IBNA interview/Anastas Angjeli: Albanian transition will end along with the European one

IBNA interview/Anastas Angjeli: Albanian transition will end along with the European one

Academic Anastas Angjeli talks about the two and a half decades ongoing transition in Albania and explains why this transition is coming to an end. Former minister of Finance in the government of the former socialist prime minister Fatos Nano, Prof. Dr. Anastas Angjeli says that democracy is an ongoing process which doesn’t have a finish line, but which will only see an improvement

Interviewed by Albert Zholi

If there’s a word which has been repeated so much in the political Albanian language of the recent years is the word “transition”. Sometimes it’s been used to describe, sometimes it’s been used to judge, sometimes to justify, sometimes as an alibi and sometimes as a curse. Prof. Dr. Anastas Angjeli, one of the most prominent names of the left wing, currently focused in the academic world, talks about this argument and explains why the post Albanian transition period will coincide with the European post transition period

It’s been 24 years that the word “transition” has been repeated on a daily basis in the Albanian politics. What is the meaning of this word for you?

It’s starting point of a long journey which continues even today and which we will continue endlessly. It’s a journey toward a functional democracy which focuses on the citizen, toward a free market, but which serves social welfare. It’s a journey toward a free, open, competitive and a society filled with solidarity. And like it happens in our personal life, this is a joint journey where the final destination is more important than the journey itself.  Here I can mention a number of key terms.

What were these terms?

Numerous terms such as private property, privatization, taxation, VAT, inflation and unemployment, foreign investments, debts and concessions. They are today “traffic lights” which must be kept on or which must be turned on in a different way. Other stations filled with beautiful illusions or bitter realities, with hope or disappointment, with progress and regression, have accompanied our epic and Balkan like journey in order to achieve a European standard of living. I’m convinced that today, after more than 20 and odd years, our society has learnt the necessary lessons. It has the necessary wisdom to look back and see with a critical eye and evaluate this period. It goes without saying that the academic world, scientific researches play the main role here. In this prism, I have also tried to offer my modest contribution through my book “The journal of economic transition”.

And when it comes to economic transition?

It goes without saying that the economic transition in Albania like anywhere else, cannot be analyzed separated from its other dimensions, such as political financial, legal, social and cultural ones. For this reason, all these aspects accompany my analysis, but the economic aspect remains at its core. Preserving the chronological progress of facts, I have wanted to convey what I have written at the right moment. I have always been convinced that democracy, in contrast to economy, is not a static reality which can be achieved by following an accurate formula. Democracy is an ongoing and endless process. It doesn’t have a finish line and it only sees improvement, both in the personal and collective aspect, because democracy starts from each of us, from every citizen and from the contribution that each one of us gives for the community. Starting with the individual. We must fight and strive everyday for democracy and its improvement. The challenges of this post transition, those of the remodeling of priorities of development and growth, employment, stability and fiscal consolidation, expansion of economic freedoms and spaces of business development, domestic and foreign investments, are great. Transition is not a static phenomenon, but a very unique kind of process and as a result, we can only determine the start of this period, because it’s very hard to determine a finish date. Transition is a process and it must be treated as such.

You say that we’re nearing the end of the transition. Are we really?

One thing is sure. A fact which the majority part of researchers agree on. The process of the Albanian transition is in its final phase and I believe that the professional obligation of every researcher is not only to evaluate the causes and characteristics of this period, but also to offer recommendations for the period which will follow the transition. I support the idea that we’re in the final transition phase based on these 6 reasons:

  1. Private property has become dominating in the Albanian economy-90% of the

property is currently private and it secures around 80% of GDP and employs 85% of employees;

  1. Albania has an entirely new economic, commercial and financial legislation,

which is clearly based on the principles of the free market, sanctioned in the Constitution of the Republic of Albania and it’s contemporary and harmonized with the standards of the legislation of EU member countries. In 20 years, over 2200 laws have been approved in this domain;

  1. All the institutions which are necessary for the functioning of a free market

economy have been made functional in the Albanian economy.

  1. Today, the Albanian economy has an adequate financial-banking and non banking

system and their market is functional;

  1. Albanian economy is entirely liberalized, opened to such degree that it has

achieved an acceptable level of integration in the regional economy, as a prequisite for the European economic integration;

  1. The country has become a member and collaborates with all international economic and financial institutions. Nevertheless, we must stress that fact that Albania is not the only one undergoing a period of transition. We can also say that the European Union too has undergone the same process in the past 5 years. Of course, it’s an entirely different transition to the Albanian one. A crisis which gave shape to the policies of many member countries, but also of the Eurozone and European Union in general. It’s a transition that continues to feature of the European family. The Albanian post transition period seems to be coinciding with the European post transition period. This may also be considered as a chance which must not be lost, because at the end of the day, this coincidence leads us to the same dilemmas that the European Union has today.

Stringent measures or development? Extreme measures or a stimulus for a sustainable development? Does the Euro zone economy need a new boost or should austere measures continue? What about the Albanian economy? Are these effective measures? Must nations which have made so many sacrifices be punished endlessly if the citizens believe that these sacrifices are not giving any results? Is deficit and debt the only threat, or is recession and unemployment included too? Or must we find a compromise between supporters of austere measures and savings with those who support development? Must the social rights of citizens be neglected in the name of economic development? How will we guarantee a harmonization of economic growth, economic development, social development and improvement of the quality of the life of population by preserving financial stability?

How has the global crisis affected the economic and financial current situation of Albania?

In today’s situation, no country can be immune toward both positive and economic effects of the global economy. Our country doesn’t make an exception. For this reason, the economy of our country cannot only be an issue of reforms undertaken by us, but also a result of the impact of external factors. In the past 5 years, the effect of the economic global financial crisis and that of the Euro zone has been crucial for the economic situation of the country. Last year, the economy of the country continued to slow down, resulting with a 1.3% growth. Budget deficit amounted to 6% of the Gross Domestic Product, while public debt amounted to around 70% of GDP. /ibna/