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Albania  

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ALBANIA


  
  



In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 6,124 4,695 4,100 109
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,740 1,380 1,340 120
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Albania

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
28,748

Population
3,544,808

Capital
Tirana

Currency
Lek

President
Alfred Moisiu


Update No: 099 - (26/07/05)

Electorate spurns the saviours
In an upset the Albanians have voted out the ruling Socialist Party, in power since 1997.
Things were rotten for most of the Albanian population in the 1990s. The switch to capitalism turned out to be to rampant corruption and crime, pyramid financial scams and destitution for the majority.
But then came the Kosovo War in 1999; and Albania has not looked back since. International aid and credits poured in; so did expert advisers and the like. NATO troops established a modicum of order. GDP has risen by 7-8% per annum in the sequel. The incumbent party in government benefited in 2001, the Socialists, as it so happened.
They were also perceived as being not so corrupt as all that. Times have changed; and Albania is no longer the poorest country in Europe. It is already de facto in NATO. Its inclusion in the EU is just a matter of time, perhaps a decade away. 
What a transformation for a country that had the direst dictatorship in Europe two decades ago? Comrade Enver Hoxha, who died in March 1985, just before arch-reformer Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow, must be turning over in his grave. But then he felt the whiff of revisionism in the air even when he visited Mao's China in 1952. Alas for the wickedness of the world, and above all of the capitalist-roaders, now ensconced in Beijing too!

Berisha is back
A former president of Albania who resigned as his country descended into anarchy in the late 1990s gained the seats necessary to form a new government, according to parliamentary election results released on July 9th. 
Sali Berisha served as president from 1993 until 1997, when central government in this Balkan nation broke down. The collapse of pyramid investment schemes caused thousands of ordinary Albanians to lose their life savings, touching off the chaos. Angry crowds looted army depots for weapons and went on shooting rampages. Thousands were killed, and a NATO-led force was deployed to help restore order. Berisha's government was replaced by a temporary administration backed by foreign powers. 
Albania held the most recent parliamentary elections on July 3rd. So far, results have been announced for 93 of the 100 single-seat constituencies, with the Democratic Party winning 55 and Prime Minister Fatos Nano's Socialists taking 37. An independent candidate took one seat. 
Berisha's lead appeared insurmountable. However, the Central Election Commission was examining about 230 protests from candidates and political parties that could reduce the seats Berisha has won and dilute his strength in the 140-member parliament. 
The remaining 40 seats are allocated based on a proportional representation system that will also benefit Berisha. According to Saturday's results, his party and allies will take a majority of 71 seats. 
It remained unclear when all the results were expected, but sorting out the many protests could drag into next week. Counting the 1.6 million or so ballots that were cast began immediately after Sunday's polls. Since then, officials have said, many politicians responsible for endorsing the results have refused to do so for partisan reasons. 
Berisha, a 60-year-old cardiologist, has pledged to promote Albania's efforts to join NATO and the European Union, fight corruption and poverty, and slash taxes by 50 percent to promote investment. 

Albanian Election Commission criticises main opposition party
The head of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Ilirjan Celibashi, criticised the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) on 7th July. Celibashi told a news conference that the DP has been pressuring the CEC amid the continued failure to complete the ballot counting and present final results from Sunday's parliamentary vote. Celibashi also denied DP accusations that he has held long closed-door meetings with a top official of the ruling Socialist Party, Foreign Minister Kastriot Islami.
Vote counting was further delayed fter three small parties -- the Socialist Movement for Integration, the Democratic Alliance and Social Democracy, and the Movement for National Development coalition -- requested a recount of some of the ballots, citing irregularities.

World Bank, IMF tell Albania to forgo extensive credit
The World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) requested that Albania cancel the procedures to collect financing on full commercial terms of a key project, AENews reported recently, citing the WB in a statement. According to the two global financial institutions, the loan is too costly and restricts Albania's ability to carry out future projects.
The Albanian government green-lighted a deal with ABN Amro, a leading Dutch bank, for an extensive loan of 54.09m Euro and US$11.52m that would be earmarked for the reconstruction of the Tirana-Durres railway. According to the Fund, the project would also help create the country's first railway link with its main airport, Tirana international Airport.
"Irrespective of the project's inherent value as a vehicle to crowd in private investments alongside the Tirana-Durres corridor, the IMF staff has stressed in its bilateral dialogue with the Albanian authorities, including during the last mission in early May, that- in order to safeguard macroeconomic stability and the current growth momentum deriving from the gradually declining interest rates and associated private sector investments - the associated budgetary and financial impacts would need to be accommodated within the medium-term expenditure framework and without undermining the declining path of public debt," said Jan-Peter Olters IMF's representative resident in Albania.
For its part, the World Bank said: "It has interest rates higher than the concessional project loans currently contracted, limiting the government's ability to implement other projects currently projected within the context of Albania's National Strategy for Socio-Economic Development (NSSED). This project is too large and too expensive for it to be realised on top of current budget projections."
Tirana inked an agreement with General Electric Transportation Systems SpA, the Italian arm of the US industrial giant in 2003. Under the pact, GE would provide aid to the government in receiving a commercial term debt provided by ABN Amro. The government said the project has a return on the WB, such terms are deemed very high for a railway project and too expensive, AENews reported.
"The bank is concerned by the lack of analysis of the economic and social benefits that might stem from the project, and which would be essential to justify the significant costs involved (equivalent to over 1% of Albania's GDP)," the WB statement read. "Studies to date suggest that the project would also generate a very large negative financial return. The bank is also concerned about the technical suitability of some of the proposed investments."

