Weekly press conference focusing on economy, potable water infrastructure:
Prime Minister Edi Rama: The today’s conference is a weekly update on various aspects of the country’s economy. Today we will focus on the drinkable water supply issue and we will provide a general outline of the entire transformation process of the potable water supply is going through, a sector with a stark legacy. Some 128 sites for construction of water supply systems have been currently launched and they are all projected to complete within next year. In the meantime, 70 more sites are set to open within next spring in projects designed to ensure 24×7 water supply to residents in 55 big urban areas across the country next year and in 200 most populated rural areas of the country in 2022.
Many who follow my social network page, certainly representing at the same time a certain category of public opinion, ask the question, sometimes ironically, sometimes in astonishment, which is in fact inappropriate for how long we have all lived in this country and for how long we have a sense of the history of this country: How is it possible that we are still talking about drinking water, while the rest of the world is shooting for the Moon?
This is true. The world has actually landed on the Moon long time ago, but when it comes to our water supply systems we should bear in mind the fact that we have a specific reflection vis-à-vis the world. It is not really a very specific relation with the region, for the sake of truth, where the inherited water supply networks were built in the ‘60s and the ’70s. To make it clear, the former communist regime too failed to provide 24-hour water supply to whole population. During the communist regime too, no genuine water supply networks were ever built to provide supplies to every residential area in Albania. Moreover, in the 25 years after the fall of communism we have practically started to intervene in the water supply systems that still feature, where construction work is underway, there are water reservoirs and pipelines dating back in the ’60s-’70s.
It is a complete reform, one of the 5 pillars defined in our objectives and it is not just about investments, but also about the financial consolidation of the water company, it is about a complete transformation of the structural approach to drinking water, which continues.
The legal and regulatory framework has significantly improved. There is a program designed to aggregate the water supply and sewerage companies at a national level, but we have to move further towards a radicalization of the reform process in terms of structuring the entire potable water management system.
In the meantime, I would like to inform you that the investments already implemented in the potable water sector from 2014 through 2019, total around EUR 514 million, with funds worth EUR 202 million allocated by the state budget, while the rest of the projects are funded by international partners.
As of 2020, the state budget has earmarked funds worth about 44 million euros to support investments in the water supply networks, while funds totalling over EUR 30 million are funded by international partners. In 2021, funds totalling EUR 52 million in state budget money and almost EUR 46 million in foreign funds will be allocated to support water supply and sewerage system projects.
As for the water supply, we inherit not only degraded networks. To provide a more complete picture, I would provide some data.
In 2013, when the era of previous misgovernment ended, only one city received 24-hour water supply and that city was Korça. Providing 24-hour water supply to the residents in other cities was a very distant prospect.
As of today, residents in some 23 urban areas receive 24-hour water supply from Bilisht to Tropoje, from Pogradec to Lezhe, from Fushe Arrezi to Fier, from Vau i Dejës to Kopliku and Poliçan, Tepelene and Memaliaj.
The 24-hour water supply will be a reality in all urban areas across Albania by 2021, including Laç, Kavaje, Fushe Kruje, Shijak, Kruje, Berat, Lushnje, Gjirokastra etc.
Tirana represents a different story, with the potable water availability increasing and with certain areas of the country’s capital receiving 24-hour supply. Many parts of Tirana receive today at least 16-hour water supply today, compared to only seven-hour a day just few years ago and residents all over the country receive an average 10-hour water supply a day.
Seven years ago, only 59.1% of the population had access to a drinking water source through the supply network. We are not talking about 24-hour supply, but about access to drinking water through the network, that is, at home. The access to the water supply network is estimated at around 78.5% today. Once the planned works complete, the ones in the process and the ones due to open soon, the access to the water network is expected to increase to 85.6% of the population in 2021.
Change is absolutely obvious everywhere, but it is definitely not adequate when it comes to meeting our targets and the legitimate demand of the entire population. For this reason I think it is essential that we continue to work and we will continue to work, not only meet all the frameworks of priorities set from the very beginning, but also to ensure such sustainability that there is no more no turning back.
I would like to assure all citizens in the areas where there are still problems with drinking water that not only have they not been neglected, but, I repeat, 128 construction sites are in operation now, despite all the extra hardship we were through due to the earthquake and the global pandemic.
To those who claim, ask, or suggest that these are not priorities, that the investments we have pressed ahead with and continue to make are not priorities, either for national road infrastructure or for others, including these investments we are discussing today, I tell you simply; for the Albanian economy to grow, we must continue to invest strongly and these investments are by no means an end in itself. These investments are not simply translated into thousands of new jobs and income opportunities for tens of thousands of people working in these construction sites, ranging from roads infrastructure to houses being rebuilt, but are fresh economic resources for the future of families and for the future of the country, the household economy and the national economy.
