Disabilities evaluation under reformation

Disabilities evaluation under reformation

TIRANA, June 13- At least 725 million lek (5.9 million euros) will be the cost of implementing disability assessment reform in the social protection system for 2019, and implementing an action plan 2019-2024. The document approved by the government and

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New law change benefits foreign companies

New law change benefits foreign companies

TIRANA, June 13- A change in the fiscal package of 2019 which reduces dividend tax at 8 percent from 15 percent with retroactive effect even for previous years, remits large foreign businesses that run business in our country at least

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Economy in Brief

Economy in Brief

Average salary increases 4.9 percent During the first quarter of 2019 the average gross salary for an employee is  51.531 lek (422 euros), experiencing an increase of 4.9 percent compared to the same period last year. The average gross salary

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Foreign direct investments reach their end in 2019

Foreign direct investments reach their end in 2019

TIRANA, June 12- Foreign investments in our country amounted to 286 million euros in the first quarter of this year, marking a slight increase of 2 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the statistics of the

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Economic growth does not affect inflation

Economic growth does not affect inflation

TIRANA, June 12- As unemployment has continued to decline in the first quarter of 2019, marking the 12.1 percent, the highest income for Albanian households is not helping consumption. According to data from the Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), the

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Unemployment further drops

Unemployment further drops

TIRANA, June 12- The unemployment level has marked another decline in the first quarter of the year, reaching record minimal levels, both for men and women. A positive note was an increase in employment among youth. The official unemployment rate

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Italian media urge investments in Albania

Italian media urge investments in Albania

TIRANA, June 12- Vanity Fair Italy wrote an article recently about prospective investments abroad for Italian entrepreneurs where it listed Albania in one of the three best places to conduct business with. “Would you like to open an activity abroad?

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Government increases the Gross External Debt

Government increases the Gross External Debt

TIRANA, June 11- External debt of the Albanian economy as a whole continued to grow in the first quarter of 2019 due a government’s borrowing. The Bank of Albania recently reported that Albania’s Gross External Debt (GED) amounted to 8.411

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Disfavorable business climate for foreign investors

Disfavorable business climate for foreign investors

TIRANA, June 11- The Foreign Investors Association in Albania (FIAA) has introduced during a presentation the results of the Business Environment Survey 2019, developed with its members which are the most important enterprises in the country, such as banks, companies

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Health tourism increases

Health tourism increases

TIRANA, June 10- In 2016 there was a boom in dental tourism from foreigners as Albania provided at least half the cost of their countries’ dental clinics. This practice still follows, however this year Albania is experiencing a rising trend

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 13- At least 725 million lek (5.9 million euros) will be the cost of implementing disability assessment reform in the social protection system for 2019, and implementing an action plan 2019-2024. The document approved by the government and already published in the Journal Gazette underlines that the implementation of the reform affects over 141,740 persons (4.8 percent of the population) who are officially recognized as having a disability. 

Out of these persons, 73,425 people are work disabled who benefit both from social security payments and additional payments to the social protection scheme, and 68,315 adults and children who receive disability payments and other benefits in the defense system social. Of the latter fraction, 19,060 people or 28 percent receive a payment to cover the personal assistant service that was previously called custody service.

Reforming the disability assessment system is necessary for several reasons. First, for reflecting contemporary international practice of transforming medical assessment into a bio-psycho-social assessment, to reflect the new concept of disability as an interaction of functional impairments caused by a disease with psychological and social factors. Secondly, to increase the efficiency of the assessment by creating administrative mechanisms that significantly reduce the degree of abuse, increase credibility and reduce the cost of the assessment. And thirdly, to improve the service for citizens. Moreover, this reformation is a necessity to unify the assessment approach to the principles set forth in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as the relevant Article of Law no. 93/2014, dated 24.7.2014, “On the inclusion and accessibility of persons with disabilities.”

The reformation aims to implement a new system of assessment according to the “social model” and reduce the percentage of beneficiaries without disability; increase the transparency of the scheme by creating an electronic register; to create an integrated services system that combines social care services with payment benefits; and to establish and strengthen the monitoring and inspection mechanism for quality of service delivery at central and local level.

The report also underlines that a disability assessment reform is needed as it currently presents numerous problems related to the criteria, process and management of the disability assessment system. The current assessment process is said to be long and complicated. It works differently for different types of disabilities, complicated for the benefit seeker and ineffective, difficult to manage from an administrative point of view, and costly. This has to do with the fact that the process involves several steps, firstly by providing a leaflet to the Medical Appointment Commission for Work Capability (MACWC) from bedsperson health institutions, with the exception of the blinds provided by the Forensic Commissions and persons with mental health problems from the Community Mental Health Centers or equipment for epicrisis for the persons who are being re-commissioned. 

