Balkan Barometer survey: Albanian households, businesses remain largely pessimistic

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 6, 2018 15:27

Balkan Barometer survey: Albanian households, businesses remain largely pessimistic

Story Highlights

  • Similarly to regional EU aspirant countries, Albanians are mostly concerned over unemployment, the economic situation and corruption, the top three barriers for 33 to 56 percent of respondents

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TIRANA, July 6 – Albanian households and businesses remain largely pessimistic and expectations for this year are not much optimistic, according to a Balkan Barometer survey published by the Regional Cooperation Council this week.

More than half of Albanians, some 54 percent, say they are mostly unsatisfied and completely dissatisfied with the way things are going in the Albanian society, a 5 percentage point improvement compared to last year’s Balkan Barometer survey.

Similarly to regional EU aspirant countries, Albanians are mostly concerned over unemployment, the economic situation and corruption, the top three barriers for 33 to 56 percent of respondents.

“And although unemployment is still seen as the most important problem facing the [Western Balkan] region, interestingly, brain drain/emigration is increasingly seen as a major challenge by the region’s citizens, as 12 percent of them said so, which is 5 percent more than in BB 2015,” says RCC Secretary General Goran Svilanovic.

An annual survey of citizens and business communities’ opinion on the situation in the six EU aspirant Western Balkan countries, the 2018 Balkan Barometer showed satisfaction of people and businesses on the overall situation in the region, while still below average, is steadily improving.

About two-thirds of Albanians say they are not happy with the economic situation in the country and one out three expect the situation to deteriorate over the next 12 months.

The slightly better expectations come at a time when Albania’s economic growth recovered to a 9-year high of 3.8 percent in 2017 and is expected to further pick up to 4.2 percent this year fuelled by some large energy-related projects with not much impact on the majority of households and not contributing to inclusive growth.

Half of respondents say they are dissatisfied with the health services in the countries and admit to having paid bribes to access medical and health services over the past year.

What’s concerning is that 43 percent of Albanians still say they would consider leaving and working abroad, at a slightly lower rate compared to last year’s record high of 50 percent. However, 88 percent say they wouldn’t consider moving to the other five EU aspirant regional countries, where GDP per capita and consumption rates are at similar rates compared to Albania and at only a third of the EU average.

High migration rates and a sharp decline in the number of birth rates has turned into a key concern in Albania where about 1.2 million people, almost 40 percent of the country’s 2.8 million resident population, already live abroad.

More than 146,000 Albanians, about 5 percent of the country’s resident population, sought ungrounded international protection in EU member countries in the past five years with their number peaking at 66,000 in 2015 and dropping to 22,000 in 2017. However, only about 5 percent of them have been granted international protection.

Two-thirds of Albanians believe the law is not applied and enforced effectively in the country and only a quarter say they trust courts and the judiciary.

Albania is currently implementing a long-awaited justice reform that is vetting judges and prosecutors on their wealth and professionalism, but the reform, a key requirement set by the EU to open accession negotiations, is slowly progressing and could take years.

Two-thirds of the respondents say they don’t believe the Albanian government is fighting corruption in the economy effectively.

 

Businesses pay up to €5,000 in bribes

When it comes to the business community, perceptions on the economic situation are slightly better with a quarter of respondents saying it has improved over the past year and one out of three expecting it to improve over the next 12 months.

Overwhelmingly dealing with Eurozone economies, about half of Albanian businesses don’t consider the quality of regional cooperation in South East Europe as important to their businesses.

Business representatives rate macroeconomic instability, tax administration and tax rates as well as corruption as the top three problematic factors for the operation and growth of their businesses.

Companies cite tailor-made criteria for certain participants and deals before the tender is even published for not participating in public tenders.

Albanian businesses are much more generous than their regional peers when it comes to the amount of unofficial payment/gifts to public officials and pay from €100 in dealing with environmental inspections to a record high of more than €5,000 in dealing with courts, five times more compared to the regional average.

The survey shows Western Balkan region’s businesses are slightly more optimistic than the population with some 40 percent of company leaders reporting improvement in their business situation over the previous year.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 6, 2018 15:27