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FOREIGN LOANS

World Bank lends US$17.5m to Albania 


The World Bank announced recently that it was giving Albania a US$17.5m (14.45m Euro) loan to clean up its coastal area. The loan, to be used over seven years, is "to protect Albania's coastal natural resources and cultural assets and promote sustainable development of the Albanian coast," the World Bank's office in Tirana said. The organisation's board approved the loan on June 21, New Europe reported. 
The total cost of the project is estimated at US$38.6m (31.87m Euro) and it will also be financed with grants from the Dutch, Austrian and Japanese governments, the European Commission and the Albanian government itself. 
The bank is helping implement several programmes in the coastal zone like irrigation, drainage, water resources management, wastewater management, port development, urban planning and community works. 
The project is aimed at helping Albania promote tourism. The government is promoting tourism as part of a 10-year plan to turn the sector into a major source of income, and hopes to draw an annual 1.25m foreigners to its 450km (270 miles) coastline by 2012. The bulk of tourists now visiting Albania are ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and Macedonia as well as expatriate Albanians returning home from other parts of Europe. 
The World Bank has been one of the key funders of post-communist Albania, with loans and grants totalling US$792m (654m Euro) for energy, infrastructure, agriculture, education and health projects since 1991. 

US Ex-Im Bank lends US$47.6m to Albania

The Export-Import Bank of the United States approved a loan of US$47.6m to help Albania modernise its Air Traffic Agency and upgrade its navigation system, the bank's director said recently, The Washington Post reported.
Linda Conlin said the loan would help buy an air traffic control navigation system from Lockheed Martin Corp, and toward purchasing other equipment and services needed for the upgrade.
"It will support skilled US jobs at Lockheed Martin, help modernise Albania's transportation infrastructure at Mother Teresa Airport in Tirana, and serve as a model for future US participation in modernising Albania's infrastructure," Conlin said.
Albania hired the US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin two years ago to modernise its air control system over four years. Last year it installed a new air control system to cope with increased traffic during the Olympic Games in neighbouring Greece.
The Lockheed system would triple the capacity for air flight times and fuel cost for airlines flying between north-western Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.
Albania will pay off the loan mainly with revenues from flights over its airspace, and thus not burden the government budget, she said. 
A feasibility study was provided by the US Trade and Development Agency, Conlin said. The loan guarantor is BNP-Paribas, based in New York city.
Ex-Im Bank is also interested in supporting the electrical plant in Vlora, 90 miles southwest of Tirana; a trans-Balkan oil pipeline; and the reconstruction of a rail by General Electric Co, with a link between Tirana and its international airport, Conlin said.

EIB credits Albania road projects

European Investment Bank (EIB) will allocate a 35m Euro loan to Albania for the modernisation of a road section that is 70km long which connects the cities of Fier and Tepelene, in the northern-southern area of the country, New Europe reported.
The loan aims at improving the internal connections in the country and with Greece and Montenegro. According to EIB analysts, the investment will have a positive impact on the country's economy, especially in the south, by creating 3,400 part-time jobs up to 2009 when works should be completed. The loan adds to the 35m Euro offered by the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development).

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

Albright visits Kosovo 

Former United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, arrived in Pristina on July 4 for a three-day visit to determine Kosovo's success in accomplishing democratic standards six years after NATO air strikes ended the Serbian crackdown on Albanian separatists. "I have from the very beginning understood the dream of the people of Kosovo and I have myself worked to try to make this dream come true," said Albright, now the head of Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI). Albright is considered a national hero amongst local Albanians for her role in the series of acts that resulted in the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo and the deployment of the United Nations administration and NATO-led peacekeepers in 1999, New Europe reported.

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