It is like a family that should observe lockdown in the face of the restriction measures, yet needs also to work. Every household needs to go on working so that it can generate income and provide for the family members. And our shared home needs and will continue to work. In this way only we will be able to move forward and take the economic and social development aspect to a whole new level. In this way only we will be able to generate more revenue and redistribute more, further increase salaries, further increase the minimum wage that we have already set at 30.000 lek, enhance job opportunities and more profits for all through work.
Alqi Bllako, Director General of the National Agency of Water Supply, Sewerage and Waste Infrastructure:
Thank you Mr. Prime Minister, and thank you Mrs. Minister,
As the Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister already announced, a total of 128 construction sites have been launched all over the country to build new water supply systems, which are expected to complete in 2021 and we expect to kick off the construction work of 70 more water supply systems next year and they will within second half of 2022 at most. Completion of this water supply projects not only will ensure 24-hour water supply to 59 urban areas across the country, but also to over 200 rural areas or the most populated administrative units in the respective municipalities.
I would provide a brief overview of all water supply projects already underway in every municipality and the projects due to be launched by spring 2021:
Berat district and Municipality of Berat
First phase of an investment project in collaboration with the German government-owned bank KfW has completed KfW and the second phase of the project is slated to complete within 2021 to ensure 24-hour water supply to residents in the city of Berat. The third phase of the project, thanks to the cooperation with KfW, will begin within 2021 to build the wastewater treatment plant and the city’s sewerage networks. In the meantime, work is underway to construct the water supply system in Velabisht and a number of other villages in Berat and the work is expected to complete next year.
Residents in the town of Kuçove will receive 24-hour water supply thanks to KfW-funded investment, whole construction of the water supply system, a state budget-funded project, will commence in 2021.
First phase of the project to rehabilitate the water supply network in Ura Vajgurore town has completed. The second phase of the water distribution is underway and work to construct the water supply in the Cukalat administrative unit has also commenced and the project will ensure 24-hour supply to all residents in this administrative unit.
First phase of total rehabilitation of the water supply system in the municipality of Polican has completed. Local residents in the town of Polican receive 24-hour water supply now, but we are also investing in building a new water distribution system in order to increase the water availability there and reduce the network loses. This project is scheduled to complete in spring 2021.
Work is also underway to construct the water supplies systems in the municipality of Skrapar and the project is scheduled to complete in 2021, when local residents in the town of Corovoda will receive 24-hour water supply. Work is going on in the villages of Cerenishte and Carove and we expect to launch project in the villages of Gjerbe and Celenik within 2021.
So, we are implementing construction projects in all urban areas of Berat district, as well as in many rural areas there and these projects, designed to ensure 24-hours water supply, will complete within 2021.
Two very important state budget-funded projects are currently being implemented in the municipality of Diber, namely the water supply systems in Gurra e Epërme and Luzni, as well as a distribution system from Grama sources, which will increase water availability and provide 24-hour water supply to local residents.
We are currently implementing two projects in the municipality of Bulqize ; namely the second phase of the water supply system in the town of Bulqize, which is expected to complete within 2021 and which will provide 24-hour water supply; and the second phase of the water supply system in the administrative unit of Gjorice.
Two other projects are also underway in the municipality of Mat to increase water availability for residents in the town of Burrel, as well as in the administrative units of Derjan and Rukaj , and in the meantime entire internal water supply network in Burrel is being renovated and water meters are being installed at every house.
The investment in Klos municipality is expected to complete in December or by January at most and residents in the small town will receive 24-hour supply.
The project in collaboration with the World Bank on construction of distribution system from the water sources in Fushekuqe has completed, in a major investment that significantly increases water availability to meet the local residents’ needs. However, an investment in the city’s internal water supply network is needed as the old network has completely degraded after decades of neglect and lack of investments. We have launched a cooperation with the French Agency for Development to implement an investment worth EUR 60 million, which, along with the current state budget-funded projects, will completely modernize the city’s internal network and will ensure 24-hour supply to residents.
Meanwhile, the main problem we have been encountering over the years is the insufficient water availability to meet the residents’ needs in the city of Kruja. A series of investments have been carried out to improve the internal supply network, yet the quantity of water supply has been insufficient to meet the demand of local residents. To this end, we launched efforts to identify a new water source in the Skanderbeg mountain range, a rugged mountain terrain, but, fortunately, the final stage of investment is underway and the entire project will hopefully complete next month or by January at most, providing 24-hour water supply to Kruja citizens for at least nine months in a year and around 18 hours a day during the dry summer season.
