Key economic indicators revised downward

Key economic indicators revised downward

TIRANA, Jan. 12 – The Albanian government has slightly revised its GDP, public debt and investment targets for the next three years. In its revised 2017-2019 mid-term budgetary program, the Albanian government slightly kept unchanged its 2016 GDP forecast of

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INSTAT: Economy grew by 3.26% in first three quarters of 2016

INSTAT: Economy grew by 3.26% in first three quarters of 2016

TIRANA, Jan. 12 – The Albanian economy is estimated to have grown by an average of 3.26 percent in the first three quarters of last year and is on track to achieving the government 2016 target of 3.4 percent, state

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Editorial: The harsh winter of discontent

Editorial: The harsh winter of discontent

It only takes the slightest tweak in the utterly spoiling Mediterranean climate of Albania to show its alarming vulnerabilities in infrastructure, public services and social alertness. They should really write on it ‘Machinery unable to operate at below 0 temperatures’. 

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Gov’t approves deeds for illegal building additions

Gov’t approves deeds for illegal building additions

TIRANA, Jan. 12 – Nearly 30,000 families all over Albania that have purchased their homes in buildings constructed in violation of the construction permits will finally be able to receive their mortgage titles, the government has decided, in a move

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Former CEC chairman moves to parliament advisory role

Former CEC chairman moves to parliament advisory role

TIRANA, Jan. 12 – Former chairperson of Albania’s Central Election Commission, Lefterie Luzi has been appointed director of the Parliamentary Committees Services in the parliament. Luzi was reinstated to the public administration after failing to get a second mandate as

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Freezing weather causes severe damage to greenhouse crops

Freezing weather causes severe damage to greenhouse crops

TIRANA, Jan. 11 – Uncommon freezing temperatures that have swept Albania during the past few days are having a negative impact on the Albanian economy, especially the key agriculture sector with hundreds of hectares of greenhouse crops already damaged. The situation

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The need to publish MP candidate lists at least 90 days ahead of the upcoming June 18 general elections

The need to publish MP candidate lists at least 90 days ahead of the upcoming June 18 general elections

By Zef Preçi* Considering the institutional and political positive developments, especially the constitutional amendments of the summer of 2016 and the beginning of implementation of the law on decriminalization, I would like to bring to your attention some problems related

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Tender launched to select Tirana interurban bus terminal concessionaire

Tender launched to select Tirana interurban bus terminal concessionaire

TIRANA, Jan. 10 – All intercity buses linking Tirana to northern and southern destinations will be located at a new terminal at the entry of Tirana-Durres highway. The municipality of Tirana has already launched a February 27 international tender to

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INSTAT: Average inflation hit 16-year low of 1.3% in 2016

INSTAT: Average inflation hit 16-year low of 1.3% in 2016

TIRANA, Jan. 9 – Albania’s annual average inflation rate hit a 16-year low of 1.3 percent in 2016, reflecting a slump in global oil and food prices, but also sluggish domestic consumption as the economy is estimated to have grown

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Albanians face higher liquid gas, fuel prices in early days of 2017

Albanians face higher liquid gas, fuel prices in early days of 2017

TIRANA, Jan. 9 – Albanians are facing higher liquid gas and oil prices in the first days of 2017 as a new excise rate has been imposed on vehicle liquid gas and international oil prices have registered a new increase.

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 12 - The Albanian government has slightly revised its GDP, public debt and investment targets for the next three years.

In its revised 2017-2019 mid-term budgetary program, the Albanian government slightly kept unchanged its 2016 GDP forecast of 2.6 percent, but revised downward the GDP expectations for 2017 to 2019 by 0.1 percentage points.

Growth for 2017 is expected to pick up to 3.8 percent before accelerating to 4.1 percent in 2018 and 2019.

The public debt reduction program has also been revised to a slower downward trajectory.

Public debt, currently hovering at 71 percent of the GDP and posing a huge burden to public finances, is projected to drop to 69.2 percent of the GDP in 2017, compared to a previous 67.9 percent of the GDP before dropping to 61.3 percent of the GDP in 2019.

Public investments are also forecast to slightly drop as the government targets bringing public debt to more affordable levels of 60 percent of the GDP.

