Public communication of Prime Minister Edi Rama:
Brothers and sisters,
I hug you all from a distance that is safe for each and every one of you! I heartily thank you, although the word thank you is too small to really express my deep gratitude to you; to all of you who in this world war against a lethal and invisible enemy, who has invaded entire globe time, is manifesting an exemplary fighting spirit; a gratitude to all of you who are investing your heart, mind and body in this formidable war to defend your families, relatives and friends, your communities and our common home, Albania!
I humbly apologize a thousand times for every unpleasant thing I have been and I will be forced all the time to steadily and unhesitatingly tell you to the day this war is over.
Smooth words about the dangers threatening us and the reluctance to take the right actions to mitigate risks would today be a betrayal you should never expect from me. Look at what’s happening in much bigger, much more developed countries compared to Albania regarding health, science, and economy. They are, one by one, paying dearly the illusion that this is just a bad dream that will end on its own and will end soon.
Countries capable of teaching whole world, countries with the power and the responsibility to control the fate of entire mankind were all caught completely by surprise, completely unaware and unprepared, under the aggression of an unknown virus.
An enemy hanging over our heads just like daylight lightning has turned their trillions of dollars and weaponry in their warehouses completely useless, finding them without sufficient hospital beds for this war-wounded, without sufficient respiratory equipment for the people sustaining lethal injuries in this war, without enough face masks and medical protective clothing for their fantastic armies of health personnel, and even lacking the adequate number of doctors specialized against human beings asphyxiation.
To this world’s greatest surprise, Albania and America, Kosovo and Germany, the poor Balkans and wealthy Europe, are all on the board of the same ship drifting at sea and have just a single weapon at their disposal: their own people’s resistance!
A gun that only has one bullet left: The unity of the people!
And it has just but one target: The one closest to you! In the family! In the street! At work! Whom you should keep far away as possible!
This is the first war in the history of mankind, where the army barracks is the houses and where every soldier has to be locked down as much as possible. This is a war where both the US military, the largest and most indestructible on the planet, and the small Albanian army have equally the same firepower: Zero!
This is a war where no alliance between states exists and has yet to appear on the horizon! A world war, where everyone is on his own and God only is for everyone!!
So brothers and sisters, make up your mind together with me that we are completely on our own and we have only one another in this war! Either we fight together, as one single man when meeting the ghost of death, or we all together as a nation shall fall into an abyss, where, just like the poor and uncountable dead ones in the area of Bergamo, there will no longer be anybody to bury or mourn us!
We, Albania, the government, I who happen to be at the helm of this all in this cursed time, are neither smarter, nor more intelligent, let alone stronger that those who wasted time on the illusion that the virus was to disappear on its own and for weeks-long were reluctant to arm themselves with austerity measures that severely restrict people’s freedom to safeguard their health.
But exactly because we are weaker than them, we rushed to lock ourselves in at home! And we will continue like this, with no illusions, without smooth talk and no hesitation, until this ferocious enemy is kicked out of our country!
We don’t know, nobody does, neither those who know everything, from America to Germany, France, Great Britain and from Israel to Japan and so on and so forth, when the day of our liberation from this nightmare would come! Yet, everyone knows it will come neither next week, nor after two weeks. And once these two weeks go by, they will tell us we need two more weeks, and so on and so forth, and God only knows when…
Therefore, my dears, I love you so much and, like never more than today, I feel you like being my family members, but you ask me to sell you illusions through kind words, or ask me promise you that this war will end quickly and it will go by without inflicting suffering.
Grit your teeth when drawing the last breath, and train yourselves by constantly fighting your daily habits and make up your mind befell us war not to provide everyone holiday leave, eat and drink as if on holidays, and then expect the government to provide everything we used to have and earn in the blessed days of our normal life.
I know these are not what you would wish to hear, and I know there are many among you still having to figure out why they shouldn’t go out for a walk, either with the wife, the girlfriend or a friend!
I know many of you are annoyed, even outraged, claiming that I am terrifying and discouraging them, and I am becoming unbearable by constantly repeating “war, war, war” at a time when the sun is winking at you and when Albania looks more beautiful than ever, no smog, no dirt, no noise.
Yet indeed, this is the first war ever in the history of humanity that has rendered the world a bridal beauty and where no soldier is to be found in the streets, no gun shots are being heard and not single drop of blood is being shed all over the globe!
