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News 01 Sep 17

Albania Experts Doubt Benefits of Institutional Reform

While Edi Rama's new government pledges to undertake deep reforms to the public administration, slashing the number of central and local institutions, experts are sceptical about the likely benefits.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Council of Ministers building. Photo:kryeministria.al 

The Albanian government's new plan to restructure the public administration, drastically cutting the number of central and local institutions, has drawn criticism from experts who say they doubt it will deal with the administration's real problems.

On August 27, former vice prime minister Niko Peleshi presented the plan that Prime Minister Edi Rama's new government will pursue when it officially takes office in mid-September.

In his presentation, Peleshi announced that a study conducted by the government had found that many agencies and directories in the country were too small and inefficient, did not offer digitalized services and often duplicated each other's services.

"We want to do more and better with less resources," Peleshi said.

The plan aims to eliminate 37 agencies at the central level while dividing the country into four big administrative areas, with only four big offices for crucial services like health, education, social affairs and the treasury.

Currently, around 12 offices provide these services all over the country, while the number of treasury agencies is 36.

One big change will be the creation of a National Agency for Income, which will include the General Directorates of Taxation and of Customs, the two biggest institutions when it comes to budget revenues.

When it comes to property issues, a new big property titles agency is expected to be created, merging the Agency for the Legalisation, Urbanisation and Integration of Informal Areas, ALUIZNI, the Immovable Properties Registration Office and other nine institutions operating in this field.

The presentation did not make clear how much money the government was about to save by this restructuring, or the effect on those employed on the existing agencies.

Zef Preci, director of the Albanian Center for Economic Research, told BIRN that the plan for these big changes is not based on any solid analysis.

"It is important to understand that every rushed numerical decrease [in the number of state agencies] damages the quality of services offered by this administration," he said.

Preci emphasised that in countries without a consolidated tradition of state formation, like Albania, the government also needed to be careful about structural changes also because the stability of the administration was one of the key criteria set by the EU for integration.

He said the real problem with Albania's administration was its politicisation. Too often, the key positions were given to party stalwarts without obvious merits – and reorganisation would not help address this problem. 

Law professor Jordan Daci, in an analysis published in Panorama newspaper on Thursday, said the initiative was dangerous because experience had shown that gathering power into a few hands made institutions less democratic and more inefficient at the same time.

"It is clear that the institutional centralisation that the 'Rama 2' government expects to implement has its as objective the consolidation of his absolute power, whereby he and his close collaborator can control everything," he wrote.

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