“Albania is going to improve the climate of dialogue”
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.
The Albanian Government started paying the arrears [to businesses] which was very positive for the private sector. Standard and Poor’s upgraded Albania’s debt rating to B+.
The second thing was undertaking reforms in order to restructure the economy, increase exports and boost sectors that will be the main drivers for sustainable economic growth. So instead of having construction and remittances as the main drivers of the economy, there has been a shift of the new model of economy into other sectors like industry (light manufacturing), agro-processing, tourism and energy.
In all of those areas, reforms planned to create more jobs in Albania and make Albania a competitive economy in the region. For example, in industry we are planning to create a package for businesses active in processing or plastics. And we have drawn up a different tax regime for processing and plastics. We have successfully designed a support package for the inward processing (fason) industry which has given its positive results in the past two years in terms of exports, new investments and new job openings.
To facilitate the way of doing business in Albania, we are working on improving the doing business report indicators. In order to improve the business climate, a new National Business Centre has been created that serves as a business one-stop shop. In addition, we are working on simplifying procedures for licenses and authorizations, as well as introduce and expand the usage of e-licensing.
We are changing the way businesses apply for licenses. The same thing has already been done with agriculture and with energy. Pension’s reform has been a successful reform, as well as the administrative reform that has reduced the number of regions to 61.
In 2016 there will be more areas to invest in and there will be more reforms for those that are interested in foreign direct investment. Measures that started in the beginning of 2014 are continuing in 2016.
What are your priorities as Minister of Economy?
This ministry has three main pillars supporting economic development: Privatisation, market reform and tourism. Under these pillars fall priorities such as promoting investments and increasing FDI in strategic sectors of the economy, starting the operation of TEDA-s and supporting SME-s.
There is still much to be done in using state property more efficiently, managing state enterprises better and creating the proper legislative framework for promoting tourism in Albania. I will carry on the reforms that have been started by the Ministry, which was newly created in 2013.
In the short term one of the things to look at how we can better provide services and products for tourism sector as the summer season approaches.
Are you expecting any new initiatives to be implemented to meet these objectives?
Yes. So far we have created the preconditions to attract strategic investment to the country. The new Law on Strategic Investments puts AIDA at the role of providing full support to strategic investors.
In tourism, we are exploring ideas to build marinas, develop boutique resorts and boost adventure tourism. The new Law on Tourism is key for the developing of this sector. It will lead to the standardization and formalizing of the tourism sector, turning it into a competitive sector while at the same time focusing on consumer / tourist rights and protection.
The Law on TEDA-s has created a competitive environment for technological and economic development areas to be developed by serious investors, and the new Law on PPP-s has introduced the procedures that make it possible for public private partnerships to happen and provide more efficient services.
What measures are you expecting to take to improve the environmentfor foreign investors in Albania?
There are three main things. We have specified the role of AIDA in acting as a concierge for foreign direct investors. So AIDA has to open the door, process the papers and reform all the administrative procedures, based on the Law for Strategic investments in strategic sectors, such as tourism, energy, agriculture etc.
The second way is that we are decreasing the number of licences that businesses need to operate in Albania by 40%. This opens the way for a better climate of doing business as it reduces regulatory burden to businesses.
And the third thing is related to online e-services. Some services are online, like tax declarations, construction permits and services that are related to applications for investments. We will continue to decrease the administrative burdens that businesses face and offer faster services online.
Furthermore, we are also going to facilitate the dialogue between private operators and the state administration. There are two instruments, but they are not enough. One is the Albanian Investment Council, where major investors can discuss with the government about obstacles they face. And the other is the National Economic Council, where major investors represent their interests.
The state is also planning to create an office to deal with the complaints of the businesses, the Businesses Ombudsman. These are initiatives that work towards improving the climate of dialogue between the Government and investors and facilitate investment.