But the territory of this war is not the land, but the human organism and the enemy army is spotted neither by any watchmen, nor satellites, as it advances through the blood veins inside our body, using us as its military bases and turning every carelessness, every breach of the rules, every nervous breakdown into a fatal opportunity to kill our most beloved ones or the most vulnerable ones us.
Therefore, I beg and apologize a thousand times, neither expect me steadily repeat things you do not want to hear, nor ask me that by urging you to fight ceaselessly, and not make me reiterate over and over again something else too:
Wars happen not to spare us the trouble of being hurt and plunging into chaos, but along with the danger of serious injuries and human deaths, they also bring about the risk of serious injury, even economic death. Wars do not happen so we think about protecting our lives from the enemy weapons only, but also how to fight to ensure survival in our homes. And this war is the first in the history of humanity to turn an entire nation into a large family enclosed within the walls of its state and turn the state, like never before, into the common home of hundreds of thousands of rooms, where every family awaits locked inside for the means of survival to be provided.
This my dear brothers and sisters means that regardless of how much you expect from me and regardless how much I wish to satisfy all of your demands in this common home of ours, in Europe’s poorest neighbourhood; in this our common fight locked down like Oso Kuka in his tower house, the government should by any means do whatever it can, but every member of the Albanian family should become aware that utmost in this cursed wartime cannot include everything we are used to have in the blessed peacetime.
The government collects and manages the revenue generated every month by the work of each of us, just like the work-generated monthly income is managed in each of your homes. When the revenues increase, there are a lot more to provide for the house. But the revenues always fall during wartime, both for the people and the state. Because, the state relies on taxes, not on the Holy Spirit, or the power of wishes of those who govern it. In this formidable war in terms of the enemy’s form and striking power, the state revenues, the revenues of this big house where we are all locked down, will take a nosedive equally formidable! And, listen to me carefully, exactly because we don’t actually know how long this absurd lockdown is going to last, we don’t even know how much our revenues will fall. Therefore, our plan to spend while working a lot less than yesterday and consequently we will have a lot less revenues in our big house budget than we would have if we were to work normally, there can be no plan to please everyone today and leave then everyone disappointed tomorrow.
This cursed time that God only knows how long it is going to last has nothing to do with the timing of a government revenue program, which optimistically projects the revenue our common home will collect from the work of everyone, let alone then with the time of the vulgar political fights in the noisy Albanian peacetime, with the ears being pounded with all sorts of opposition platforms that promise everything!
The work in Albania today is comparable to the work the heart and mind do in a body with paralyzed limbs. The state budget revenues this month will plummet. But how much more the collections will fall next month? And the month after it, how much the revenues will go further down? What if two more months won’t be enough for this war to end, what are we going to do within our walls, when an aggression against whole world may send us back to the time of that secluded castle on the Adriatic shores, where we lived until 30 years ago, but, at least, our own homes were not castles on their own!
Well, this massive unarmed invasion has forced us the Albanians to relive the bad dream just as in siege, but how are going to program providing supplies to all our resistance forces within our castle, when this hostile aggression has forced even the planet’s biggest democracies to become castles on their seashore and it is unknown how long they will be forced to live like in a siege!
Again, brothers and sisters, make up your mind that in this struggle for existence in the most brutal sense of the word existence, we are on our own!
We are right in the aftermath of the earthquake, when the ceiling fell upon our heads, we buried 51 members of our family, healed the wounds of around 1000 others, reprogrammed our budget to bring around 17, 000 brothers and sisters back home after becoming homeless in the middle of winter, we took the world’s streets with the hand stretched out like beggars and opened up the doors of whole world through the kicks of hard arguments, guaranteeing the reconstruction funds!
No, this time we are not in the aftermath of the earthquake, as an enemy has entered our house, threatening to take away hundreds, if not thousands of lives, and force us lie in hospitals, if not in gyms or concert halls, thousands of our beloved people, if we are not to discover every day the power of the most incredible patience inside us and if we don’t make up our mind more than ever before that we are all alone in this plight heavy as a mountain and all we have is us and each other and nobody else who doesn’t speak Albanian, who doesn’t mourn as an Albanian and doesn’t hear us!
There is nobody else for us to stretch a hand to, because nobody would see the trouble befalling us and there is no other, but our hearts’ doors to knock on, because there is no door remaining open in the world.