Secondly, medical and administrative documentation is transmitted by the social administrator of the local government under the jurisdiction of which is an individual resident at the MACWC. Third, the evaluation of the documentation by the doctor of the Regional Directorate of the State Social Service. Fourth, commissioning and decision-making by MACWC, established by the Social Insurance Institute. Fifth information on the decision taken by the Regional Directorate of the State Social Service. Sixth, the transfer of relevant information and documentation for administration to the unit of local self-government by the Regional Directorate of the State Social Service.

The Committee in many cases is estimated to have an extraordinary flow that results in one day being treated from 150 to 200 cases. To change this view, it is decided to follow some steps aimed at reforming the document as well. So until December 2019, five multidisciplinary Disability Assessment Committees have been set up in the Tirana district. Until June 2020, six other commissions will be set up for the districts of Durres and Elbasan, and by December 2024 it is aimed that 17 other commissions will be set up in nine other districts of the country. Likewise, it is intended to increase the transparency of the scheme, the improvement of the registry as well as the complaints review committees. 

The assessment of disability is aimed at determining the right to receive benefits in payment or other special benefits. The study of the benefits of disability in the social protection system has highlighted the following problems, like a privileged and unjustified treatment of some categories of disability who benefit both from the social security system and from the system of disability social protection. Secondly, there is no escalation of the payment due to the needs caused by the disability effect in carrying out basic life activities. Thirdly, there are no legal stipulations for the age of commissioning, which causes many of the old age diseases to be handled with disability payments. And lastly, contrary to international experience, there is no differentiation for payments for children and adults.

However, the Ministry of Health said in April that it seeks to undertake to cut 27 percent of its funding for persons who display light impairments by 2024, and instead to integrate them in the working market through educational, professional training, and employment promoting programs.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 13- A change in the fiscal package of 2019 which reduces dividend tax at 8 percent from 15 percent with retroactive effect even for previous years, remits large foreign businesses that run business in our country at least 70 million euros. The 10 most profitable companies in the country accumulated in 2017 98 billion lek (802.5 million euros) in undistributed profits and 29 billion lek (237.4 million euros) in reserves, with a total amount of around 128 billion lek (1 billion euros).

According to a special tax directive, for retained earnings realized in 2018 before including reserves and capitalized gains, these companies have time to pay the tax that belongs to retained earnings of 2017 and earlier until Sept. 30, 2019. For these undistributed profits will apply the 8 percent tax rate.

If these profits were distributed and taxed by 15 percent (as far as dividend tax was concerned by the end of 2018), the state budget would receive a sum of 150 million euros. However, with the reduction of the dividend tax to 8 percent from the distribution of these profits the state will receive only 80 million euros, while 70 million euros are amnestied.

The list of largest businesses by profit in 2017 shows that retained earnings were owned mainly by six foreign companies, dominated by mobile phone operators. Telekom has the biggest carry over with 44.2 billion lek (362.1 million euros) of undistributed profits and 23 billion lek (188.4 million euros) in reserves. Following, Vodafone Albania had the highest value of retained earnings with 15.8 billion lek (129.4 million euros) and 568 million lek (4.6 million euros) of reserves.

These two companies have been the most profitable in the country, reaching record-high profits of 200 million euros in 2008, as the profitability rate exceeded 50 percent. Then, with the growth of competition in the telecommunications market their profits halved resulting in losses in 2016-2017.

Raiffeisen Bank carried about 15.3 billion lek (125.3 million euros) of which 2.3 billion lek (18.8 million euros) was the reserve. Intesa SanPaolo Bank follows suit with about 10 billion lek (81.9 million euros) in retained earnings, with 831 million lek (6.8 million euros) in reserves. The National Commercial Bank ranks third with 7.8 billion lek (63.9 million euros) at the end of 2017 which is mainly the profit of the financial year. Tirana International Airport also carried 2.5 billion lek (20.4 million euros) profits.

Companies that worked as subcontractors in the TAP pipeline project, Spiecapag Albania and Spiecapag Transadriatica, accumulated respectively 3,5 and 1.2 billion lek (28.6 and 9.8 million euros) of carryovers, of which 1.5 billion lek (12.2 million euros) in Spiecapag Albania were reserves. Albchrome is another company with a carry-over of 2.4 billion lek (19.6 million euros), and APEX had a year profit of 1.5 billion lek (12.2 million euros).

According to a special Income Tax instruction for retained earnings realized in 2018 and earlier, including capitalized gains and losses, the 8 percent tax rate applies subject to the condition that firstly, the tax on retained earnings of 2017 and earlier, to be paid by Sept. 30, 2019, and secondly, the dividend payout for 2018 is paid by Aug. 20, 2019. If these conditions are not met, the taxpayer will pay a 15 percent dividend tax.

