Sokol Olldashi, Albania’s Minister of Public Works and Transport, discusses the major infrastructure projects now underway throughout the country.
European Times: What are the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s main objectives for Albania’s national infrastructure?
Minister Olldashi: Our main focus concerning infrastructure development has been upgrading Albania’s road network. We have managed to build 8,000 km of roads within five years, and in the next three years we aim to equip Albania with a complete road infrastructure that meets European standards.
There are two main reasons why we are concentrating on roads. First, because the roads system we inherited from the communist years was appalling, and second, because road development will not only streamline transport within the country but also between Albania and neighbouring markets.
We are particularly focusing on upgrading the roads between our national ports and the borders of Albania in order to improve connections to and from Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece. We have also boosted the capacity of our main ports, particularly Durres, our key port on the Adriatic.
European Times: How is Albania financing its infrastructure development?
Minister Olldashi: Most of the financing comes from the national budget, but we also work with international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the IBRD, the EIB, the IDB and other banks, and with financing made available by partner governments. In cases such as the International Airport of Tirana, we have successfully applied concessionary contracts, making use of business investments to improve important transport infrastructure.
In addition to improving major roads, we also have a programme to upgrade and expand our secondary road network. This project is being funded by the World Bank and other donors. We have obtained around US$400 million (€296 million) to improve thousands of kilometres of rural and secondary roads.
All procurement procedures in Albania are fully transparent and electronic, which means that construction companies from most European countries and beyond can be present in Albania through signing contracts for road construction, water supply chains or ports development projects.
European Times: What makes Albania attractive to European investors?
Minister Olldashi: Albania has achieved stable economic growth, and thanks to carefully tailored fi scal policies, it has escaped the crisis that has threatened our continent. We offer a favourable fiscal system for foreign investments, a flat tax rate of 10%, agreements with most European countries for double taxation exemptions, a very sound legislation for the protection of foreign investments, a well educated and relatively cheap labour force, and a highly advanced legislative package for public private partnership projects.
Albania has huge unexplored investment potential in developing roads, railways, ports, marine transport, water supply systems, waste recycling plants, tourism, energy and mining. Most of all, Albania is the country with the fastest foreign direct investment growth in Europe. Foreign businesses already have a strong presence here, and perhaps the question should no longer be why should European investors come to Albania, but why have they not come here already?