt and the construction sector. In 2013, the Government started to stabilise the fiscal environment in the country, having the support of the IMF through the 3-year agreement and the World Bank.

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Mr. Jens REINKE – Resident Representative of IMF Resident Mission in Albania

April 5, 2016
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“Judicial reform is a major turning point for Albania”

FIAA: What is your perception of the Albanian economy currently?

interviewMr. Reinke: We have been saying for some time that a modest recovery is on the way. We see growth rates rising slowly — perhaps a bit too slowly — but nonetheless the outlook is positive. We remain somewhat concerned about the still high level of non-performing loans in the banking sector and very slow credit growth.
If we look at the performance of the economy in a regional and global context, it’s doing quite well. Both the recovery in the Eurozone and the current performance and outlook for emerging markets globally are much worse than we were expecting at the beginning of Albania’s programme with the IMF. Nonetheless Albania is continuing to recover. It is a broad-based recovery affecting all the sectors.

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