The increase in dividend tax from 10 to 15 percent in 2014 has spurred the evasion of this tax. In 2017, dividend income was only 178 million lek (1.4 million euros), down by 81 percent compared to 2013. To reduce the tax burden, which in 2014 was also aggravated by the higher profit tax, businesses began using some means within the law to avoid paying dividends. Many of the big companies have kept the profits undistributing for several years to avoid taxation and others have made fictitious additions to capital. That is why the Ministry of Finance decided to reduce the dividend tax to 8percent in the 2019 Fiscal Package.
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                    [post_content] => Average salary increases 4.9 percent

During the first quarter of 2019 the average gross salary for an employee is  51.531 lek (422 euros), experiencing an increase of 4.9 percent compared to the same period last year. The average gross salary for an employee in the financial and insurance activities sector is 97.4 percent higher than the national average. The second highest salary is in the telecommunication field with an average pay of 76 thousand lek (622 euros). In the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector, it is 26.3 percent lower. Art, entertainment and recreation along with other service activities have the highest growth of 16.3 percent, while construction is the only activity that has a decrease of 2.8 percent.

 

Foods and produce among the highest imported products

Fuels and cigarettes were the most imported goods in the first quarter of 2019, but foods along with fruits and vegetables were also among the top 20 most imported items in the country, ranking eighth. Although domestic production greatly supplied markets, a significant part of the consumption needs were covered by imports. From customs collected 641 million lek (5.2 million euros) on these products during January-March, accounting for 1.8 percent of total customs revenues. Prepared food brought 864 million lek (7 million euros). Customs collected 7.3 billion lek (59.7 million euros) from fuel imports and 4.6 billion lek (37.6 million euros) from cigarette imports. Revenues from oil accounted for 20.7 percent of total customs revenue, while cigarettes for 13.1 percent. 

 

High air pollution in Balkans

A recent report from the United Nations Organization said that Western Balkans capitals and its citizens are facing air pollution levels up to five times higher than the national and EU levels, that is reducing their life expectancy by 1.1 to 1.3 years on average. This air pollution is causing 15 to 19 percent of deaths in these countries. Fifteen coal-fired power plants, some of which are outdated, pump into the air significant amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and dust or particulate matter in five Western Balkan countries. Also, up to 88 percent of the resident buildings use decentralized heat systems that use inefficient energy. The report identified the region's lack of access to modern renewable energy sources as a cause of air pollution.

 

Pensioners are looking for jobs

The growth of the population over the age of 64, the low pension payments and the improvement of life expectancy are increasingly pushing pensioners to participate in the labor market. Many retired persons do not retrieve a pension because they have not paid social security during the transition period and in some cases they can not prove the years of work in the monism because the documentation is damaged. Some of them are forced to work or look for work to cope with their livelihoods. According to INSTAT, the work force of citizens over 64 years of age was 58302 persons, of which 57892 are currently employed and 410 are looking for work. 

 

Half of Albanians save for education

In a Bank of Albania survey on financial objectives citizens have regarding their savings and what that objective is, only 44.2 percent of respondents said they had a financial objective. Of this, 49 percent said they were saving for education (29.8 percent for schooling of children and 18.6 percent for self-education). 11.9 percent said they were saving for a better living standard, while 9.9 percent said they wanted to buy a car. Housing adjustment stimulates 5.7 percent of the savers and so is the purchase of a new home. When asked what actions they took to meet their financial objectives, 22 percent have responded that they have reduced spending, 13 percent have saved or invested, and 7 percent have prepared an action plan.

 

More boys are born but women make up population

According to INSTAT Albania's population on Jan. 1, 2019, is 2,862,427 persons with a decrease of 0.28 percent from 2018. The number of women in Albania continued to grow with a rate of 0.08 percent, while the population of men has dropped by 0.6 percent. The number of births in 2018 was about 28.9 thousand, with a sex ratio of 1.08, meaning that for every 100 born girls, 108 boys are born. This ratio is higher than the natural ratio, which is 105. But in 2018 women accounted for 50.1 percent of the total population, as the net migration of men marked a significant decline by 12,375 men leaving, while only 2,655 women left. 

 

Record spending for traveling

Bank of Albania data published in the balance of payments, show that in the first three months of the year 272 million euros were taken abroad as expenses that Albanian travelers made for tickets, hotels, cafes, foodstuffs etc.. This is the highest level ever reported and in relation to the first quarter of the previous year it has increased by 7 percent. Other INSTAT data show that 1.3 million Albanian citizens went abroad in the first three months of the year, an increase of 12.4 percent over the same period of the previous year. INSTAT data showed that in the first three months of the year 695 thousand foreigners came in, with a 2.7 percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2018. The growth rate of foreign inflows has slowed down considerably compared with the previous year, but Bank of Albania data show that foreigners' expenses in our country amounted to 348 million euros for the period January to March this year.