Public investment for the next three years are forecast between 62.6 billion lek (€454 mln) to 68.6 billion lek (€497 mln) at only 3.7 to 3.9 percent of the GDP, in one of the lowest historical levels compared to 4 to 5 percent of the GDP in the past decade.

“The Albanian economy continues operating below its potential which has been reflected in the inflation rate below targeted levels. Albania's economic activity is directly related to the international environment, especially its main trading partners such as Italy and Greece, mainly through exports to them, remittances and foreign direct investment,” the government says in its report.

In its revised figures, the government expects economic growth to gradually pick up from 3.9 percent in 2017 to 4.2 percent in 2019. “Growth is expected to be supported by higher internal demand while net foreign demand is expected to have a lower effect as a result of the expected increase in imports due to the big energy-related projects underway in the next few years,” says the report.

Inflation rate is expected to fluctuate between 2.7 percent in 2017 to 3 percent in 2019, almost in line with the central bank’s 3 percent target estimated to have a positive impact on the country’s economy.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 12 - The Albanian economy is estimated to have grown by an average of 3.26 percent in the first three quarters of last year and is on track to achieving the government 2016 target of 3.4 percent, state statistical institute, INSTAT, unveiled this week.

Fuelled by the peak tourism season, the economy grew by 3.1 percent in the third quarter of the year with "trade, hotels, restaurants and transport" and the long-ailing construction sector being the key drivers of growth. Financial and insurance services and agriculture also had a positive impact. Industry, energy and water negatively contributed by 0.3 percentage points apparently affected by the slump in commodity prices affecting oil and mineral production and exports.

Professional activities and administrative services, where the key call center industry employing about 25,000 people has the lion's share had an almost zero contribution to growth. Experts have warned thousands of jobs in the booming call center industry in Albania could be at risk after the Italian Parliament approved some late December changes making the supply of services from non-EU countries such as Albania tighter.

INSTAT also slightly revised upward the GDP growth forecast for the first two quarters of 2016 by 0.3 to 0.2 percentage points to 3.3 and 3.42 percent respectively.

The Albanian economy has been growing between 1 to 3 percent in the past eight years following a pre-crisis decade of 6 percent annually.
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                    [post_content] => It only takes the slightest tweak in the utterly spoiling Mediterranean climate of Albania to show its alarming vulnerabilities in infrastructure, public services and social alertness. They should really write on it ‘Machinery unable to operate at below 0 temperatures’.  Schools have been closed for 2 weeks now as the state does not know what to do with the cold temperatures and an epidemic of flu. Many argue that the real reason is that the overwhelming majority of school do not have a functioning heating systems, hard to believe fact yet painfully true. In 2017 most Albanian children who go to public schools learn while shivering and that should put to shame everyone who claims achievements in the education sector.

The self-made solution of citizens to put water reservoirs on roofs have fired back to them since the pipes have frozen and been damaged so entire cities like Durres are suffering severe water shortages. Water meters have frozen and are dysfunctional and need to be replaced by the public water company. Many cities and villages have been deprived of electricity for prolonged periods. The most expensive road in Albania, the Nation’s Highway was closed on and off and is very difficult to be passed still. Same old story: the grander the name the faultier the real thing. Even the National Theater closed its doors with the announcement that its furnace broke down.

All the missing links of investment from past and current administrations, local authorities and public bid winners have been laid bare once again by the cold. Broken-down roads, abusive private companies tasked and funded to clean up the snow but that fail to show up to work, unheated schools, chaotic health care system that advertises the flu vaccine months after its recommended time. This is augmented by the behavior of individuals: careless drivers, unprepared for the additional difficulties that come with freezing temperatures, indifferent shop keepers who still empty their buckets on the pavement, the water quickly turning into ice that makes pedestrians life tough.

It is important to note here that the temperatures, at least in most of the country would be considered as quite normal to winter time.  Most of what we hear on the news being interpreted as due to abnormalities, never before seen realities and interesting records are in fact situations that arise out of the unpreparedness of state and society, out of mistakes from the biggest: public investment choices to the smallest; individual blunders.  Albania as a country and as a society should learn to deal with harsh weather as blizzards, floods and other harsh weather.

It is important to highlight that it is not only the state and institutions to blame for this reaction. People themselves need to summon up the necessary strength and do the necessary things like shoveling their driveways, taking the precautions needed to protect their pipes and gearing up their cars. Wailing and lamenting that the state is not helping them while not even taking the smallest actions to help themselves is quite inexplicable.