In the meantime, an investment is underway to rehabilitate entire distribution line, pumping stations, in a bid to ensure 24-hour water supply to residents in Kruja’s urban area within first half of 2021.
In Shijak municipality too, a quake-affected area, work is progressing rapidly to construct new water supply system and project is scheduled to complete by early 2021. The project is designed to ensure 24-hour water supply.
Some four projects are being implemented to increase water availability and supply to residents in the municipality of Elbasan through a state budget investment with the support of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, the National Agency of Water Supply, Sewerage and Waste Infrastructure. However, a major project due to be implemented under an agreement with the German bank KfW will provide a definitive solution to the water supply to the city of Elbasan. The project is scheduled to kick off within 2021 and will completely rehabilitate the water supply network to ensure 24-hour supply to the citizens in Elbasan.
In the meantime, the project designed to provide 24-hour supply to residents in the town of Gramsh and the surrounding areas will complete in the next two months.
Residents in the rural areas of the municipality of Peqin receive continuous running water for 22 tgo 24 hours each day and therefore we are currently working to build the water supply system in the rural areas of Gjocaj, Celhakaj and Hashmataj.
An ongoing investment in the municipality of Perrenjas is nearing its completion in a project designed to fully rehabilitate and complete the internal water supply network in the urban area. The construction works are expected to complete soon, while the investment in building the water supply system in Dritaj-Fanje and Karkavec has completed and the water meters have been installed.
Works in water supply infrastructure, a project being implemented in collaboration with the KfW, is progressing rapidly in the municipality of Librazhd and rehabilitation of the water supply and sewerage system in the urban area is set to complete by spring 2021; in the meantime, projects on construction of water supply systems in the rural areas in Librazhd municipality will begin within 2021.
A major project, one of the biggest ever launched by the Albanian government, is underway in the municipality of Belsh. Three stages of the project have already completed. The municipality of Belsh features another specific that is being experimented at a national level, as the Minister rightly noted, one of the most serious problems the water sector faces is the high energy consumption and the high cost incurred by water generation and the municipality of Belsh is one of the many municipalities across the country encountering this problem with a significant impact on the financial performance as one of the non-feasible municipalities with a high electricity cost in water generation. Therefore, as part of the water supply system in Belsh we are building a photovoltaic park that will generate electrical power to meet the water supply system’s need for power. Once the project completes, the town of Belsh and some 34 villages as part of the municipality of Belsh will receive 24-hour water supply and the local water supply and sewerage entity will become feasible.
Residents in the municipality are receiving optimum running water supply around 22 to 24 hours a day and we are currently working on projects to address the water supply problems in the rural areas. Work is currently underway to build the water supply system in the administrative unit of Mollas and construction of the water supply system in the administrative unit of Klos will commence in 2021,
The first phase of the project has completed in the municipality of Fier and the second stage of the foreign investment is set to kick off in 2021 as the financial agreement has been already signed and project will ultimately address the water supply issue and the sewerage systems in the urban areas. Another state budget-funded project is being implemented in the suburban areas of the city of Fier, namely the area called Afrimaj –Agricultural School. These projects will ensure 24-hour water supply to the areas where they are being implemented.
The water supply system in the municipality of Patos is another major project funded by the Albanian government. The project is divided into two phases, with the first phase including the rehabilitation of the internal distribution network and the second phase envisages total rehabilitation of the external distribution network. The Water Supply and Sewerage Entity in Patos had bankrupted because of the high electricity cost, but the project will turn it into a feasible entity, generating sufficient revenue to cover the network operational and maintenance cost.
The first phase of the project has completed in the municipality of Lushnje thanks to foreign funding. The process of the second phase is underway and we expect to complete this phase in the first half of 2021, ensuring 24-hour water supply to entire urban area in Lushnje. A series of minor projects funded by the state budget are also underway in a number of rural areas in Lushnje.
We expect to complete total rehabilitation of the entire internal distribution network in the next few days in the municipality of Mallakastra, which will guarantee 24-hour water supply to the entire urban area in Ballsh.
We are implementing two parallel projects in the municipality of Gjirokaster. We are currently implementing second phase of the water supply system in Gjirokastra’s urban area, which is designed to ultimately tackle the water supply problem and ensure 24-hour supply to the urban area. The project is funded by the governments of Germany and Switzerland. Satisfactory progress has been also made in construction of the water supply system in Lazarat, with around 60 to 70 % of the construction work already complete and the project will deliver on the pledge to provide 24-hour water supply to the local residents in Lazarat.
Work has also commenced to build and rehabilitate the water supply system for the urban area in Libohove.