 

Western Balkans tourism development project launches

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), in the framework of its EU-funded project for Tourism Development and Promotion, launched the second call for projects that develop the tourism offer in the Western Balkans. According to the information, the grant scheme is 1.62 million euros, but this second tranche makes available 750 thousand euros for the implementation of about 14 pilot projects worth up to 54 thousand. The purpose of the RCC Grant Scheme is to globally promote and promote the common regional cultural and adventure offer, bring more visitors to the Western Balkans, extend their position and increase their income and employment in the tourism industry.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 12- Foreign investments in our country amounted to 286 million euros in the first quarter of this year, marking a slight increase of 2 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the statistics of the Bank of Albania. Compared to the last quarter of 2018, foreign investments were 8.3 percent higher, as the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) pipeline works continued intensity.

According to the Bank of Albania, the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the form of capital expansion is estimated at 266 million euros, and was  mainly focused on the energy sector which amounted to 49 percent, hydrocarbons with 18 percent, and financial intermediation to 8 percent. The foreign direct investment reached a record level of 1 billion euros in 2018, an increase of about 13 percent compared to a year ago, recording a record high.

For about four years, FDIs have remained at high levels due to two major energy projects, the hydropower works on the Devoll River by Statkraft and the TAP. Other Bank of Albania statistics show that the stock of energy investments grew rapidly, from just 13 million euros in early 2014 to 2 billion euros at the end of 2018, accounting for 27 percent of the direct investment stock and passing on first, as a result of telecommunications stagnation and banks.

These investments however, are coming to an end. TAP which was the largest investment ever carried out in Albania, is almost finished. According to sources from the company, the cleaning of the pipeline route and the welding of the pipes have entirely finished in Albania. More than 200 kilometers of pipeline is already underground. The Compressor Station in Fier and the Meter in Devoll will be finished in the fall. The works in the maritime section are continuing at the point of exit. The focus is on the operational part, such as the upgrading and training of human resources to handle pipeline maintenance, which is being done in cooperation with the joint company Albgaz-Snam.

The pipeline investment in Albania is estimated at around 1.5 billion euros by the company itself. Works started in the summer of 2015 with road infrastructure, but the two most intensive years were in 2017-2018 where it is estimated that more than 500 million euros have been invested annually. For this year it is estimated that some 200 million euro of investments are yet to be done.

The hydropower plants (HPP) that are being built on the Devoll River by the Statkraft company, is at its end. Banja HPP is already operational, while Moglice HPP is progressing rapidly. Official sources from Statkraft said that in 2018 investments were about 86 million euros and in 2019 they are expected to be around 73 million euros. The second HPP is expected to be completed this year. According to official sources Devoll's total investment is 590 million euros.

From 2.1 billion euros which was the total planned investment of these two major projects, less than 300 million euros remain to be invested during 2019, while in 2020 these two sources will be fully exhausted. International institutions have often drawn attention to the need to replace these projects with high value-added and technology-oriented investments.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 12- As unemployment has continued to decline in the first quarter of 2019, marking the 12.1 percent, the highest income for Albanian households is not helping consumption. According to data from the Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), the inflation in May was 1.5 percent, being about half the target of 3 percent of the Bank of Albania for this indicator. Monthly change in the consumer price index in May 2019, compared to April, is -1 percent.

Annual price increase in May was mainly influenced by the group “foods and non-alcoholic beverages” with an increase of 1.17 percentage points, followed by “rent, water, fuels and energy” by 0.24 percentage points growth. The prices of “alcoholic beverages and tobacco” group contributed with 0.05 percentage points. The prices of “hotels, cafes and restaurants” and “furniture, home appliances and home maintenance” groups contributed with 0,04 percentage points each. The prices of “clothing and footwear” and “education” groups contributed with 0.02 percentage points each. The prices of “culture and entertainment” and “transport” groups contributed with a decrease of 0.02 percentage points each. The prices of the “health” group contributed with 0.01 percentage points less.

Inflation over the first five months of the year has not risen by more than 1.5 percent. The Bank of Albania argued a few days ago that in the macroeconomic view, the inflation slowdown in Albania reflected the fullest association of exchange rate overvaluation, the inflation slowdown in partner countries, and the effect of supply shocks on agricultural prices. On the other hand, the economic growth has led to the strengthening of domestic inflationary pressures, while pressures from the foreign environment are declining. According to INSTAT data, economic activity expanded by 3.1 percent in the last quarter of 2018, marking a slowdown compared to the previous ones. 
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            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142133
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-12 14:17:09
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-12 12:17:09
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 12- The unemployment level has marked another decline in the first quarter of the year, reaching record minimal levels, both for men and women. A positive note was an increase in employment among youth. The official unemployment rate in Albania for the population aged 15 and over, is 12.1 percent. Compared to the first quarter of 2018, the official unemployment rate declined by 0.4 percentage points. 

