Press statement by Minister of State for Reconstruction Arben Ahmetaj on government decisions on Reconstruction process

Press statement by Minister of State for Reconstruction Arben Ahmetaj, also coordinator for the National Recovery Plan, on the today’s government decisions about Reconstruction process:

Hello everyone,

The Council of Ministers adopted today four important decisions on the Reconstruction Program, which would not only finalize an intense five-month work, but they also mark a substantive and concrete accomplishment to the benefit of the residents in the quake-hit areas. The today’s decisions will allow us to move forward and take the reconstruction program to the next level.

First of all, today we will formally start implementation of the reconstruction grant program in the municipality of Shijak, providing for direct payment to the quake-affected families, whose houses and other properties have sustained DS1-DS2-DS3-level damages, which implies no structural damages to the extent that the buildings should be demolished. The affected-families can carry out the reconstruction and damage-repair work themselves and the government will provide financial subsidy to cover 50% of the cost, depending on the damage level.

As you may all remember, all quake-affected families were offered in February the opportunity to file their applications via the web-based platform “My Home.” Over the past two months, local government authorities and teams have conducted a very detailed and careful evaluation process on every application and applicant and have compiled the beneficiaries list, which are eventually approved by the city councils and are made public, as it was the case with the Municipality of Shijak.

The Municipality of Shijak is the first to finalize this process and we expect the municipalities of Durres, Tirana, Kavaja, Kurbin and all other municipalities complete the evaluation process in the coming days and forward the beneficiaries lists for approval to the respective city councils.

A total of 1174 private homes and 27 collective apartment buildings in the Municipality of Shijak are entitled to benefit reconstruction grants under this government decision. The cabinet approved todally allocation of a fund of 512,967,289 Lek, which adds to the 2020 municipal budget of Shijak in the form of unconditional cash transfer, which means that the Municipality of Shijak, starting Friday morning at most, can start disbursing direct payments and sign the payments for 1174 private homes and 27 apartment buildings.

The benefiting individuals and households are entitled to benefit a grant according to their applications and the payment will be directly transferred to their bank accounts.

In this framework, I would also like to inform that we are currently engaged in discussions with international donors on their participation in the reconstruction program projects, but I am specifically referring to grants, since donors are already involved in the schools reconstruction program, in community infrastructure projects, or urban residential complexes, as it is the case in the city of Durres, or the project on construction of a residential neighbourhood in Lac by the Turkish government.

As I already stated, we expect the list of the beneficiaries in the Municipality of Kurbin to be finalized soon, and I take advantage of this occasion to urge local government authorities in other quake-affected municipalities to speed up the evaluation process and determine the financial compensation due to be rewarded to the citizens. A total funding of 7 billion Lek or $70 million in grants is set to be disbursed to the affected families once the beneficiaries’ lists are approved.

The government’s second decision determines the new area that will host the reconstruction and development plan in the Municipality of Durres, namely the area of Archaeological Park, and the decision on assigning the Albanian Development Fund as the project implementation unit.

It is an important decision also in the framework of the 115-million euro assistance pledged by the European Commission at the International Donors’ Conference, of which 15 million euros will be used to support construction of 22 school buildings, another 50 million will be earmarked to support construction of a second group of new school buildings, 50 million euros will be under a negotiating process to support renovation of the damaged cultural heritage sites in the quake-affected areas. In total, the European Commission will commit 65 million euro to support construction of new schools and 50 million euros for the rehabilitation of the cultural heritage properties.

The proposed area to host the development projects is home to some of the most important sites of the national culture, including the Durres Amphitheatre, the Castle, the ancient Roman Thermal baths, as well as a series of first and second category monuments.

The third decision included the approval in principle of the cooperation agreement between the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania and the Government of the Republic of Turkey for the construction of homes in the quake-affected area of Laç.

Earlier in February, we signed the Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties, clearing the way for agreement negotiations, which will be formally signed with the Turkish Minister of Environment and Urbanization, Mr. Murat Kurum, in the coming days.

The Turkish government project has been publicly presented. I would like to inform you that we completed all the phases, from designing to the planning and expropriation either by cash or by exchange for the affected residents in an area where 500 homes will be built and will definitely turn into a new model of urban and economic development for Kurbin and for the country.

The last decision concerns the use of the reconstruction plan adopted as part of the 2020 state budget to support the project design, approval of the construction permits, including costs to cover topographical survey services, environmental impact assessment and geological services before starting work to construct apartment buildings in the affected areas in the municipalities of Durres, Kavaje, Kruje, Kurbin, Lezhe, Shijak and Vore.

We are now moving on to the detailed design of the entire accompanying infrastructure throughout the affected area.

To conclude, despite the ongoing global pandemic has caused significant disruptions to normal work and long delays to a series of processes in every country all over the world, we have advanced our work at an almost normal rate as we have already pledged from day one so that we make sure that the affected citizens move as soon as possible into their new homes, which will certainly be much better and safer than the previous damaged or collapsed house; we are committed to ensuring that children start the new academic year in newly-reconstructed or rehabilitated schools and kindergarten buildings, and launch the construction sites in every area selected to host the reconstruction and development plans, so that we not only provide a completely fresh and different look to the municipalities that were hit by the devastating earthquake, but also create a new development dimension and community life.

I reiterate, the Municipality of Shijak is the first where the affected citizens will benefit under the program for reconstruction grants, worth 512 million Lek and the fund disbursement for the citizens is set to start on Friday.

Thank you!