The silver lining of these days has been the solid level of solidarity shown by many citizens and businesses that have helped to equip the social shelters that host homeless, poor and vulnerable communities especially in the capital. This sense of community sharing needs to be encouraged especially in the younger generations.

Additionally there are lessons to be taken here so that the mistakes do not repeat as in a broken reel! The companies, institutions and authorities responsible for past mistakes should be held accountable so others feel the responsibility to perform in a serious and timely matter. The media should focus on informing and providing sensible advice instead of rushing to capture picture perfect shots of heroic leaders examining the extraordinary measures.

Luckily the situation is expected to change in the next days with rising temperatures across the board. But stay tuned for the eventual crisis of weather and unexpected abnormality! Remember: it only takes a little tweak.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 12 – Nearly 30,000 families all over Albania that have purchased their homes in buildings constructed in violation of the construction permits will finally be able to receive their mortgage titles, the government has decided, in a move widely seen as an effort to gain more votes ahead of general elections later this year.

The Council of Ministers approved a decision to allow the legalization of illegal exterior additions to 1,320 of mostly apartment buildings nationwide.

Hundreds of people purchased their apartments not aware that the construction company violated the permit and legal obligations, hence they were unable to receive the ownership title to their homes.

The decision aims to provide a final solution to an ongoing problem of illegal buildings in Albania. The government decree also aims to regulate the right of registering apartments for citizens and also collect unpaid taxes and fees from constructors and investors.

Minister of Urban Development Eglantina Gjermeni said that the decree will provide a positive impact in the finances of hundreds of families as well as of local government units.

According to Minister Gjermeni, the Socialist Party led government has approved 110,000 legalization applications so far. 90,000 applications have been approved only during 2014-2016 period.

Prime Minister Rama commented the decision saying that the government “finally solved an ongoing problem that was a result of violations of constructors and companies who did not abide to their construction permit.”

“From now on, every family can legalize their apartment for free,” he said.

For the past two years, the government has intensified efforts to approve home permits for over 300,000 illegal buildings constructed in the past decades, that did not get official authorization.

For the past two decades, hundreds of people moved from impoverished areas of Albania to urban districts who built illegal settlements that have still not been authorized.

These settlements were tolerated for the past 12 years by all governments eying to collect political supporters.

The first legalization bill was approved in 2004, but since then the process was highly politicized, and electoral promises were never delivered.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 12 – Former chairperson of Albania’s Central Election Commission, Lefterie Luzi has been appointed director of the Parliamentary Committees Services in the parliament.

Luzi was reinstated to the public administration after failing to get a second mandate as the chairperson of the elections commission last year. Luzi received support from Socialist Party and Socialist Movement for Integration in running for a second mandate, however representatives of the Democratic Party voted against her reappointment and in favor of the new chairman of the Commission, Denar Biba.

Luzi confirmed her appointment to the parliament after the position was vacant for several months. The Parliamentary Commissions Services is one of the most important job positions in the parliament. Luzi will be a close collaborator to Parliament Speaker Ilir Meta.

Before running for CEC chairperson, Luzi chaired one of the most important offices in the parliament, the Directorate of Judicial Services and was member of the High Council of Justice.

The reappointment to public administration is a legal right acknowledged to members of the Central Election Commission. Article 17 of the Electoral Code says that members of the CEC can be reinstated back to their previous public office or any other similar position in the public administration.

Nevertheless, the implementation of this legal right is often perceived as a matter of political will.

In the next six months, Luzi will be one of the closest collaborators of Speaker Meta, since her task consists of advisory, informative and organizational duties in the country’s parliament.

Last year, the High State Audit office filed charges against Luzi over abuse of power and violation of tender procedures in regards to the pilot project of e-voting and e-counting that was implemented in the districts of Fier and Tirana in the parliamentary elections of 2013.

The implementation of the project failed, but the Central Election Commission paid the contractor the full amount of 2.5 million Euros.

According to the High State Audit Office, the contracts were in violation of public interest and against the recommendations of the Ombudsman office.