The employment rate for the population aged 15-64 in the first quarter of 2019 is 60.3 percent. Compared to the same period last year the total number of employees grew by 1.4 percent. The employment rate for men is 67.4 percent, while for women 53.3 percent. Compared to the same period last year, the employment rate for men increased by 0.9 percentage points and for women by 1.4 percentage points. The employment rate of youth is 41 percent, and for the population 30-64 years the rate is 70.6 percent.

The participation rate in the labor force for the population aged 15-64 is 69 percent. Compared with the first quarter of 2018, the rate of participation in the labor force is 1 percentage points higher. The participation rate for women in the labor force is 60.8 percent, while for men this indicator is 77.2 percent. Compared with the same quarter of 2018, the rate of participation in women's labor force increased by 1.3 percentage points, while for men it increased by 0.6 percentage points. The participation rate in the labor force for young people aged 15-29 is 52.7 percent. For the population of 30-64 years, the participation rate in the labor force is 77.6 percent.

The annual growth rate of employment for the population of 15 years and over (from the first quarter of 2018 in the first quarter of 2019) is 1.4 percent. In annual terms based on the main sectors of the economy, employment grew by 3 percent in the industry sector and 3.6 percent in the services sector, while in the agriculture sector it decreased by 1.8 percent. 

Regarding unemployment, the official rate declined by 0.4 percentage points in annual terms. The official rate for men is 12.2 percent and for women it is 11.9 percent. Compared to the same period last year, the rate decreased by 0.4 percentage points for both men and women. The official rate for young people is 22.2 percent. In annual terms, the youth unemployment rate appears to be declining as compared to the same period last year the indicator is 2.3 percentage points lower.  And the unemployment rate for the age group 30-64 is 9.1 percent. In annual terms this indicator decreased by 0.1 percentage points.

However, 17.8 percent of the economically inactive and working-age population (15-64 years) were performing household duties during the observed period, 12.5 percent ​​of them were retired or early retirement, and 11,7 percent in permanent disability. 10.3 percent of the economically inactive population stated that they were not looking for work because they believed that there were no jobs available, so they classified as discouraged unemployed. Young people aged 15-29 who stated that they are students/trainees constitute 71.7 percent of the economically inactive youth. Among the  economically inactive youth, 8.3 percent are classified as discouraged unemployed. The population aged 30-64 accounts for 12.6 percent of the economically inactive population of this age group.

But other administrative data does not provide such an optimistic picture. According to the indicator “Employed by Administrative Resources and the Agricultural Sector,” which reports to employees paying social security and taken from the General Directorate of Taxation, at the end of March 2019, there were 502.5 thousand employees in the non-agricultural private sector, or 44.5 percent of total employees. In the last six months a total of 15.6 thousand private sector employees have jutted off the social insurance scheme. This decline came as in the third quarter of 2018 there was a significant increase in the number of employees (13.4 thousand persons) mainly related to the seasonal effects of tourism and the fact that the taxes started an action to reduce informality in this sector. But it seems that the private economy has not managed to generate stable jobs, as at the end of the first quarter 2019 there were only 734 more employed in the payroll of businesses compared to the same period a year earlier.
                    [post_title] => Unemployment further drops
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            [6] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 142130
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-12 12:43:20
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-12 10:43:20
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 12- Vanity Fair Italy wrote an article recently about prospective investments abroad for Italian entrepreneurs where it listed Albania in one of the three best places to conduct business with. “Would you like to open an activity abroad? Doing business outside of Italy is not easy but not impossible either. Paraguay, Estonia and Albania are (in our opinion) the three countries that are ‘blinking their eyes’ of Italy, for the opportunities they offer, as well as the talents,” wrote the magazine.

Vanity Fair Italy further wrote that these three countries are possibly considered the new frontiers that Italian businesses can do business with, transfer to, and exploit tremendous opportunities. The magazine also noted that to be successful at work a business should pay attention to factors like bureaucracy, taxes, and have an overview of not just investing but also the country they want to capitalize on, in addition to assessing the right market and business partners. The article added that apart from looking at the economic aspects on the one hand, they businesses must also consider the life and customs of that country, in case they want it to become their new home.

“Albania, for some, is the twentieth region of Italy,” wrote Vanity Fair Italy.