Work is also underway on three parallel projects in Dropull, namely the regional water supply system in the municipality of Dropull to provide 24-hour supply to more than 85% of the local population specifically residing in rural areas.
The water supply system for the urban area in the municipality of Permet has completed and local residents now receive 24-hour water supply. Therefore, we are currently focusing on construction of water supplies in rural areas, namely in the villages of Viskove, Petran and Frashraj and we are confident that all these projects will completed in 2021 and continued 24-hour water supply will be provided to local residents.
The two rehabilitation phases of the internal and external water distribution network in the urban areas of the municipality of Këlcyre have completed and 24-hour water supply is now a reality there, while work is underway to deliver on this pledge in the rural areas.
Investment in the urban area has completed in the municipality of Memaliaj and a new investment is scheduled to be launched in seven villages in 2021.
The investment in building the water supply system in the town of Tepelene has completed, while other projects on building water supply systems in the villages of Salari, Peshtan and Mamaj will commence next spring.
The first phase of the investment designed to provide 24-hour water supply to residents in the urban area of Lezhe municipality has completed. A financial agreement with the international partners has been signed and the investment designed to ensure 24-hour water supply to residents in Shengjin and other densely populated areas is scheduled to begin within 2021. The project also includes rehabilitation of the sewerage and waste water systems to ultimately address the problems in a flood-prone area in Lezha town. Likewise, a state budget-funded project is underway to address the water supply issue in one of the most problematic areas in Lezha municipality, namely the administrative unit of Zejmen. This project is expected to complete within 2021. Likewise, an investment in the administrative unit of Shen Koll, one of the main tourist destinations in Lezha municipality, will kick off in 2021.
A major project is underway in the municipality of Kurbin to address water supply problem in the urban area of Laç. Work is already underway in the three components and phases of this state budget-funded project designed to ensure 24-hour water supply within 2021. It is worth noting that this is a water sources-rich area, which, though it has provided water supply to other parts of the country, has always suffered from water scarcity.
The municipality of Mirdite includes two urban areas, namely the towns of Rreshen and Rubik. First phase of the water supply system in Rreshen has completed and work on the second phase is scheduled to kick off soon so that we complete the household connections and the tertiary network of the water supply. In the meantime, investment is underway in Rubik and we expect to provide 24-hour water supply to the area within 2021.
The municipality of Kolonja is set to become the first municipality at a national level to receive 24-hour water supply not only to the residents in urban area, but also to every village in this municipality, an area largely neglected over the years, but which is now gaining full attention to fully provide this service. Construction of the water system in the urban area of Erseke has completed and residents now receive 24-hour water supply, while the water supply system in the second urban area of Leskovik is expected to complete next month or early January at most. Work to construct the water supply system in Kozel has also begun and it will double the water inflows for the town of Erseke and ensure water supply to 14 villages in this area. Work to construct water supply systems in 17 other villages in this municipality will begin by spring 2021.
The water supply issue has been ultimately resolved in the urban area of the municipality of Pogradec and we are currently focused on water supply projects in rural and tourist areas, namely in Udenisht, Memelisht, while work to construct the regional water supply system in Moker has kicked off and we expect to begin construction of water supply systems in Cera and Trebinjas in March 2021.
The 24-hour water supply and sewerage issue in the urban areas of the municipality of Korça has been already solved since 2013, and we are currently working to build water supply systems in five villages, while the water supply projects in the administrative units of Mollaj, Bulgarec, Voskop and Drenove are expected to commence in 2021.
We also expect to launch work on construction of the water supply system in Mancurisht-Plase, Maliq municipality, in December. The project will provide water supply to five large villages, whereas work to build the water supply system for four other villages is set to begin within 2021.
In Devoll municipality, where water supply issue in the urban area has been solved, work is underway to construct the water supply system in Hocisht and the project to construct water supply system in the administrative unit of Miras is scheduled to begin in 2021.
The issue of water supply to the urban area in the municipality of Has has been ultimately addressed.
In the municipality of Kukes, where the urban area has suffered water supply shortages over the years, the project is nearing its completion and I believe we will be ready to launch third phase of the project in January or early February to ultimately provide 24-hour water supply to the residents in this city.
The water supply to the urban area in the municipality of Tropoja has been finally resolved, while the investment in building the water supply system in the rural area of Dragobi is underway.