In 2013, the Socialist Party filed charges against the CEC chair over abuses with the failed e-voting process.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 11 - Uncommon freezing temperatures that have swept Albania during the past few days are having a negative impact on the Albanian economy, especially the key agriculture sector with hundreds of hectares of greenhouse crops already damaged.

The situation is more critical in the southern region of Fier, known as the breadbasket of Albania's agriculture, where hundreds of hectares of tomato and strawberry crops have been severely damaged by temperatures of 10 degrees Celsius below zero due to lack of heating systems.

Farmers say the situation is worse than in the past couple of years when they also suffered damage due to flooding.

"We have incurred huge losses both in production and saplings. The frost has taken us bankrupt," say tomato and strawberry farmers in Fier and Lushnje, also complaining that insurance companies refused providing guarantees about their products.

Local agriculture authorities in Fier, say some 50 hectares of strawberry and dozens of other hectares of tomato greenhouses have been damaged.

Strawberry has been successfully cultivating in Fier and Lushnje areas in the past few years, with a considerable part of production also destined for exports.

Uncommon freezing temperatures since the early days of 2017  have also damaged greenhouse products in central Albania areas of Tirane and Durres, damaging fresh vegetables such as tomato and salad. The situation is expected to lead to an increase in fresh vegetable prices.

Experts say other fruit trees not in the harvest process such as apples, peaches, olives, but also wheat are not endangered by the uncommon temperatures for Albania’s generally Mediterranean climate.

With some northern and southeastern areas still covered in snow and road circulation difficult due to heavy snowfall and temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius, uncommon for the past three decades in Albania, the economy is also suffering losses as some businesses have temporary suspended their activity.

“January will be a difficult month for the Albanian economy and trade affecting exports, imports and the distribution of products in the internal market," says Gjergj Buxhuku, the administrator of the Konfindustria business association.

In January 2016 and February 2015, several southern and central Albanian regions suffered massive flooding due to rivers overtopping their banks, incurring dozens of millions of euros in agriculture and material damage to farmers and households.

Agriculture, a key sector to the Albanian economy employing about half of the country's population but providing only about 20 percent of the GDP, is one of the most climate-sensitive of all economic sectors, and without clear plan for aligning agricultural policies with climate change, the livelihoods of rural populations are at risk, the World Bank has warned.

Experts have also warned the increasing nationwide cannabis cultivation during the past couple of years will have severe economic consequences for the country, including the shift of attention from the key agriculture sector, negative social impacts, the distortion to the labour market and the strengthening of the criminal economy.
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                    [post_date] => 2017-01-10 16:11:19
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                    [post_content] => By Zef Preçi*

[caption id="attachment_130060" align="alignright" width="300"]Zef Preçi Zef Preçi[/caption]

Considering the institutional and political positive developments, especially the constitutional amendments of the summer of 2016 and the beginning of implementation of the law on decriminalization, I would like to bring to your attention some problems related to the success of undertaken reforms.

According to some of our studies, the major part of Albanians remain skeptical regarding the expected results of the undertaken reforms such as the reduction of the number of  officials with criminal records, elected and appointed in different public positions. That due to the lack of will and skeptic attitudes in implementing the law, especially by the governing coalition, and from Socialist Party (SP) as the leader of the coalition.

Due to the disturbing spread of the cultivation, trade, consumption and export of cannabis sativa throughout the country, huge amounts of money is estimated to have been accumulated in the hands of a few individuals, who are likely to be invested in the upcoming parliamentary elections, leading this way to a real threat of the legitimacy and integrity of the entire electoral process, with predictable consequences for the stability of the country and the future of democracy. Slow progress on the work of the special parliamentary commission on the electoral reform has made it difficult to reflect the remarks of the OSCE/ODIHR from previous elections. Poverty also seems to have increased and hopes for a "livable Albania" for a major part of the Albanians are waning. Meanwhile, despite the transition stage of the justice reform, data published by mass-media, according to the General Prosecutor's Office on the results of self-declarations, prove that political parties and the public administration have serious concerns as individuals with personal criminal past have penetrated them.

Independent studies and observations prove that segments of organized crime, after having extended their influence on the local leadership of some political parties and local administration, managed to seriously station at the Albanian Parliament and from there “control and lead" the  budget cash flow and "protect" their businesses. They still keep affecting the allocation of loans by the banking system, appointments within the administration, some of which are immersed in a conflict of interest, appointments within the police, customs, justice, diplomacy, etc.