This comes due to the proximity to Italy and the deep ties that merge these two countries. For example, Italy has always been a supporter of Albania's EU accession, for which the negotiations are said to start in June 2019. But Albania is an attractive market, and this, the magazine writes, is confirmed by Domenico Letizia who is President of the Institute for Economic Research and International Policy.

“Low labor costs and a very convenient flat fee have made Albania a very attractive destination for our companies. Competitive costs, tax benefits, low taxation and bureaucracy, a legal framework that does not provide for specific constraints and facilitates the flow of foreign direct investment and a regulatory economic framework that is in line with European laws: these are only a few of the advantages offered by this state,” said Letizia.

He added that Albania is the main trading partner of Italy, holding a share of 37 percent of the total trade exchange. According to data released by the Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), Italy also holds the first place in the number of foreign and mixed capital companies operating in Albania, with 46 percent of the total and an annual growth of 21 percent.

Another interesting aspect Letizia told Vanity Fair regarding Albania is the actual objective set and declared by our country which is to enter the European Union, and thus official Tirana is doing everything to strengthen its ties with Europe and with key international institutions.

The sectors in which Italians are mostly investing are energy, infrastructure, telecommunications, and agriculture. Letizia oversees the “Made in Albania” portal, which has potential to fascinate Italian entrepreneurs. This is a project that is still embryonic and according to the website it will serve as a catalog for the promotion of quality Albanian products, and to head towards the future in the international markets.
                    [post_title] => Italian media urge investments in Albania
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                    [ID] => 142125
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-11 16:12:34
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-11 14:12:34
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 11- External debt of the Albanian economy as a whole continued to grow in the first quarter of 2019 due a government's borrowing. The Bank of Albania recently reported that Albania's Gross External Debt (GED) amounted to 8.411 billion euros during January-March, an annual growth of 6 percent.

46 percent of Albania’s total GED is owned by the central government, while the rest is distributed among the Banking System with 17 percent, other Sectors own 36 percent, and the Monetary Authority owns 1 percent. The central government sector holds the main weight on the GED’s stock. At the end of March 2019 its liabilities were valued at 3.86 billion euros and are mainly presented as long-term loans, bonds and receipts.

Referring to the end of 2018, the central government's external debt increased by about 31 million euros. The surplus of long-term loans expanded by about 35 million euros, while bonds fell by 4 million euros. The Bank of Albania argued that the exchange rate effect of the main currencies was positive and at the amount of 39 million euros, meanwhile, the revaluation differences (other changes from reclassification) amounted to 5 million euros.

The debt stock of the Monetary Authority or the Central Bank marks 58 million euros, with no significant moves during the first quarter of 2019. The Authority's liabilities consist only of Special Drawing Rights allocations, because the long-term loans granted by the International Monetary Fund were settled during the first quarter of this year. (Special drawing rights are supplementary foreign-exchange reserve assets defined and maintained by the International Monetary Fund.)

At the end of March 2019, the gross external debt of the Banking System recorded about 1.434 billion euros and is mainly presented in the form of “loan” and “deposit currency,” about 13 percent and 86 percent of the total, respectively. Over the quarter, this sector has increased the debt level by about 7 million euros in terms of increasing long-term liabilities. Referring to the level of year-end 2018, other sectors have increased their external liabilities by about 26 million euros to the level of 3.060 billion euros.

Main moves reflect the expansion of long-term liabilities in the form of “trade credits” with 18 million euros, and liabilities in the form of loans between related companies in a direct investment relationship “direct investment-intercompany loan” with 32 million euros.

The Bank reported that the GED stock growth was mainly in terms of long-term debt of the central government as well as borrowing between companies in the form of direct investment. Total withdrawals or fluctuations in new debt from loans during the first quarter of 2019 were 73 million euros. Public sector withdrawals amount to 35 million euros and private sector has 38 million euros. New government debt obligations represent 48 percent of total withdrawals over the period. The external debt service (principal and interest payments) for the first quarter 2019 marks 88 million euros.

Of these, about 49 million euros are payments of the central government, 30 million euros of other Sectors, 8 million euros of the Banking System, and 0.3 million euros of the Monetary Authority. The debt service has been for principal settlement at 74 percent and 26 percent for repayment of interest. The government holds the main share in principal repayments by about 30 million euros or 45 percent of the total principal value, as well as in the remission of interest payments for the period by about 20 million euros or 85 percent of the total value of the principal interest rates paid by the economy.
                    [post_title] => Government increases the Gross External Debt
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            [8] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 142116
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-11 15:05:12
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-11 13:05:12
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 11- The Foreign Investors Association in Albania (FIAA) has introduced during a presentation the results of the Business Environment Survey 2019, developed with its members which are the most important enterprises in the country, such as banks, companies operating in the field of industry, oil, telecommunications, energy, consulting etc.

