“Tirana Economic Council a Forum which will discuss municipal decisions will be established in October”!
FIAA: How do you plan to improve the operating environment for business in Tirana?
Erion Veliaj: With the central government and some international partners we have started to work on a development plan for the city that will emphasize not only urban planning issues but also economic development, social regeneration, infrastructure and more. This will be our starting point as regards improving the operating environment for business in Tirana.
We can definitely improve the ease of doing of business in the city. I was shocked when I saw people waiting in line in our tax office—these are people waiting in line to give the municipality money. Doing business in this city should be easy in terms of procedures; we should reduce the number of hoops that businesses have to jump through. I have ordered a review of our policies and procedures so that we can slim them down.
What are some examples of the areas you are taking under review?
One thing we are considering is introducing automated payments for city charges such as utilities, taxes and tariffs. People waste many valuable hours making sure they get their payments to the city. So things like the water bill, the property tax bill and the cleaning tariff can be combined in one bill and paid via an automated pay-and-go machine. We are considering installing 120 of these machines in Tirana to reduce queues.
Do you have any other ideas for foreign businesses in Tirana?
In October we are planning to establish the Tirana Economic Council, which will be very similar to our National Economic Council run by the Prime Minister. Around 50% of GDP is generated in Tirana and therefore business has a huge impact on the country’s economy. The Tirana Economic Council should be a forum to discuss municipal decisions before they reach the councils. We have 61 seats in the municipal council and I also plan to invite 61 actors to sit on the Tirana Economic Council.
We have a lot of land attached to the municipality of Tirana and I definitely want to explore the potential for using this space, renting them to foreign investors at symbolic rates or in public-private partnerships. And we will soon start exploring the new law on economic free zones. For the first time, the law gives municipalities the right to develop their own economic free zones. Rinas, Vore and Vaqarr have a high concentration of enterprises and we are planning to transform these areas into business hubs.
Finally, the municipality will also be inviting a number of international bids. One will be a waste management bid, managed by the International Finance Corporation. The IFC is preparing all the paperwork for an international call for bids. With the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development we will be doing another call for bids for a bus terminal in the west and for the modernization of the city’s lighting. We are working with the IFC and the EBRD so all the tender material is prepared in line with international standards.