Hence, the "state capture" explains why public tax collection policies fail even when the number of registered businesses has significantly increased; why the collection of social security payments fails despite the increased number of insured persons; why Western business firms do not invest in Albania but in other countries of the region; why monetary policy fails to reduce "bad loans"; why massive bankruptcy includes only small businesses and some medium-sized ones, but does not affect those controlled by the oligarchs; why the economy is reeling so slowly and why very few people believe in the possibility of its rapid improvement.

Since we're tackling the decriminalization, I strongly believe that the process launched and the judiciary reform are irreversible, but that will take some extra time to get tangible results and for the system to become stable, thus reviving public trust in the institutions in general and in the justice system in particular. This way, the rigorous implementation of the decriminalization process creates opportunities for Albania to have normal governance and a functioning state, a product of the citizens' vote, as happens in the democratic world.

Secondly, despite the extremely slow progress of the electoral reform, I personally believe that the awareness of the leading politicians about the usefulness of amending the Electoral Code and international pressure will enable at least two or three serious interventions within the Electoral Code of the country: a) increase inspection over the funding of political parties b) enable open regional lists, and c) clarify the figures / personalities that political parties will offer as candidates in the general elections of June 18, 2017.

I will focus only on the third issue of those amendments - on shedding light on the figures / potential candidates for the upcoming elections.  I humbly invite all public stakeholders, mass media and especially civil society activists and international institutions assisting electoral reform to advocate for the amendment of the Electoral Code regarding the compulsory obligation for the publication, through the Central Election Commission of the official list of candidates not later than 90 days before the elections.

Let us not forget that since the constitutional amendment of April 26, 2008 on the basis of which were compiled the candidate MP "lists," there have "de facto" stopped and vanished even those democratic mechanisms of electing the leadership of political parties, those of membership consultation, etc. The election of political leaders has already become formalized and has largely weakened competition in the selection of individuals holding high-level public positions within and outside the executive. At the same time, there was an alarming rate of corporatism within the justice system and this phenomenon currently constitutes a real nepotistic threat within the public administration and other public institutions.

The publication of the official list of candidates not later than 90 days before the elections would make possible for the sovereign, citizens and various communities to recognize those who really will govern for the next four years, make it possible for them to somehow influence on the political preferences towards attributes such as the integrity and professionalism of candidates / individuals.

Likewise, citizens and communities will be able to denounce "feats and misery" of those who manage to penetrate lists through known and unknown methods, such as the investment of legal and illegal money during electoral campaigns ("de facto" buying the political mandate), but also the civil society will be able to analyze and eventually publish in an appropriate format, the past and the legitimacy of businesses run by those candidates nominated by political parties / coalitions.

The publication of the official list of candidates not later than 90 days before the voting day will also be a legitimate opportunity for the candidates who exercise different functions in the public administration to resign from the respective functions in order to compete as equal to the opposition candidates, considering this as a moral act and an obligation for any candidate who accepts to run on behalf of political parties or as an independent candidate in the general elections of June 18, 2017.

In my opinion, this process would create the appropriate ground for the introduction of traditional political parties within the process of internal democratization or at least point out the major governance issues and the lack of accountability within them, thus increasing the citizen pressure for further reform and real democratization of political parties as constitutional elements in our country.

If the proposed points are taken into consideration, the Albanian state budget would save significant funds which could go to investigate into many political villains who target buying their problematic past with law by becoming members of municipal councils and even enter the Albanian Parliament.

I sincerely believe that for most of the political leaders, the publication of the official list of candidates for deputies not later than 90 days before the election day of June 18, 2017 will be a great and legitimate institutional help in order to increase the citizens’ confidence towards the economic and social system in general. This way, together, we would contribute to the good governance of the country, for "a more livable Albania," reviving hope and faith as well as curbing the abandonment of the country in the past few years…

*Zef Preçi is the director of the Albanian Center for Economic Research
                    [post_title] => The need to publish MP candidate lists at least 90 days ahead of the upcoming June 18 general elections 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-01-10 10:44:23
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 10 - All intercity buses linking Tirana to northern and southern destinations will be located at a new terminal at the entry of Tirana-Durres highway. The municipality of Tirana has already launched a February 27 international tender to select a company that will build and operate an interurban bus terminal under a 35-year concession contract. The country's biggest municipality will provide the winning bidder an 85,000 m2 construction site in the place known as the Kthesa e Kamzes (Kamza Turn) in return for investment of €15.5 million while the concessionaire will handle all parking fees.