We have concluded the cooperation agreement with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation to support the project designed to double the water availability or inflow to Bovilla water treatment plant to 3600 litres per second from 1800 litres per second currently. The two-fold increase in the water availability will also require expansion of the Bovilla treatment plant. So if we increase water inflows to 3600 litres per second, the water treatment plant should process same water quantity. Thanks to Tirana Water Supply and Sewerage Company and Tirana municipality the capacity has increased from 1800 to 2400 litres per second. An additional state budget fund has been approved by the Albanian government to support the project due to be co-funded by the Tirana Water Supply and Sewerage Company and the National Agency of Water Supply, Sewerage and Waste Infrastructure and we expect the construction work to begin within next spring. The project will ensure 3600 litres of treated water due to be provided to Tirana citizens each second. An agreement between the municipality of Tirana and the European Investment Bank is good news for the residents in Tirana’s urban areas. The project will provide 24-hour water supply to the residents in the urban areas. The project is also designed to modernize the internal system. Once the investment completes by 2023, every citizen in Tirana will receive 24-hour running water in first half of 2024 at most.
The municipality of Kamze has been transformed into a huge construction site in terms of the water sector thanks to the Albanian government support for a series of state budget-funded projects. In the meantime, first phase of a project supported by the German bank KfW jas completed and implementation of the second phase of a project funded by international partners is also underway, while the third phase is set to begin in 2021. The project, combined with the Albanian government-funded projects will conclude the investments for around 80% of the population of about 94.000 people residing in Kamze. The project designing is already underway for the remaining 20% of the population and we will deliver on our pledge to ensure 24-hour water supply through the state budget funds in a near future. We are investing in this municipality due to the lack of investments in water supply and sewerage systems in Kamez municipality over the past three decades.
We are also completing the design process for a major investment project on water supply system in the urban area of Vora municipality.
In Kavaje, just like it is the case with investments in Belsh, Lac, Patos and Ballsh, the Albanian government is funding one of the major projects that will ensure uninterrupted water supply to the urban area. We are progressing with work to complete the water supply project in Luz.
Project in the urban area are completing in the municipality of Rrogozhine. We expect the project to complete in December and it will ensure 24-hour water supply to local residents. In the meantime, the project on the water supply systems in the administrative units of Gose, Bena, Ballak and Lekaj will begin within next spring.
The first phase of a joint investment project with the German bank KfW in the municipality of Shkoder has completed. The project significantly improves water availability to an average of 20 hours a day in the urban area. Meanwhile, we have signed the second phase of the financial agreement and we expect to launch the 24-hour water supply project in 2021. The project also includes rehabilitation of the sewerage and wastewater system and construction of the wastewater treatment plant.
The municipality of Malesi e Madhe is another local government unit that has enjoyed increased attention from the government of Albania. The work to construct the water supply system that will provide 24-hour water supply to the urban area in Koplik will complete next month. Work is already underway to build the water supply system in the administrative unit of Bajze and 18 villages. We expect to launch investment in construction of water supply system in tourist area of Tamare in 2021.
We are entering the finalization phase of water supply system construction in the urban area of Puke municipality and the water meter installation process is about to follow soon. We are also investing in building the water supply system in the village of Luv Gjegjan.
Likewise, the first phase of the project on rehabilitation of the internal distribution network has completed in the municipality of Fushe Arrez and citizens now receive 24-hour supply.
The water supply system for the urban area in the municipality of Vau i Dejes is set to complete within next month and investments will then continue in two rural areas of Mjede and Shelqet.
Vlora district, the last but not least.
The work to replace the main water supply line from Uji i Ftohte to Shkolla e Marines area is expected to begin in the next few days. It is a strategically important supply line for the local residents. The water inflow will increase by 30% within 2021. Work to construct the water supply system in the Transballkanike area will kick off in the next few days too. Investments in building water supply systems in the neighbourhoods of Karabash and Partizani will begin in 2021. The good news is that the EUR 18 million loan agreement has been signed by the Albanian government and the German bank KfW to fully rehabilitate the water supply system in entire urban area of Vlora and provide 24-hour supply there.
Investment in the town of Selenice and Armen has completed and we expect to finalize projects on water supply systems in Gjote and Brataj in 2021.
We have also conducted a series of investments in the municipality of Himare. We completed construction of the sewerage and wastewater system in Potam few months ago. Work to construct water supply system and the sewerage network in important tourist destinations like Dhermi, Palase Dhrimadhe, as well as a wastewater treatment plant to ultimately solve water pollution along the coastal line in Drimadhe.
Another important investment is being implemented by the Albanian Development Fund and KfW in this municipality to provide water supply from the water springs in the mountainous area of Kuç.
The first phase of the project funded by KfW has completed in the municipality of Sarande, while we are committed to completing the second phase for construction of the water supply system for the urban area in Sarande in 2021. We are also investing in rehabilitating the water system in Ksamil.
As far as the municipality of Konispol is concerned, we are currently working on water supply projects in the rural areas, since residents in urban area already receive 24-hour water supply.
