Government reforms will ease doing business in Albania
FIAA: What was the most important outcome of the Albania Oil & Gas Summit 2015, held in Tirana in March?
Mr. Ahmetaj: The summit brought many important oil and gas companies to Tirana and presented to them the opportunities that Albania offers. As I mentioned in my speech at the summit, 54 % of the territory is unexplored which means new investment opportunities in our country for interested investors. These companies are able to bring their expertise and technology to Albania and if we give a considerable number of concessions, we will reach the necessary capacities in 10-15 years. I believe that this is the right moment, because Albania has entered into a phase of reforms aimed at the revitalisation of all sectors of the economy, including the oil and gas sector.
How has interest in investing in Albania developed in the past year?
Last year foreign direct investment in Albania was $1 billion. This is a significant number, but not enough. Foreign entrepreneurs’ interest in Albania is constantly increasing. We are progressing with the project of one of most prestigious hotel chains, Steigenberger, which has submitted an offer to invest in southern Albania. The government is working to ensure the right ‘infrastructure’, whether it be legal or procedural, to welcome foreign investors in Albania. There are four new draft laws: The law on tourism, the law on economic development zones, the law on public-private partnerships and the law on strategic investments, which will be an extra guarantee for investors.
How do you expect free economic zones to impact foreign investment in Albania?
We’ve been working with the Center for International Development at Harvard University, and are convinced that we can establish some of the best economic zones in Europe. We’ve just finalised a statute on technical and economic development areas to create conditions to attract young industries, industries with new technologies, and high value added industries. Within two months we will open up a competitive process for the development of three zones, in Spitalle, in Vlore, and in Koplik. We are going to offer a number of incentives for investors, such as a 50% reduction in the tax rate for the first five years. The goal is to spur growth, increase employment, reward training as well as research and development, all with a view to creating a competitive work force and economy.
What measures are you implementing to reduce corruption in Albania?
We have taken steps in fighting corruption and the causes of corruption. We have improved the reporting lines for corruption with a website, a national anti-corruption coordinator at ministerial level, and coordinators at ministry level that address all complaints. We have also increased communication with the business community through the National Economic Council and the Investment Council, created jointly with the EBRD. At the same time, the Ministry of Economic Development, Tourism, Trade and Entrepreneurship is conducting a deregulation reform. We are reducing the number of licenses and procedures to ease doing business in Albania and to fight corruption hand in hand with the business community.
And what steps are you taking to improve efficiency in public administration?
We are trying to disentangle past issues, such as the repayment of arrears, or the cancellation of all electoral fines handed out by the fiscal authorities. And we have moved to improve public administration through continuous training and performance evaluation, with a focus on the output of public administration officials. We are also focusing on deliverables and on timeframes, in order to ensure that there are no delays, especially regarding investors and business practices. I fully expect that over time these measures will help provide a better administration, more capable of dealing with everyday issues in shorter timeframes, but also a public administration that can assist the government in its drive towards reforms and efficiency.