Public communication of Prime Minister Edi Rama over the Covid-19 pandemic situation:
Dear friends, first I would like to announce some good news,
First: An amount of $21 million has been transferred to the general account for the pensioners, who will benefit a pension hike starting this month through the pension indexation that is certainly not a high increase, yet higher than it used to be, whereas more than 25, 657 retirees have been provided with reimbursed medicine supplies. In the meantime, our local and municipal teams are helping retired and lonely elderly people by doing shopping for them and delivering various basic services, to make sure that none of them is left alone. The General Taxation Directorate has already started receiving and processing the online applications filed by the small businesses that have been shut down because of the ongoing war and which will receive the wartime salary. The wartime salary will be directly transferred to their bank accounts and today we have been ensured by the commercial banks that no fee will be applied to these payments. Whoever is included on the list of 60, 421 individuals who have been identified as eligible beneficiaries, because their businesses have been closed due to the war, are invited to file their applications with the online website of the General Taxation Directorate, where a total of 1852 persons have completed their application until 4:30 pm. Since a number of people working in private schools and kindergartens or in the public transportation sector have constantly asked me about their plight, I would like to make it clear that they are included in this category of beneficiaries, should the annual turnover of the business they work for is less than 140,000 dollars. This package includes also the taxi drivers. The double social assistance payment is ready to be transferred to the families under the social welfare benefit, for whom we are totally committed to ensuring the minimum income and means necessary for them to meet their basic needs. So, the announced financial assistance plan for this social category has entered into force and everyone will receive the cash assistance to the last penny, as already promised.
Second: Despite the extraordinary pressure on the households and the national economy, the agriculture sector has not halted its production and the customs data in March and in the first quarter show a significant and encouraging growth of agricultural exports compared with the same period of the previous year. Fortunately, rural areas are less at risk compared with the urban areas and the decision to allow people work in the countryside, plus the measures people have taken themselves, as well as the nature of their work that provides for the tormenting social distancing rules, all combined they favour continuation of the production, collection and distribution activities. The imbalance in the international markets in terms of demand for certain products, actually remain a problem in this war, which raises concerns in particular parts of the production chain in rural areas.
Third, our health system and hospital infrastructure has so far proved to be in a stable situation, while we keep on increasing the stock of war supplies in order to be prepared for far worse days, if necessary. Meanwhile, the doctors, nurses and health workers on the front line will receive the monthly wage as promised, including an additional 1000 euros payment. The supporting personnel too, including the ambulance drivers, will benefit an additional payment of 500 euros, plus their monthly salary. They will all benefit such payment until the day when the war is over and the last Covid-19 patient is released from hospital. We can openly state that the drastic restriction measures are bearing fruit and they have significantly contributed to the efforts to reduce the enemy’s aggressiveness, which has so far inflicted fewer damages than we had anticipated in our most optimistic projections. That’s why I would like to humbly extend a heartfelt thank to each and every one of you who materialized this accomplishment, which really magnificent, compared to the catastrophe we could have plunged into should we failed to act and take the necessary measures, or if you were not to resist so hard. If otherwise – God forbid it – given the close relations with the neighbouring Italy, the death toll could have hit over 100 by now and it could have increased to several thousand by the end of the war. However, this doesn’t mean that the disaster has been ultimately avoided and God forbid us from temptation to rest in the self-complacency and give up now that the peak of the war has yet to be reached, because, if doing so, we would totally waste the entire colossal effort we are doing as a nation in each of our families. I know it is not easy at all to go on with this. On the contrary, I do know it is very difficult, but we have no other choice and option. In the meantime, without wishing to cherish early enthusiasm, because there is no room for any enthusiasm at all, I want to inform you that we are currently detailing a plan on the gradual ease of the restriction measures that will be put into effect as soon as the curve of infections begins to descend. I don’t know, and nobody in the world can tell us when this is going to happen, but we do know that by mid-April we will understand and learn a lot about depth of the enemy penetration among us. We are exploring the ease of few travel restrictions, hopefully starting slowly next week if the numbers until Sunday allow us to consider it. We anticipated a surge in the infection numbers last week, but that was not the case and it makes us somehow more optimistic that at the beginning of the outbreak, yet this fact proves nothing to date. Therefore, constant vigilance and resistance is needed, by strongly believing and hoping that the fate of this war doesn’t depend on the invisible enemy alone, but also on our daily resistance, patience and drive, without thinking what the future has in store! We should seize the day, live the moment, and not the week or the month, because otherwise we would not win this war. I understand very well the suffering and pain everyone is experiencing with their belt tightening economically.
