IBNA Special Report
Pristina, July 4, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Elton Tota
Representatives of the government of Kosovo say that the highway linking Pristina to Skopje, which has just started to be built, will benefit to Kosovar producers and beyond. Meanwhile, critics say that this project will have a very small impact in reducing the big trade deficit that Kosovo has with FYR Macedonia-and in fact, it can benefit FYROM more.
Acting prime minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, says that the start of construction works for the new highway is a big step toward the modernization of the infrastructure of the Republic of Kosovo, which will benefit economic development and will unite Albanians with the region and will integrate Kosovo in the international transport network.
Minister of Infrastructure, Fehmi Mujota says that this road is of a major importance. “The highway linking Pristina to Han of Elez, besides being a major infrastructure project, also offers a perspective of development and integration. As such, it exceeds the national importance, which links nations, the region and beyond”, says Mujota.
Meanwhile, deputy prime minister of FYR| Macedonia, Musa Xhaferi said that this highway will be a connecting bridge between Albanians of Kosovo and those of FYR Macedonia.
“This will offer a social, political, economic and brotherly cohesion between Albanians on both sides. Meanwhile, Kosovo will be able to be connected to important corridors such as “8th Corridor” and “10th Corridor” in order to be further connected with the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea and through Macedonia with Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and other countries”, said Xhaferi.
Critics say that the new highway will have a small impact in reducing the big trade deficit that Kosovo has with FYROM.
FYR Macedonia is the second largest exporter of Kosovo and in 2013, it exported around 245 million Euros worth of goods to the country. In the same year, Kosovo has exported only 34 million Euros worth of goods to FYROM.
Asked if the highway toward Skopje could damage the private sector and if more time should have been given, Lumir Abdixhiku of RIINVEST, says that “it would be better if things had been done parallel to each other, meaning that the growth of the quality of roads should have been accompanied by the growth of national capacities”.
“If we only care about the roads and forget private sector, then the final outcome in the commercial point of view will not be in our favor”, says he.
Since the start of the construction of Ibrahim Rugova highway which links Kosovo to Albania in 2009, exports from Albania have benefited more than those from Kosovo.
Since 2009, Albania’s exports to Kosovo has gone up by 165%, while export of Kosovo has gone up by 100%.
But, deputy minister Nikaj insists that it will be different with FYROM.
He says that exports from FYROM have reached their highest level, and as a result, the highway will not have a big impact for their growth.
He said that products imported from FYROM can be replaced by local producers, something which is being intensified.
But, according to Lumir Abdixhiku, the highway is a luxury and not a need.
“It would be the same with for a holiday to Paris, while you haven’t still paid the rent for the house, school fees and nothing is going like it should. It’s a very good thing to spend holidays in Paris, but you leave many unsolved things behind”, says he.
Abdixhiku says that the highway which is expected to be built, besides the millions of Euros that Thaci’s government has spent in roads, it has also led to funds not to be spent for more important domains.
“Spending funds like this has led to the most important needs that Kosovo has today to be neglected, such as private sector, judiciary system and health system”, added he.
“By focusing the entire financial capital in a single project, we have practically given up a number of priorities. As a result, during the past four years, economic growth and the creation of new jobs has been symbolical”, says Abdixhiku.
A similar opinion is also shared by Agron Demi from the GAP Institute. According to him, the case of the highway with Albania has shown that the construction of better roads doesn’t necessarily mean more economic development or growth of GDP”.
This road will be built by “Bechtel&Enka” consortium, which will undertake this project for a cost of 600 million Euros. The project will last 42 months from the signature of the contract. /ibna/