The online meeting of the Council of Ministers:
PM Edi Rama: First of all, I would like to focus on the alternative communication channel we have launched to handle all kind of complaints that have nothing to do with the medical emergency line 127 – made available to suspected coronavirus cases – but also to address all sorts of problems concerning people through the Co-Governance Platform. As always, but more than ever, quick response is needed this time. We’ve simplified the Platform to the maximum. People just need to access it, leave a note and their phone number. Then they receive calls from the entire co-governance team located here, but the information is also forwarded to each of you. Immediate response is needed!
I have had a number of phone calls with many people. They express their concern over seemingly minor problems, but they are serious problems concerning people in their daily life and that need to be addressed. One of the problems I and the Co-Governance team have encountered from day one, often on the comments forwarded to my page, concerns the bonus rent granted to families in Durres. The Minister of Finance has made available an amount of one billion lek, sufficient to urgently address all complaints over the bonus rent in Durres and an investigation should be launched to find out why this problem is encountered in Durres alone.
The Minister of State Arben Ahmetaj: A fund of one billion lek has been allocated to the Ministry of Finance under the government’s Normative Act for a medium-term period. Together with the Ministry of Finance we have asked local government authorities in the Municipality of Durres to review the list of people entitled to benefit bonus rent and make sure the lists are legally correct. I am confident the Ministry of Finance will allocate due portion of the funds in the coming months. It is now considered a solved problem and it is just a matter of procedures.
PM Edi Rama: Acceleration and completion of the procedure should be encouraged, because these are just complaints and the only advice I have propose them is not to open the door to the house owners, because the latter will receive the rent payment in full. Another reason they should not open the door is they should heed the measures to prevent spread of Covid-19. However, this problem needs to be solved.
The second issue, since we discussing the housing problem, we have repeatedly stated and we will stick to our pledge that all those waiting for their new homes to be built will not have to wait until the current invisible enemy is gone and then see what we will be doing. Where are we in terms of the procedure?
Minister Arben Ahmetaj: Tirana Municipality and the Albanian Development Fund have both launched the due procedures. The Albanian Development Fund is set to complete the bidding procedure this Friday and will then immediately move to the financial bid so that to go on then with other respective procedures and meet the December 31 you have already promised. On the other hand, Tirana Municipality is currently evaluating the procedure that completed a day ago, the documentation submitted by private companies, but local authorities have yet to be convinced whether the bidding companies meet the documentation criteria. So, based on the discussion we have had with them, they may and should actually reopen the process for another 10-day period starting on Friday. The bidding process will reopen to allow other serious companies that meet the required documentation criteria. The process continues normally.
PM Edi Rama: Zero tolerance policy should be adopted when it comes to quality! As promised, we will definitely build better homes for the quake-affected families.
Another complaint concerns private kindergartens. The private kindergartens, that I believe are considered small business operators, have been closed. The private kindergarten employees are now in their homes. I would like to clarify whether these workers are included in the economic plan.
Minister Arben Ahmetaj: All businesses with an annual turnover less than 14 million lek are automatically included in the new financial relief package. The decision is being prepared and is set to complete tonight and based on the procedure a verification process of all procedures will kick off by early April according to the Council of Ministers’ decision and based on what you have publicly stated. The Council of Ministers’ decision will be formally proposed by the Ministry of Finance and the Minister of State and the document will be ready tonight.
PM Edi Rama: The next issue concerns the Ministry of Finance regarding the pension payments. We have to make a pensions indexation and an amount of around 20 million will be allocated for the pension beneficiaries. When the indexation of pensions will complete?
Finance Minister Anila Denaj: We have promised for this to happen in April. Work is already underway. We have earmarked a fund of 2.5 billion lek for the pension indexation in 2020. The process is on and I believe the process will complete by the time we have promised it to happen.
PM Edi Rama: When exactly?
Finance Minister Denaj: In April.
PM Edi Rama: April is a long month, longer than the month of April in previous years and the years to come. So, when exactly is this going to conclude?
Finance Minister Denaj: We will complete the process in first week of April.
PM Edi Rama: This is it!
The next issue concerns the Ministry of Finance again and it has to do with the submission of the balance sheets so that confusion with the Tax Administration is avoided. To this end, you can clarify on this matter, since there are many people watching us now.
Finance Minister Denaj: Actually we have postponed the deadline for submission of the balance sheets until July 2020 to allow for the merging of the two periods and the submission of online balances to the NBC. So, the deadline for submission of balances is postponed from the end of this month until end of July. We are preparing the respective Council of Ministers’ decision will forward it to the government tomorrow.
Minister of State Ahmetaj: I want to clarify that the deadline for the submission of liabilities, profit taxes and social insurance contribution will absolutely not be postponed.
PM Edi Rama: This should be very clear to everyone and I am availing myself of this opportunity to reiterate that these two things have nothing to do with each other. Taxes and social insurance contribution should be paid otherwise we won’t be able to move forward in this war, but instead we would end up in a deep hole where the coronavirus won’t find us. The electricity bills will be equally paid. Whoever fails to pay the electricity bill will have their service connection disconnected. Failure to settle the electricity bills would create a negative chain effect on all the chains of finance and then we would be unable to adequately address the war needs, but not only that, but we can end up in collapse. So the payment of electricity bills is non-negotiable, just as basic obligations are non-negotiable. These are things that cannot be negotiated. We have pardoned the outstanding dues with penalties. We wrote off the delayed payments for everyone. Now everybody is in a relation to the actuality, everyone pays according to consumption. Whoever says I can’t pay the electricity bill, because they consume more than what they can pay, then he or she should care to consume less. There is no other option. We cannot afford triggering a crisis in the country’s energy sector again, because the implications would be tremendous. This would force us to use state budget money to fund the Power Distribution Operator. But we cannot cut spending earmarked for the war costs. This is impossible.
Please Sander, I want you provide a brief report on the commitment of the prefects in all districts of the country.
Interior Minister Sandër Lleshi: Since the humanitarian operations were launched to provide assistance to the needy people, including elderly people who do not rely on their relatives and need health care services, or other vulnerable social categories, including people with disabilities, a large number of families and individuals in this social category have been provided with assistance by the state institutions and the aid includes food packages, medicine supplies, pension distribution, as well as provision of other basic services. As such, it is a large complexity of measures that being implemented thanks to the commitment of many central government and local government institutions all over the country. The humanitarian operation is being coordinated by the Ministry of Defence and by prefects at a local level. Encouraging figures indicate the volume of work that has been done to date. More than 40,000 citizens have benefited aid so far. Thousands of other people are being delivered food and medicine supplies today. It is an operation taking place in all districts all over the country with the provided assistance consisting of food packages, medicine supplies and other relief supplies and basic services provided to older people, who should stay at home as older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19 infection.
The number of people who have been provided relief supplies according to the districts:
Berat: 2238 people.
Aid packages have been delivered to a total of 26, 778 families all over the country. Medicine supplies have been provided to more than 5732 people. Meanwhile, other basic services have been delivered to more than 5559 citizens until last night.