I want to assure each and every one of you that I would do everything possible within the capacities of our common home to make sure that nobody is left along in the strive to cope with the economic hardship caused by this war, threatening even the existence. But there could be no magical recipes and whoever publicly proposes such recipes pledging cash support for everyone, either they come from the experience of the notorious pyramidal schemes that everybody remembers how they blew whole Albania up, or they are unaware of what they are saying, because they have no responsibility of whatsoever to implement these ridiculous and confusing recipes. Earlier today we held a meeting with representatives of the second-tier banks and we have been assured that the government’s financial instrument of the sovereign guarantee fund of 100 million dollars made available to the private companies to pay the salaries of their workers who cannot go to work because of the stay-at-home orders will become operational immediately. In the meantime, we have also been assured that the banks will defer credit payments for up to three months, just like we and the Governor of the central bank have jointly ordered.
I know quite well that many have encountered problems with the banks and that’s why I am reiterating by begging for your patience and trust, because we keep staying awake even after you go to bed following a long day of resistance. I also know quite well we face a real problem with those who used to work in the shadow economy and now are forced to stay at home. Yet, my dear friends, we can do nothing with our eyes blindfolded and, in this case, we cannot blindly provide cash assistance for everyone working in the shadow economy, because everyone would then ask for a wartime salary. We will certainly do everything to help you, but only if you tell us where, which company or business you have been working for and who has paid you illegally! This is not to penalize employers for the grave violation they have committed by employing you illegally, but to verify each case and provide you what you deserve and are entitled to!
I know well that many workers are losing their jobs and many entrepreneurs are asking them to go home, saying “I can do nothing about that,” while in the meantime many cicadas have started singing the same old song, suggesting that we should move beyond the sovereignty guarantee fund for the companies, because, according to them, they cannot make use of this sovereignty guarantee. We would perhaps be forced to go beyond this sovereignty guarantee, as it is not something we didn’t foresee, but we won’t do it with our eyes closed. This is because we will first assess the behaviour of private companies regarding the sovereign guarantee fund over the next 10 days and, secondly, because we do not know how long this war will last. We also know that even if the war is to lasts a year, all the categories that we will transfer money to their bank accounts during these 10 days will receive same payment regardless of the war duration.
Meanwhile, the potential beneficiaries from the expansion of the financial package will be determined not earlier than April 15, because we must look into the data from the warfront so that we don’t make wrong calculations, like the ones you randomly hear and watch on TV channels, with individuals as if speaking from the Moon and not from the Europe’s poorest neighbourhood, where our home, Albania is also located. Just imagine as if you spend in one single day everything you plan for your own families to spend in one week. Imagine what would happen on the fourth day; let alone what would happen on the seventh day. We are working intensively to provide foreign funds, but the war that has befallen us is neither a local one, nor regional, but a world war; it is the third world war and the funding channels through the foreign banks or financial institutions have not expanded, but are increasingly narrowing since the start of the war. Everyone is seeing the troubles other economically much stronger nations are encountering. No matter how paradoxically it may sound, they are somehow facing much more troubles than us! Because we are used to live on few things and we can sustain and we may emerge better and stronger in the end of this. But, despite what you hear when watching TV news reports about the billions as if being thrown away for everyone to fill their pockets, all those who are used to have a lot more should now adapt and be satisfied will a lot less, at least until war is over.
However, I am optimistic that we will provide the additional funds we need in order to let the belt a little bit loose also during the period when the economic package will expand further, but making sure that no matter the war lasts – as we and nobody can predict that – we are not taken aback and unprepared. In no war one can pretend to lead a decent life, but it is all about surviving. Therefore, the life of each of us, the life of everyone of you and your family members is a top priority. The economy may fall and rise again, but the dead are not brought back to life. No Albania has ever died of hunger and nobody will die of hunger.
So let me remind you again and again that in this country, when it was much poorer today, 28,000 people were killed, but nobody died of hunger, and there was nowhere to complain about because Facebook was not invented for everyone to write on the Prime Minister’s page about dying from hunger, while the government was headed by those who served the enemy and not the people. I tell you this because the war is real and because the enemy is invisible. The chances for the dead bodies to pile up are real, although it seems impossible today. But both your suffering and my total devotion to you are also real! No doubt about it. I am here together with the others to protect you at all costs and make sure you all emerge safe and sound and ready to rise again from this war and therefore patience, patience and unwavering confidence that the God of Albanians is great are needed!