We expect to complete the water supply project to provide 24-hour supply to residents in Delvine in January, an investment co-funded by KfW and the Albanian government.
We are implementing three parallel projects designed to provide 24-hour supply to residents in 13 villages of the municipality of Finiq.
I have several questions to make regarding the outline provided by the Mrs. Minister and the Director of the National Agency of Water Supply, Sewerage and Waste Infrastructure, who highlighted a number of investments in many remote rural areas across the country. It is very good that such investments are being implemented, but the tourist areas were missing from the investments map. If we are to look at Velipoja on the map, you would see it is marked by orange colour, meaning the project there is scheduled to complete next year. The same goes for Vlora, part of the coast, Saranda and Durres. Don’t you think a wrong strategy has been designed to invest and build water supply systems also in remote villages with only 50 residents, while such investments have been avoided or have yet to be made in areas with bigger economic and tourism development potential?
A question for the Prime Minister Rama; few years ago, in 2015, if I am not mistaken, you introduced the water reform as one of the most important ones after the energy reform. The network loses were estimated at around 60%. How this reform has progressed and have the network loses been reduced?
A question about the funding scheme for construction of the Skavica hydropower plant; how the funding scheme has been selected and if yet to be determined, how is going to be this scheme?
A question for Mrs. Balluku; how is the Milot – Fier highway progressing? At what phase is this project?
UKT Director General Alqi Bllako: As for the first question, your statement of fact is right, but we have been perfectly coordinating with the international donors. The main donors include the World Bank, French Development Fund, and the German Bank for Development, and we have determined the investments due to be funded by the state budget and these donors also due to larger financial commitments. The areas you already mentioned have been taken over by the donors. The financial agreements have been approved and funding will be allocated within 2021 to support projects designed to ensure 24-hour water supply to all the areas you mentioned. These are agreements that have been negotiated in 2019. As you know, they all take their negotiating procedures and construction work is scheduled to begin in 2021. This division has been made for the simple reason that these areas require a lot more considerable capital investments than the state budget capacities.
PM Rama: The network loses have been reduced significantly, but what I stated from the very beginning is that the reform needs to deepen further, because, for the sake of truth, these enterprises, though reasonably breaking from the inherited miserable tradition of the first post-communist decades, when they were turned simply into employment offices and no investments in human resources and their professionalism were made, they still remain a problem. Therefore, it is time to take the reform to another phase and we are discussing it.
As to the Skavice HPP, this question has been exhausted as it is universally known that we have signed an agreement with the government of the United States to build Skavica HPP project.
Minister Balluku: If the Premier would allow me, I would like to provide some details over the Skavica HPP project since some developments took place this week and you are interested in learning more about it as one of the most important projects undertaken by our government and a dreamed project for all previous governments. We are definitely cooperating with the US government. A U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) mission has arrived in Tirana a day ago given that this will be a shared loan, meaning that we will negotiate with banks or other institutions, but this will be done through DFC only. Of course, the Albanian Power Corporation will offer its collaterals, if your question is about this issue, and not the state budget, meaning that not sovereign guarantee fund will be made available by the state budget, but the Power Corporation’s collaterals will be sufficient, since it is a company with huge collaterals. We are on a right path regarding the Skavica HPP project. We have launched technical talks with company Bechtel. The technical details between the parties are being discussed at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy between our specialists and Bechtel experts, while I have launched the negotiations with DFC a day ago and today. The DFC delegation is now holding meetings with other institutions, the Power Corporation or other financial institutions. I hope I have provided detailed answer about Skavica HPP project.
As far as the Milot- Fier highway project is concerned, as you know, the biding process concluded on Nov 9. It is now up to the Bids Evaluation Commission to take two weeks time and evaluate entire submitted documentation. There is nothing new about this project until the bids are evaluated/
–Mr. Prime Minister, you said that Tirana citizens receive waters supply averagely seven hours a day, but how qualitative is this water? And, if I may, do you drink water from the tap in your house? Thank you!
PM Rama: Don’t doubt that I drink the water from the tap in my house.
As far as the average hours of water supply, I referred to the fact that water supply to Tirana residents now has increased significantly. There are certain areas where residents receive 24-hour water supply. There are other areas where this is not the case and we are quite aware of this, yet the average hours of water supply have increased significantly compared to previous years when this transformation began through these major investments. The same goes for Durres, where a major investment has been implemented in cooperation with the World Bank and the water availability and supply has increased significantly, just like we have provided an ultimate solution to the sewerage and wastewater system along entire beach area. In the meantime, the agreement is being finalized with the French Development Agency for the remaining part, which we have included in the French support for the reconstruction process in order to eventually address the water supply issue and the canalization in Durres. It is for sure that I drink water directly from the tap in my house.