Who does stretches out a hand to others in our families and in our circle-of-friends? The oldest, the most knowledgeable and the strongest ones of course. He does as much as he can and as much as he knows so that the others, the youngest or the eldest ones, or someone affected by a disease are helped by all means possible. Today, the one who can happen to be each of us in our own families in everyday life, it is the state, the government, in our common home, where the overwhelming majority of families rightly ask themselves what will happen with their wages this month that we shut down the shop we worked as a family in? Others ask what is going to happen with the entrepreneurship’s debt to banks? Others still make the question, what about our family that hardly succeeds in making ends meet? There a lot others who ask: how I will go on with living in tent, when I shouldn’t even go out of the tent? There are also other old and lonely people, whose children are far away and others who have nobody to rely upon and do not even dare ask and wonder whether someone would knock on the door they cannot walk out to provide for them something so that they can subsist on? But there are many others too who ask: “What is the Prime Minister going to do? Because Trump allocated trillions, Merkel made available hundreds of billions, Macron and Johnson also provided billions for the citizens’ pockets!
What about me that should listen to everyone and as much as possible by sailing through my eyes the whole river of your comments until my eyelids close and fall asleep at 3 or 4 a.m., which the question I ask myself when wakening up two or three hours later?
The question that is haunting me is: How long this war will last? The only answer I have so far is the sentence uttered by Lyndon Jonson, the U.S. President, when he had to appear in front of the American people to announce the news over John Kennedy’s death:
I would gladly give away everything I have just not to stand before you today?
But of course, I am here today at the helm of this country, where this war turned the whole nation into a single family in the truest sense of the word and Lyndon Jonson’s answer resolves nothing, yet it shows one thing: Not only me, but nobody in this world, even those at the helm of the states that know everything, have no idea how long this war will last!
That’s why our war financing plan cannot, should and will not be a single plan, but a plan A and B back-up plan and a C back-up plan!
If the enemy is not going to leave even after six months, then a D plan will be needed. But may God help then all Albanians, because nobody would know what a plan D would involve.
To put it clear, I have studied and I have been consulting with the prominent minds in the languages of the world I know the plans, or better say the draft-plans since nobody has a written plan. The friendly Italy unveiled a plan two months after the virus outbreak and, as far as we know, nobody has thought about what is going to happen in three months’ time! Everyone more or less believes that this wonder did not last three days only, but it will last much longer than three months! Just it is the case with the austerity measures that we, tiny Albania, couldn’t afford wasting precious days with kind words and be reluctant to not rush in hurriedly, when others kept on thinking, even with the plan to mitigate economic suffering of this war, we cannot afford telling ourselves, well this invisible enemy will not be around without becoming bored of us, so let’s spend what we own!
We cannot afford going on with the “let it happen” thing. We can’t get out of the house tomorrow and fall into the pit we can dig up with our own hands and from where we won’t be able to get out, not for three months, but even three years! We will implement the plan jointly.
Our plan looks primarily down at the social categories; a plan for the most vulnerable ones who lack the needed strength to resist for long without stretching out the hand to the government. The stories or, better saying, the fairytales being told on TV studios about the United States, Germany and money are not exactly the way they are told! America, Germany and their upper class in the family of humankind have strong economy and they can adapt even if they lose the bet about the short time they have predicted for the war to last. While Albania’s only excess fat is the brain of those who do not want to govern without learning the multiplication table, those who feel satisfied with themselves and speak high and mighty about any topic in this world from the TV clubs or online refectories while being served fancy food, as well as wealthy owners of big businesses who either in peace or wartime simply cry for the moon! The economy of our small one-floor house, Albania, cannot finance neither practical implementation of the opposition’s dreams nor the escapade after the American, German, or the missing profits of the big companies due to the war!
We can, we should and we will finance, not peacetime-like living amid this war, but the survival of those among us so that they don’t fall into the enemy’s claws, survival of those among us who even at peacetime struggle to survive and do not lead a living majority of us does; the survival of those who are unable to go to work in private enterprises after being entrapped in their homes because of the war; the survival of those who without the small business they are all employed as a family won’t be able to survive in the future, unless help is provided to live while their shop is shut down. They are the people most in need at this point, while others, not only they should ask nothing from us, but instead they should prepare to give away something, if war is to last and we would be forced to move to plan B.
Because the first, those facing real problems cannot and will not be left alone, while the latter cannot and should not complain, or demand, but just do their fight, physically like everyone else, whereas economically different from the majority of other people.