Entrepreneurs estimate that the business climate in the first six months of the year was unfavorable. Businesses are asked to rate the climate from 0 to 100, where zero is unfavorable and 100 very favorable and the result was 39. Expectations are a little more positive for the second half of the year, with the index rising to 45 but still falling below 50.

The businesses evaluated the following issues as obstacles for running their activity, monopoly and unfair competition with 68 points, followed by corruption with 67, government bureaucracies with 64, and finally informal economy having 61 points.

Businesses estimate that the worst deterioration is marked by the political climate with 32 points (where zero indicates significant deterioration), followed by transparency in governmental procedures with 38, rule and security with 41, and the public procurement system and procedures with 42 points. 

The procedures that have been assessed to have had the greatest improvement are banking system policies evaluated with 52 points, access to finance, labor rules, intellectual property rights, energy supply. Better in the relations with the state authorities are assessed the customs and the central government with 50 points, followed by local government, tax authorities and finally weakened relations with the courts with 49 points.

A few days ago other business communities such as the German, American and domestic Chambers of Commerce unanimously assessed the current political situation as worrying for the country's economy. Entrepreneurs demanded a response from politics to resolve this situation responsibly in favor of the country's stability. 

Minister of Finance and Economy Anila Denaj on the other hand, confirmed that it is true that two or three foreign companies have left, but according to the 5-month data from the National Business Center, 89 new businesses with foreign shareholders have been opened. Denaj also said the government is open to ongoing dialogue with entrepreneurs, and that bureaucracies have fallen sharply, as confirmed in the World Bank's Doing Business report. 

Minister Denaj also presented the Fiscalization project launched this year, with the aim that in the period of 2020-1 all payments can be made electronically. This will contribute to a very significant reduction of informality. She announced to the businesses the results of the reforms undertaken by the government, such as those dealing with deregulation reform, with licenses that are today given 99 percent online. 

 
                    [post_title] => Disfavorable business climate for foreign investors
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            [9] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 142113
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-11 13:34:52
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-11 11:34:52
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 10- In 2016 there was a boom in dental tourism from foreigners as Albania provided at least half the cost of their countries’ dental clinics. This practice still follows, however this year Albania is experiencing a rising trend in rhinoplasty (“plastic” surgeries) tourism, again due to significantly lower costs, but also because the sector offers service of foreign physicians from Italy, Turkey, or Greece.

Dr. Skerdilajd Faria who is director of the Italian aesthetic surgery clinic in Tirana “Keit” said that plastic interventions are the main asset Albania has had in recent years to attract foreigners. He added that health tourism is becoming more structured and organized in our country even though more work needs to be done. Clinics have begun attracting foreign clients in the form of a comprehensive package including intervention, post-surgery, hotel, food, etc., and surgical interventions are demanded by foreigners as surgeons are professionals, the clinics offer a good quality, and the prices are 50 percent cheaper than in Italy for example. 

“Some of my friends, that were ambiguous whether to come or not to Albania, were persuaded considering that the same surgeon who would provide the service they sought in Rome would be in our clinic,” said dr. Faria.

Nevertheless, an attractive country for its health tourism does not include only price, but also cultural proximity, language, being a safe place to travel, and a professional and reliable medical staff. However, the first criteria noticed generally is the traveling distance. Yet, any tourist visiting our country is a potential client, especially those who chose to return. And Albania offers a multitude of options, as the marketing in foreign media are displaying our country as a safe place with extraordinary natural beauties with cheap service prices, including international flights. And beyond improved infrastructure, Tirana in itself is becoming an attractive modern city with widely spoken English. All these are some features that the clinics are using to attract foreign clients. 

Cultural and distance proximity are some of the reasons why Italians have been more attracted to receiving such services from Albania. Nevertheless, Dr. Faria recalled an American couple that came last year to carry out the surgery of the nose remodeling. Prior to intervention they vacationed for a week in South Albania. The total cost of their travel, surgical intervention and holidays, costed 20 percent cheaper than the just the surgical intervention in America. And usually these medical services offered require minimal care which allows the customers to travel while on post-surgery. 

Patients from developed countries will travel to a selected destination for certain treatments like dentistry, in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), and cosmetic surgery, and will choose cheaper vacancies with regard to the quality they will receive. Erjona Shahini who is administrator of Health Tourism Albania, an agency which mainly deals with packages and connecting clients to clinics, said that customers contact them either through social media or partner agencies. As there is an already established market in Italy for these services, Shahini said that this year they have expanded marketing in the United Kingdom, who are mostly attracted for IVF. 

Shahini also added that the recent political disruption has slightly affected an uncertainty among tourists, however, according to data from the Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) 219 foreigners have sought health tourism services during the first four months of the year, an increase by 210 percent compared to the same period last year. 