The new terminal will accommodate buses linking Tirana to Durres and southern Albanian destinations such as Fier and Vlora, currently operating at a terminal at the Shqiponja (Eagle roundabout) at the Tirana entry as well as interurban buses linking the capital to northern destinations such as Kruja, Lezha and Shkoder, currently operating at a separate terminal near the Zogu i Zi roundabout.

The current Tirana municipality-run southern terminal at the former Tirana customs office facilities close to the “Shqiponja” roundabout, handles about 500 buses and minibuses each day linking Tirana to 29 destinations, serving more than 10,000 passengers.

Interurban buses linking Tirana to Elbasan and southeastern Albanian destinations such as Korça and Pogradec are scheduled to be accommodated at Sauk, just outside Tirana.

The municipality says the new terminals will ease traffic in downtown Tirana and reduce pollution.

Tirana city public transport users have been facing a 33 percent hike in bus fares, currently at 40 lek (€0.29) starting February 2016 following pressure by local companies which had threatened to go on strike unless the municipality reviewed the ticket prices.

The municipality of Tirana, the country’s biggest local government unit (LGU), has a resident population of some 557,000 following the 2015 administrative reform that cut the number of LGUs to 61 from a previous 373 municipalities and communes.

The new terminals make reaching the Tirana city center much more difficult for daily commuters considering that the degraded and rarely used railway transport to the capital city has also been nonexistent for the past couple of years due to works to extend the boulevard at the former train station close at the Zog I boulevard. Tirana is currently one of the few capitals where the train station is located about 10 km from the city cente, in Kashar village following the demolition of the downtown train station a couple of years ago.

More than a decade after cancelling a contract with U.S. giant General Electric, Albania is planning to revitalize its dilapidated rail transport by reconstructing the key Tirana-Durres segment and linking it to the country’s sole international airport.

London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has pledged a €34.5 million loan to partly fund the reconstruction of the 35 km Tirana-Durres segment and built a new 7.4 km section linking Tirana to the airport just outside the capital in Rinas. The project’s total cost is estimated at €86.4 million.
                    [post_title] => Tender launched to select Tirana interurban bus terminal concessionaire
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 - Albania's annual average inflation rate hit a 16-year low of 1.3 percent in 2016, reflecting a slump in global oil and food prices, but also sluggish domestic consumption as the economy is estimated to have grown by slightly above 3 percent, mainly thanks to major energy-related investment.

Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, the key item in the consumer basket, rose by a mere 3.2 percent while oil prices were down by 5 percent in 2016, according to state statistical institute, INSTAT.

The monthly inflation rate registered its highest rate only last December when it hit 2.2 percent compared to almost deflation levels of 0.2 to 0.3 percent February-April 2016.

Albania's 2016 annual inflation rate is 1.7 percent below the central bank's 3 percent target which is estimated to have a positive impact on consumption and the country's economic growth.

The country's inflation rate is on par with other Western Balkans enlargement countries and slightly above zero in the euro area.

“Persistently low inflation remains a key characteristic of the Western Balkan economies, reflecting low commodity prices and exchange rate stability,” says the European Commission in its latest quarterly report on enlargement countries.

The last time the average annual inflation rate was lower was back in 1999 when consumer prices were at modest negative growth rates following hyperinflation fuelled by the collapse of several pyramid investment schemes in 1997 triggering turmoil in the country.

The low inflation pressure allowed Albania’s central bank to cut the key rate to a historic low of 1.25 percent in a bid to boost sluggish consumption, but its easier monetary policy was poorly reflected as lending struggled to return to positive growth rates affected by non-performing loans at about 20 percent.

Albania's average inflation rate fluctuated at about 2 percent from 2012 to 2015 compared to 3 percent in 2007-2010.

The central bank says the gradual recovery of the Albanian economy will also lead to a gradual recovery in consumer prices and inflation rate is expected to pick up to its 3 percent target by late 2018.