I would have wished that with the plan A we force all those who earn more from business or the private sector’s highest paid individuals give away something from themselves. But they convinced me such a move would be wrongly perceived as a wrong message and would then become subject to the big mouths appearing on TV channels, claiming that the reason is that the state has no money to pay salaries and pensions. That’s why, for now, no other salaries will be affected, but the salaries of the members of the Council of Ministers and the members of the Assembly of Albania, who, until end of the war, will receive only half of the salary. We don’t want to create any misunderstanding by halving the salary of the President of the Republic, who deserves a public thank you for the fact that since we entered this war, he is helping as much as he can, or the salaries of the heads of the independent institutions. For the time being, it is up to them to decide whether they will give away half of their monthly salary.
Our plan to address the financing needs of those whose economy has been directly affected by the novel coronavirus situation contains 7 points:
1) An amount of 2.5 billion lek, or 25 million dollars is earmarked for the Ministry of Health, medical equipment and for the health personnel support.
2) 10 billion lek, or 100 million dollars will be provided through a sovereign guarantee instrument to private companies facing objective in paying their employees’ salaries.
3) 6.5 billion lek, or 65 million dollars will be made available to cover immediate needs:
o the most needy social categories;
o small business;
o potential layoffs due to the war
4) 2 billion lek, or 20 million dollars will be made available to the Ministry of Defence to cover the ongoing humanitarian operation.
5) 1 billion lek, or 10 million dollars will be set aside as the Council of Ministers’ contingency fund to cover possible unforeseen future emergencies.
We will permanently write off late payment interest charges on outstanding unpaid electricity bills for domestic and small business customers, a move with an estimated financial effect of 15 billion lek, or 150 million dollars, benefiting as many as 211 024 consumers.
We will reschedule in the second half of 2020 and onwards the profit tax on all business with an annual turnover of up to 2-14 million lek, or 20, 000 to 140, 000 dollars.
We decided to postpone submission of the business balance sheets for a period up to June 1 this year.
The government’s Normative Act on the amendments to the 2020 state budget will enter into force tomorrow, date 20.03.2020.
I apologize since perhaps I have made you feel bored over the past few days and I will make you feel even more bored in the days to come, keeping on with my same old habit in this darkest of times, where I am not the Prime Minister in the sunny days, just the first among equals in our Albanian family!
Because more than ever and like never before, we are all equally threatened; all members of our families are equally threatened; our common home, Albania, is equally threatened just like every other country in the region, Europe, and across the world.
But if many other houses may have enough food reserves to spend a winter underground in the basements, this house of ours has nothing else, but the abundance of the Albanian heart, the formidable strength to survive that Albanians have passed down through generations and to each other, by giving birth and raising children in times that have not been generous to this country and nation. Today is the time to save what we can, but not the abundance of power we inherit from our ancestors and that we should take out of the depths of our hearts and spend it unsparingly to win this war.
It won’t be appropriate, dear brothers and sisters, it won’t be appropriate that all this sacrifice we together have embarked on, these scandalous freedom restrictions we have all accepted as a vital necessity, are thrown into the trash, unable to properly stay on a queue at a shop’s door.
What else should we do? Sent to prison all those who still refuse to understand? Why is still so hard to understand that careless gathering of many people could turn out fatal for our family? I beg all those who are deployed in their resistance trenches and who account for 99 percent plus of the population: don’t be silent when staying on queue, but ask anyone who endangers your family’s life, breaking security distances, do the same thing you do! The police are not like the coronavirus that could be present everywhere and they can’t catch every offender, like this invisible enemy does! Just like we all have become soldiers in this war, we should also become policemen when someone around us, with his or her irresponsibility threatens our lives! It is not time for quarrelling, but it is time to raise awareness everywhere.
I believe, I very much believe that our destiny in this war lies in our hands, and without giving up from the resistance we can emerge without incurable wounds and piles of dead people from this war, as it is the case in the friendly and neighbouring Italy. Let’s fight to the end of this war, brothers and sisters, with all the abundance of the heart and that special Albanian strength that has ensured this nation’s survival even when threatened with the disintegration and assimilation by the great powers of this world. Let’s fight this war for the sake of our children and their grannies, for the sake of the small family locked down inside houses and for the sake of our big Albanian family, because history would not absolve us that we were defeated in a war fought without weapons or soldiers just because of our own faults!
Albanians’ God is great and may He give us the strength we need every hour and minute in this terrifying ordeal with ourselves!