Private clinics executives said that promotion of treatments for a particular country that already has a developed national health system and a full range of treatments may be the wrong choice. If there is no long-waiting list, people who can receive treatment at their place (especially if their healthcare pays for it). Promotion should not focus only on affordable prices, but attracting Balkan countries to bring potential clients to get services with foreign doctors absent in their respective countries. Clinics chiefs also added that we look at the current trends of Azerbaijan patients who go to Turkish hospitals for oncology and Bulgarian patients traveling to Greece, which is understandable because of the less developed health system in their country.

 
                    [post_title] => Health tourism increases 
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    [post] => WP_Post Object
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            [ID] => 142198
            [post_author] => 338
            [post_date] => 2019-06-17 12:06:17
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-17 10:06:17
            [post_content] => TIRANA, June 13- At least 725 million lek (5.9 million euros) will be the cost of implementing disability assessment reform in the social protection system for 2019, and implementing an action plan 2019-2024. The document approved by the government and already published in the Journal Gazette underlines that the implementation of the reform affects over 141,740 persons (4.8 percent of the population) who are officially recognized as having a disability. 

Out of these persons, 73,425 people are work disabled who benefit both from social security payments and additional payments to the social protection scheme, and 68,315 adults and children who receive disability payments and other benefits in the defense system social. Of the latter fraction, 19,060 people or 28 percent receive a payment to cover the personal assistant service that was previously called custody service.

Reforming the disability assessment system is necessary for several reasons. First, for reflecting contemporary international practice of transforming medical assessment into a bio-psycho-social assessment, to reflect the new concept of disability as an interaction of functional impairments caused by a disease with psychological and social factors. Secondly, to increase the efficiency of the assessment by creating administrative mechanisms that significantly reduce the degree of abuse, increase credibility and reduce the cost of the assessment. And thirdly, to improve the service for citizens. Moreover, this reformation is a necessity to unify the assessment approach to the principles set forth in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as the relevant Article of Law no. 93/2014, dated 24.7.2014, “On the inclusion and accessibility of persons with disabilities.”

The reformation aims to implement a new system of assessment according to the “social model” and reduce the percentage of beneficiaries without disability; increase the transparency of the scheme by creating an electronic register; to create an integrated services system that combines social care services with payment benefits; and to establish and strengthen the monitoring and inspection mechanism for quality of service delivery at central and local level.

The report also underlines that a disability assessment reform is needed as it currently presents numerous problems related to the criteria, process and management of the disability assessment system. The current assessment process is said to be long and complicated. It works differently for different types of disabilities, complicated for the benefit seeker and ineffective, difficult to manage from an administrative point of view, and costly. This has to do with the fact that the process involves several steps, firstly by providing a leaflet to the Medical Appointment Commission for Work Capability (MACWC) from bedsperson health institutions, with the exception of the blinds provided by the Forensic Commissions and persons with mental health problems from the Community Mental Health Centers or equipment for epicrisis for the persons who are being re-commissioned. 

Secondly, medical and administrative documentation is transmitted by the social administrator of the local government under the jurisdiction of which is an individual resident at the MACWC. Third, the evaluation of the documentation by the doctor of the Regional Directorate of the State Social Service. Fourth, commissioning and decision-making by MACWC, established by the Social Insurance Institute. Fifth information on the decision taken by the Regional Directorate of the State Social Service. Sixth, the transfer of relevant information and documentation for administration to the unit of local self-government by the Regional Directorate of the State Social Service.

The Committee in many cases is estimated to have an extraordinary flow that results in one day being treated from 150 to 200 cases. To change this view, it is decided to follow some steps aimed at reforming the document as well. So until December 2019, five multidisciplinary Disability Assessment Committees have been set up in the Tirana district. Until June 2020, six other commissions will be set up for the districts of Durres and Elbasan, and by December 2024 it is aimed that 17 other commissions will be set up in nine other districts of the country. Likewise, it is intended to increase the transparency of the scheme, the improvement of the registry as well as the complaints review committees. 

The assessment of disability is aimed at determining the right to receive benefits in payment or other special benefits. The study of the benefits of disability in the social protection system has highlighted the following problems, like a privileged and unjustified treatment of some categories of disability who benefit both from the social security system and from the system of disability social protection. Secondly, there is no escalation of the payment due to the needs caused by the disability effect in carrying out basic life activities. Thirdly, there are no legal stipulations for the age of commissioning, which causes many of the old age diseases to be handled with disability payments. And lastly, contrary to international experience, there is no differentiation for payments for children and adults.

However, the Ministry of Health said in April that it seeks to undertake to cut 27 percent of its funding for persons who display light impairments by 2024, and instead to integrate them in the working market through educational, professional training, and employment promoting programs.
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