 

 
                    [post_title] => INSTAT: Average inflation hit 16-year low of 1.3% in 2016
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 - Albanians are facing higher liquid gas and oil prices in the first days of 2017 as a new excise rate has been imposed on vehicle liquid gas and international oil prices have registered a new increase.

The introduction of an 8 lek (€0.06)/litre excise rate on vehicle liquid gas, has also increased liquid gas prices for households by 25 percent as liquefied petroleum gas, LPG, continues being massively traded in cylinders from the same filling stations for both car and household consumption, despite warnings by authorities to stop sales to households from vehicle gas points in fuel stations.

Liquid gas prices at fuel stations have risen to 60 lek (€0.44)/litre in the first days of this year, compared to 48 lek (€0.35)/litre in late 2016 just before the introduction of excise rate.

Liquid gas prices in the few authorized sale points which also provide safer gas cylinders and are responsible for their technical control is even higher at an average of 80 lek(€0.58)/litre.

Government officials had assured the new hike would only affect liquid gas powered vehicles, but the reality in the first days of 2017 is quite different with households continuing to use their old and not technically controlled gas cylinders to benefit lower gas prices from fuel stations.

Old and not technically controlled gas cylinders have in a considerable number of cases also claimed lives due to explosions.

Only 3 percent of some 500,000 motor vehicles, some 15,000, are estimated to run on liquid gas in Albania.

Albania is expected to have lower liquid gas prices by 2020 when the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, already in its construction stage in its Albania section, makes the first Caspian gas deliveries to Europe.

Albanians are also facing higher fuel prices in these first days of 2017 with oil prices having risen to an average of 170 lek/litre (€1.25) making them one of Europe's highest due to the high tax burden Albania applies. The increase seems to have reflected the latest developments as global fuel prices have picked up to $56 a barrel.

Last November, the country’s Constitutional Court turned down a controversial late 2015 government decision that increased license fees on fuel and gas stations by a staggering 50-fold, in a move that prevented a new price increase.

Despite having one of Europe's lowest GDP per capita, at €1.3/litre Albania had one of Europe's highest diesel prices in early January, much higher than in Germany and France, the Eurozone’s leading economies, according to the Global Petrol Prices portal.

Albania taxes one liter of oil at about 100 lek (€0.73)/litre, mostly in fixed excise, circulation and carbon  taxes and also applies a 20 percent VAT.
                    [post_title] => Albanians face higher liquid gas, fuel prices in early days of 2017
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 12 - The Albanian government has slightly revised its GDP, public debt and investment targets for the next three years.

In its revised 2017-2019 mid-term budgetary program, the Albanian government slightly kept unchanged its 2016 GDP forecast of 2.6 percent, but revised downward the GDP expectations for 2017 to 2019 by 0.1 percentage points.

Growth for 2017 is expected to pick up to 3.8 percent before accelerating to 4.1 percent in 2018 and 2019.

The public debt reduction program has also been revised to a slower downward trajectory.

Public debt, currently hovering at 71 percent of the GDP and posing a huge burden to public finances, is projected to drop to 69.2 percent of the GDP in 2017, compared to a previous 67.9 percent of the GDP before dropping to 61.3 percent of the GDP in 2019.

Public investments are also forecast to slightly drop as the government targets bringing public debt to more affordable levels of 60 percent of the GDP.

Public investment for the next three years are forecast between 62.6 billion lek (€454 mln) to 68.6 billion lek (€497 mln) at only 3.7 to 3.9 percent of the GDP, in one of the lowest historical levels compared to 4 to 5 percent of the GDP in the past decade.

“The Albanian economy continues operating below its potential which has been reflected in the inflation rate below targeted levels. Albania's economic activity is directly related to the international environment, especially its main trading partners such as Italy and Greece, mainly through exports to them, remittances and foreign direct investment,” the government says in its report.

In its revised figures, the government expects economic growth to gradually pick up from 3.9 percent in 2017 to 4.2 percent in 2019. “Growth is expected to be supported by higher internal demand while net foreign demand is expected to have a lower effect as a result of the expected increase in imports due to the big energy-related projects underway in the next few years,” says the report.

Inflation rate is expected to fluctuate between 2.7 percent in 2017 to 3 percent in 2019, almost in line with the central bank’s 3 percent target estimated to have a positive impact on the country’s economy.
            [post_title] => Key economic indicators revised downward
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