By Arben Ahmetaj
Minister of Economic Development, Commerce and Enterprise of Albania
One of my favorite characters has once said that: “Some people see private enterprise as a tiger that must be killed. Others see it as a cow that must be milked. Not many people see enterprise as a healthy horse that pulls a heavy carriage”.
With these words by Winston Churchill, we can define the big difference between the last two Albanian administrations. Last September, we found a chaotic situation in the relations between government and enterprise. Relations were missing and where they were present, there was a lack of trust, fear of being fined by the tax administration, problems with the arrears of the previous government, which secretly financed public debt and an entire system of repression against enterprises, especially the successful ones.
Currently, there’s a new chapter in the relations between government and enterprise. We have expressed our will to build up bridges of communication with enterprise. I believe that we have done a lot for this in a year.
In the past 15 months, there’s been a drastic turn in our relations, between government and enterprise. Since the very first days in government, we knew that one of the main problems for the business was the government’s growing debt. For this, we committed to pay all of this debt and so far we’ve paid 260 million USD.
We also launched the first steps to build constructive dialogue with enterprise, to create not only communication, but above all, cooperation between the sides, in order for the economic turn of the country to be a joint step and for us to be joint shareholders of the economic destiny of the country. This is the reason why we created the National Economic Committee, which discusses every reform and problem concerning enterprise, in order to find a solution.
We’re entirely aware that by cooperating in a pro-active way, we can make the difference for the economy and the citizens. This belief has become stronger especially in the year that is ending, where we have seen that the government and enterprise can do more together and resolve many problems.
In 2014, we have undertaken a number of measures in order to offer facilities in different sectors, starting not by what we wanted to do, but what was suggested by entrepreneurs themselves. The package for the textile industry, with a 26% rise of exports from one year to another, is not only a symbol what a government can do for a sector, but above all, it’s the symbol of a new spirit of cooperation which has been followed by the Agricultural package or other facilitating packages.
We know that the foundations of that economy that we want to build, of the new economic model at work, must be built on healthy foundations, like the ones that we’re building together.
Today it’s necessary to promote all together a new example of the entrepreneur, of the successful business person, who can and must be a model of success for all young people, while they assess their chances to take steps in life.
Up until yesterday, this was impossible, because the business was either treated as a dangerous enemy, or as something that everyone should take advantage of. Today we’re collaborators and in some cases, joint authors in a path of reforms, which so far, in only 15 months, have resulted successful.
Albania has gained 40 places in the “Doing Business Report” world ranking. The assessment for the economy by Standard and Poor’s has been changed twice positively. EBRD has considered the country as the most reformatory country in its Transition Report. We have also gone up in many world rankings relating to different sectors. This is not only our achievement, but a joint achievement.
We have managed to change the direction of economic growth. From an economic slowdown lasting several years, this year we will have positive growth and this will last year after year. This is only the start of our joint path.
The 2015 agenda of reforms
We’re engaged for a partnership based on trust with enterprise. For this, we stopped electoral fines and the fiscal regime that produced them, in order to build a system of cooperation for the fight against informality.
2015 will be a year where we must take the current success even further. As a government, we’re entirely engaged on this, because 2015 will be the year to move forward with the reforms already started and economic transformation.
We’re launching a deep deregulating reform in order to simplify and solve problems with procedures, to reduce costs, time and the number of procedures for enterprise and to make the system more efficient. For this, we have decided to merge the National Center of Registration with the National Center of Licensing in 2015. Moreover, we will also unify business services, in order for the administration to be more efficient and for enterprise to be developed without procedural obstacles.
We’re developing supporting packages for several sectors such as tourism, recycling and plastic materials, agri-processing and mechanical industry. Our vision is for Albania to turn into an important center of production and regional commerce, with the aim of progressively increasing exports to EU countries.
At the beginning of the year, we will also create the Council of Investments in cooperation with EBRD. This institution will receive complaints and problems encountered by the business, where each one of us can appeal for given matters and receive an official reply from the highest state authorities.
I started this article with an expression from Churchill. Allow me to finish it with another expression by him: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; but it’s the courage to continue what matters”. /ibna/