–Mr. Prime Minister, how much reliable you think you sound when saying that 200 rural areas will receive 24-hour water supply in 2022, given that supplying Tirana with water 24 hours a day has been your and Mr. Veliaj’s constant promise that has yet to be kept?
We can’t give a child a bath with ordinary tap water in our homes, because water contains uncontrolled chlorine quantities that can harm the kids’ eyes. Do you give Zaho a bath with tap water?
PM Rama: Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, because he loves bathing and I don’t know where else to find water, but the water supply network. I don’t give him a bath with rainwater. This is the minimum I can confirm. So, if you want us to help you with your kids, encourage your kids, I can send him for you to see how he dives and immerses in water.
As far as your question about how reliable I am, you have to wait for the April 25 date and you will see for yourself how much reliable I am.
–Mr. Rama, in 2016, when you were in coalition with the Socialist Movement for Integration, when you launched the water reform, you said that the system and water entities should be overhauled and cleansed from the incompetent and corrupt officials and specialists. Do we have today a system where the water supply and distribution is vital and of primary importance?
Given that we are through the COVID pandemic, it is obvious that water remains one of the main and vital factors. Mr. Basha has claimed that many educational institutions lack sufficient water supplies when hygiene is of primary importance and, concerning this issue, Mr. Basha seems to be on the forefront as he has introduced a five-point proposal to reimburse medicines for outpatients being treated at home. Are you returning to the five-point plan proposed by Mr. Basha? Thank you!
PM Edi Rama: I don’t know whether it is appropriate to discuss this so-called five-point plan at a meeting like this focusing on the water reform and supply.
As to the water entities, there is not a magic wand and a vaccine to administer so that corruption can be stopped. This can be done through reforms and continuously established systems that yield results gradually. By no doubt corruption exists today, yet the corruption level is much lower than it was years ago and we can demonstrate it through facts and not words.
As far as the citizens’ relationship with the state, a lot of work remains to be done in the future and it takes great patience to build all systems that make the state immune to corruption, in terms of its capillary spread, because there is no state immune to corruption in the world we live. There have never been states immune to corruption and there will never be such states, but the level and the corruption rate certainly make the big difference between the states.
As far as the schools is concerned; everybody knows that Albania encounters problems in terms of water supply, but, it is for the first time, as you noticed through this entire complete presentation, the water supply issue is being addressed frontally and systematically and there is no need to question it. Therefore, all of those who, including Lulzim, comment about the water shortage in a school or another, they haven’t landed from the Moon. It is them, who have done actually nothing to alter the inherited situation and it is not a coincidence that we are dealing today with water reservoirs, deposits and water pipelines dating back to the ’60s and ’70s and replace them with deposits and pipelines in 2020. So, the difference is quite obvious and this is another reason why the third term in office is not for me, but for Albania. Because, if it happens otherwise, I ensure everyone that there will be no five-point plan that is going to be implemented and instead everyone will receive just five water drops from the taps in your own houses. I can say this for sure, because this has been proved. They have been governing the country and they have had the opportunity to address the water supply issue, but instead they keep speaking as if landing from the Moon.
– Mr. Prime Minister, if I may, I have a question that is irrelevant to the water reform. The Special Prosecution Office has launched an investigation into the Socialist lawmaker, also SP chairman in Tirana, Mr. Bushati, for hiding his wealth. A day ago, the US Ambassador hailed this investigation. Have you thought about stripping Mr. Bushati of party functions until the probe completes, as he leads or co-leads the campaign in Tirana and so that the Socialist Party avoids any electoral cost? Thank you!
PM Rama: The Socialist Party differs a lot from the Democratic Party and any other political party that think about for the sake of appearances only. The Socialist Party clearly distinguishes among things. The goal is common, while the responsibility is individual. The Socialist Party has never become and will never become a shield for anyone who should individually face any accusation, any probe and any indictment. You have no reason to worry in this respect. Things are pretty clear among us. When someone is assigned a position or a duty in the Socialist Party or in the Socialist government, knows quite well that the goal is common, whereas the responsibility is individual and any overcoming of the dividing line between our common goal and the personal vested interest, such a move violates our shared interest and everyone is held accountable individually.
As to the question whether we should strip Mr. Bushati or anyone else of the immunity, this is an issue that is not up to DP for solution, but the big political family and we know how and when to carry out this process.
– Mr. Prime Minister, you started this day by posting a video on your Facebook page purportedly showing the Krusha massacre, mentioning also the DP chairman Lulzim Basha. To put an end to this debate, have you thought it would have been better if you receive information from the UN, EULEX, on alleged involvement and the role of Lulzim Basha at that time, because, if I may, your opinion and Basha’s opinion in all this debate just five months ahead of the upcoming elections is subjective.
