IBNA Special Report
Tirana, July 7, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
In Albania, the left wing majority and right wing opposition see the work of the government done in the first 300 days in office different from each other.
Prime minister Edi Rama says that the government that he leads has done a good job in different directions, including the economy, law and order and the restoration of the people on the state. Meanwhile, he warns that this will be the year of the fight against corruption. As of September, the government has announced that it will undertake major reforms to tackle corruption in the country.
On the other hand, leader of opposition, Lulzim Basha, says that the first 300 days of the new government have been characterized by a weak economy and a future filled with insecurity.
Rama: In September we will start the anti-corruption year
This Sunday, the prime minister called an informal meeting of the government cabinet which lasted several hours (photo). Rama says that during this marathon meeting, a long analysis has been made about the first year of the government in office and plans for the next year. Talking about the work done so far, Rama says that “data on the economy and governing for the first 300 days are encouraging”.
He says that hit is not only the perception of the government, but the citizens too. “Weekly polls that we have conducted during these 300 days, indicate that the government enjoys the trust of the citizens”.
Rama warns for an anti-corruption “wave”, which he says it will start in September and will continue for a year, without issuing other details. “We’re preparing for our second year in office-Anti corruption Year, September 2014-2015”, says Mr. Rama.
The opposition makes its analysis of the first 300 days of the left wing government
Leader of opposition, Lulzim Basha says that the first 300 days of this government reduce to a weak economy and a future filled with insecurity. He explains the causes: “This is a direct outcome of the wrong policies of high taxes, of the abusive blows given to businesses and of the legal insecurity that there exists. All of this has accompanied national and foreign enterprises during these 300 days in Albania”, says Basha.
Leader of DP, Lulzim Basha has also talked about unemployment. The wrong policies followed by the government, says Mr. Basha, have led to the closure of jobs across the country.
“They promised 300 thousand jobs. How many have they created? Or rather, how many have they closed? They have closed jobs all over the country. This is even confirmed by the Institute of Statistics, which says that unemployment has moved up from 13.9% to 18.3%”, says Basha.
300 days full of ups and downs
Rama’s government came into power after 8 years that the Socialist Party had spent in opposition. Among the main promises that Rama made in the campaign was free health, removal of VAT on power supply for all household consumers, free legalization of properties which were undergoing the process of legalization, improved law and order in the country, etc.
Since the very first weeks, the government faced massive protests against the arrival of chemical weapons from Syria to be demolished in Albania. The government seemed to manage mishandle the situation. It never said that it was negotiating with USA to bring into the country chemical weapons which were refused by many other countries. As a result, the news was uncovered by international media and it triggered reactions and accusations for lack of transparency in Albania.
Even after this, the government did not explain in front of the people its positioning on the process.
When Rama announced the government’s decision to refuse the chemical weapons, he said that if the opposite had happened, there would be many advantages. But, the announcement of the advantages was delayed. During the days of the protest, nobody explained these advantages, which were announced after the decision was taken.
After the protests, the country saw numerous bomb explosions which brought panic, caused several victims and material damages.
The government also faced other protests and two hunger strikes. One of them related to discharges from public administration and the other was organized by former political dissidents, who have not yet been compensated 23 years after the overthrowing of the communist regime.
When it took office, the government announced its plans for the first 100 days, for the first 300 days and for the 4 year term.
Among the achievements of the first 300 days, we can mention the granting of the EU candidate status, following three consecutive refusals. The situation with law and order is not yet within acceptable parameters. Many crimes continue to happen and for several months in a row, the country saw a wave of explosions that shocked the population and businesses in the country.
Contract killings grew during this period, domestic crime continues to be high and other crimes are still problematic. Armed and violent robberies continue to see growth.
On the other hand, police has ambitiously fought gambling activities that evade taxes and a lot of work has been done and continues to be done to penalize all of those road users who break the law on the road. The majority of fines are issued for wrong parking and in the majority of cases, without the presence of the driver in the car.
Many people complain that they’re being frequently and unfairly fined. They say that before embarking on such campaign of fines, the state must first secure sufficient parking spaces.
As far as law and order is concerned in these first 300 days of the government, the assault against drug traffic in Lazarat can be considered as the main and most important achievement.
For two decades in a row, no government managed to enter with police troops in Lazarat. This was done in June, managing to destroy the cultivation of marijuana and seize tens of tuns of drugs which were ready to be trafficked.
As far as economy is concerned, some are skeptic about the changes in taxation, some others see them with optimism. Economy experts criticize the growth of public debt from 60% to 72% this year, due to a debt that the government secured in order to pay arrears that the state owed to businesses for the services that it had obtained.
The increase of corporation tax and progressive tax are also being criticized by experts.
They say that progressive tax affects middle class, which plays a key role to the general consumption. According to them, the poor class is being helped at the detriment of the middle class. As a result, business growth is stopped and the number of new jobs falls as consumption falls too.
On the other hand, experts say that low salaries saw an increase of 10% as they’re not affected at all or very little affected by progressive tax.
As far as free legalization is concerned, it’s clear that what voters believed to be a process where they would pay 0 lek for the legalization of their properties, was in fact a restructured process of legalization, which according to the government, by avoiding corruptive affairs, lead to a very low cost legalization process.
Free health system is also another promise which doesn’t seem that it will be delivered in these four years. Nevertheless, several modest steps have been taken.
The famous promise for the creation of 300 thousand new jobs is still unclear. So far, there are no figures about the number of people employed in a year. It’s seems impossible to open 300 new jobs for the remaining 3 years. The government says that the country, which has 3 million people, has no less than 1 million unemployed people.
The lifting of VAT on power supply for household consumers turned out to be a promise which was never part of the government’s plans.
The government is even planning to increase the cost of power supply, as it aims to remove the reduced charge for the first 300 kilowatts which are consumed by household consumers. If what was announced by the minister of Energy, Damian Gjiknuri, enters in force, it increases the cost of the monthly electricity bill for the majority of household consumers by at least 50%.
Tourism is at the focus of the government. In order to stimulate seaside tourism, the government managed to clean a good part of the coastline. The Albanian army was also engaged in this.
Of course, there’s a lot to do here.
At the same time, a process which was somehow a publicity like process judging by the way it started, during these 300 days, a campaign for the demolition of several buildings, in tourist areas was carried out. They mainly consisted of several story high buildings which were considered to be illegitimate. By using explosives, the government tried to show the strength of the state in order to warn that the process would intensify and that resistance would not be taken under consideration.
Nevertheless, there are still many unlawful constructions all over the country, more so in tourist areas.
Many people are skeptic as to whether they will have the same fate.
When Edi Rama announced the creation of the new government, people’s expectations all over the country, including voters who didn’t believe, were very high. In the recent months, many people say that they’re getting used to a situation of stagnation which is characterizing the country for more than two decades, with little positive developments in the role of the state and little development in the business sector. The Vox-Pop conducted in the recent few days show that there’s a significant drop of confidence that the famous promises will become a reality, at least during this term in office. Nevertheless, people care more about basic needs such as law and order, employment and health services free of corruption and efficient. Meanwhile, they are convinced that there’s a better future in the horizon. /ibna/