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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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


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Alfred Moisiu

Update No: 098 - (01/07/05)

Parliamentary elections ahead
Albania is coming up to a climacteric, July elections to parliament. The ruling Socialist Party is favoured to win. Things were rotten for most of the 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 was bound to benefit, the Socialists, as it so happened.
They are 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 a 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-roadsters, now ensconced in Beijing too!

OSCE mission to monitor elections
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is sending a 400-strong team to Albania to monitor the July 3rd parliamentary elections. The mission will go following an invitation from the Albanian government. In a statement released in late May, the OSCE said a team of 37 experts would be in Albania until mid-July to assess the entire election process. 
Led by Danish Jorgen Grunnet, the mission will include a core team of 12 experts, based in Tirana, plus 25 long-term observers who will be deployed throughout the country. The monitors represent 15 of the participating states in the 55-nation OSCE. "The holding of democratic elections in which the voters can have confidence is the joint responsibility of the Albanian authorities, the political parties, the media and civil society," Grunnet said. "Our role here remains the same as in previous elections: to observe this process and report on our findings."
Unfortunately, it looks as if the Socialists are unable to resist the temptation to skew the media and the whole electoral process their way. TV is giving them extensive coverage at the expense of the opposition. According to the State Electoral Commission (SEC), as many as 10 parties and two coalitions have been banned due to the faking of 6,000 signatures. 
But at least this indicates that the SEC is an independent body. It needs to cooperate fully with the OSCE team in the course of the whole business.

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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Albania airport revamping begins

Renovation of Albania's Mother Teresa International Airport is underway, New Europe reported recently. 
The German-led Airport Partners Consortium recently started building new passenger and cargo terminals, a new bridge in the existing road and a new access road with an 83m Euro (US$107.5m) investment over 3 years. The airport is used by 10 airlines with flights departing for 15 destinations. A new air traffic control system at the airport has already been installed. The aim is to triple the number of travellers passing through the airport each year to 1.5m by the end of 2006 and up to 3.0m by 2010. Security at the airport will also come up to international standards. Prime Minister Fatos Nano said at the launching ceremony that Albania would profit by about 600m Euro (US$777m) over 20 years.

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Birra Tirana deals with Greece

Albanian brewer, Birra Tirana announced recently that it entered into an agreement with Greek firm OK Athens for the export and distribution of its products in Greece, AENews quoted Birra Tirana Marketing Director as telling the Albania-based Biznesi daily.
"Our intention is to exports our products in all the countries where ethnic as well as Albanian emigrants live," Jace told the newspaper. What Tirana aims to do is export 7,000 hectolitres of beer to Greece, which would account for more than 33% of its production capacity.

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Turkish consortium purchases Albtelecom

Albania will sell 76% of the Albanian company Albtelecom Sh.A to a Turkish consortium in a deal worth US$151m, the government announced recently, reported.
The consortium, comprised of Turk telecom and Calik Enerji Telekomunikasyon AS, was the only international group offering to buy the Albanian telecom. Ten other companies from Slovenia, South Korea, the United States, Kuwait and Ireland, had expressed interest earlier but did not submit bids.
Albtelecom, which the government valued about US$183m last January, is the only fixed line telephone company in the country that also owns a mobile phone operator.
The deal "is one of the most successful in the history of privatisation," Prime Minister, Fatos Nano, said. "It is an invaluable contribution in the sustainable growth of the Albanian economy, an incontestable success of the reform of privatisation and restructuring of the market and economy toward standards of the global economy." 
But the opposition Democratic party of former President, Sali Berisha, said they would review the Albtelecom privatisation process, claiming it was sold beneath its value and that the procedure was irregular.
Nano said the Turkish consortium represented two very powerful financial and economic groupings "that serve as a guarantee to bring to Albania contemporary models and standards of telecommunication."
Nano said Turk Telekom had 25 million subscribers for its fixed line telephone service and 5 million for its mobile phone service, while Calik Enerji Telekomunikacion was one of the three most powerful financial groupings in Turkey.
Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries is in the process of privatising state owned companies.

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