IBNA Analysis/ The challenges of Western Balkans

IBNA Analysis/ The challenges of Western Balkans

“Although this region has a good climate for investments, it is still threatened by the slow economic recovery in Europe and the glove, high instability in financial markets and the fluctuations in the price of oil. Therefore, the sustainable implementation of economic reforms will help in reducing these threats”

By Dr. Milva Ekonomi

Minister of Economic Development, Tourism, Commerce and Enterprise in Albania

Albania is going through an important economic situation. Economic growth which once came from remittances and was backed by the growth of the construction sector, is being displaced, boosted by investments and exports. As the Program for Economic Reforms 2016-2018 stresses, the Albanian government is taking incentives to enable this transformation and boost the potentials of growth and competition, preserving macro-economic stability. According to the Regular Economic Report for Southeast Europe (EE REER) 2015, Albania has had the biggest economic growth than the region’s average. According to the report, the work of the government in several reforms is being praised.

Meanwhile, in 2015, Western Balkans saw an overall economic growth of 2,1%. This growth is significantly higher than the 0,3% in 2014, when the region was heavily affected by floods. All six countries of the region have had a real GDP growth between 3,6 to 3,7% in 2016.

The higher economic growth in 2015 created new jobs in the private sector. These jobs and the low inflation increased household incomes and reduced poverty. In Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, the poverty rate went down by 2% compared to the period 2013-2015, which means that around 140 thousand people in these four countries have escaped poverty, the World Bank announces.

Unemployment as a challenge for Western Balkans

For both Albania and the region, in spite of these achievements, reduction of poverty remains a challenge. Western Balkans has an unemployment rate of 21,5%.

“It’s encouraging to see the first signs of a growth boosted by investments and growth of exports for the 6 countries of Southeast Europe”, says Ellen Goldstein, regional director of the World Bank. “This rebalancing,” she continues, “must become sustainable in the long-term, aiming at deepening economic reforms and bring back the productivity which saw a drop during the global crisis.”

An in fact, the improvement of productivity remains an important factor for the boosting of growth in the region.

For the region, sustainable growth can only be achieved by focusing on long term economic reforms, in particular by eliminating obstacles, especially those relating to formal employment, improvement of the business climate and governing and by accompanying this with the improvement of the quality of services for the citizens, boosting of commerce and financial integration and by insuring a sustainable use of natural resources.

Although this region has a good climate for investments, it is still threatened by the slow economic recovery in Europe and the glove, high instability in financial markets and the fluctuations in the price of oil. Therefore, the sustainable implementation of economic reforms will help in reducing these threats.

Reform in the justice system as a foundation stone

Albania must consider the justice reform as a foundation stone which will significantly improve the lives of the citizens and businesses, by saving them from the lengthy times needed to examine their complaints. 90% of the population needs an acceptable  justice system followed by 70% of businesses. This means that we must all embrace with commitment, enthusiasm and responsibility the fact that the reform in justice is one of the most important elements which would allow progress in Albania today.

There’s no success without security

Integration of Western Balkan countries in the EU will not be successful without a sustainable and safe cooperation of the region itself.

The Berlin conference and other regional incentives such as the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) have boosted cooperation between our countries, enabling ties in different domains, such as in infrastructure, energy, tourism and improvement of the business climate.

An appeal from Albania

In this aspect, Albania wants to appeal for close cooperation in the region in such sectors like transport, energy, commerce and digital economy.

In the recent years, we need to improve the main corridors of transport and turn them into corridors which are economically active, socially cooperative and environmentally sustainable.

We need to improve the interaction of IT services and communication in the region. Besides building the current infrastructure, we must focus on the reforms needed to remove administrative obstacles of these ties. The governments of the region must also work for the economic development of the areas alongside these corridors, aiming the integration of regional clusters, development of logistics and necessary services.

Through our joint efforts, in spite of the histories of conflicts, our region will continue its path toward economic progress, peace, security and stability. /balkaneu.com/