PM Edi Rama: Which is my opinion?
All the statements you have issued during all this time, but I would like to answer my question without debating.
PM Edi Rama: I am not debating, but I would clarify my opinion on this issue. My opinion is very simple. The representative of a family, an enterprise, an organization, a media and, above all, the representative of a certain number of citizens and, moreover, the representative of a political party that aspires to govern the country, faces an inalienable responsibility, that of taking a position and look people in the eye and tell them what he should tell when it comes to certain issues and, of course, when it comes to issue concerning him.
We are not talking about private life. In my view, the private life of everyone is not a public issue. We are talking about nobody’s private affairs, but a simple obligation that a leader, a representative has to provide explanations.
Of course, I don’t want these accusations, which I am not making – I haven’t levelled any accusation and I would challenge you to name any of them – but that are being made by individuals I have never met and I don’t know them at all, to turn out to be true. I don’t want them to turn out to be true, but it is an inalienable obligation. It is not an obligation that can be met by criticizing me, neither by creating conspiracy theories, nor by shunning it, or remaining silent or ordering the party to issue statements. Why should the party issue statements, when this is an individual issue?
It is my obligation, due to the position I hold, to invite Lulzim Basha to clarify on this issue.
If the Socialist Party when it was lead by Fatos Nano has adopted a certain position that runs counter the national interest, which hasn’t happened, but if it was to happen and if today you ask me about that position, it is my duty and obligation to clarify on that position in my capacity as the current Socialist Party leader, because it is the party I chair, although I was not its leader back then.
The Democratic Party, along with the Socialist Movement for Integration, when in governing coalition have both voted in favour of the Council of Europe resolution based on the notorious report by Dick Marty. Lulzim Basha should say “why”? The Socialist Party, then in opposition, has voted against the report. There were to Albanian sides attending the session in Strasbourg and the two have voted differently about an issue that today and for a long time and a longer time later will always be part of this story that we live together. There may be arguments, and he can tell why they voted in favour of the report. For what reason in this world did the government vote in favour of the report? The Democratic Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration voted in favor, why? Let them tell the reason why!
These are all simply and only because of my duty and the position as Prime Minister. Every claim that this issue is being used for electoral purposes, that this is a political accusation, that someone is seeking to involve Kosovo in the election campaign in Albania, that this is completely hogwash that has nothing to do with the reason why I raise this issue, we raise this issue. Someone who aspires to run our shared home cannot ignore the need to come out and say I have been here, I have done this, I have had these reasons, this is true and that is not true, whatever it is.
But this cannot be done by claiming this is a conspiracy theory and a conspiracy made up by Edi Rama and Top Channel TV. This does not work. This is not done by saying that Edi Rama always does that and is doing it again.
It is someone else who can judge what Edi Rama is doing, but it is not Lulzim Basha who can do it, taking notice that it is him who should clarify on what he has done, and not what I do. It is as simple as that. It is completely elementary. This is how it works in the democratic world. It is the accountability of someone before the people when pretending to govern our common home.
It is not a matter of what an organization is going to say. I am not an investigator and I am not interested at all in being an investigator.
That is why I raise this issue. It is an important character issue. It is the leadership character that is always tested in front of people. Like it or not, you name him an arrogant or a humble person, these are all opinions. However, in my view, it is impossible for a leader – let alone the leader of a political party that is seeking to seize power and govern the country – not to have this character feature and courage to appear before people and face issues of public interest rather than issues concerning him himself. I may have exaggerated this feature that I face all the issues myself, but one cannot run away and shun these issues. It is impossible that I force the Socialist Party to do what I should actually do.
This is very important for everyone, because, after all, we are in the eyes of people and people need to see us and understand us as much as possible about who we are, but we have a duty to tell them what we think.
I spoke about this issue at length, yet I believe I made it clear. It is not me the one to level these accusations. The accusations are actually confirmed by the long silence and the continued attempt to shun them or respond through counter-accusations against those people. I don’t understand what could possibly be the reason why those people accuse Lulzim Basha today? What is the reason they are doing this? Why don’t they accuse Stamo Dumo or somebody else?
It is not convincing to claim that these individuals are deceitful or con men. Why are they con men? For what reason? How could I possibly be interested in hurting Lulzim Bash as to the point he becomes useless? I am more interested than anyone else that he is useful. It is ”a flower” not to be cut from the political game standpoint, so to say. But it is not a matter of political games, but a matter of principles. And this cannot be solved by issuing abusive speech against me.
Thank you so much!
23 January 2021Long-promised road to Mount Tomorr taking shape gradually