Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks during presentation of new development projects in the region of Fier:
Today, before coming to this gathering, we visited the Job Fair at the centre of Fier Municipality, with some 60 companies making available some 1194 new jobs. The range of jobs on offer included positions of various profiles, ranging from service-level to engineering jobs, including electronic engineers, mechanical engineers, environmental engineers, food engineers, technologists, and so on and so for.
It is important to underline that as for our employment programme through the national employment service, Fier is one of the regions with the highest number of people employed with the help of the employment service.
On the other hand, it is also important to point out that employment is at the core of whole investment package over the next three years in this region.
There were 406 projects worth of around $270 million launched and funded by the Albanian government in this region during its first term in office.
Likewise, we plan a considerable number of projects in the period 2018-2020, which, I am fully confident, will have a direct impact on this area’s economy, as well as significant impact on the national economy.
This area has all potential to be a main engine of the country’s economic development and, with the installation of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline’s compressors station, as well as with the further development of the hydrocarbons industry that stretches from this region further up to Shpirag Mountain, Fier with undoubtedly become our country’s industrial hub. This will definitely translate into more new jobs, stronger economy and better perspective, for the young people in particular.
On the other hand, it is also quite clear that Fier has completely untapped tourism potential, if we were to take into account the entire still undeveloped area and where we are seeking to promote a fast yet sustainable development in best interest of the next generations and decades.
So, the construction of a new road segment linking Fier and Seman is a priority project. As the Director of the Development Fund stated, we have already launched the bidding process for the road’s construction project and we are at the same time working with the Municipality of Fier on a series of concrete proposals for tourism investments in the Seman coast, stretching from Darëzeze and further up.
On the other hand, I know quite well that the Fier bypass project has turned into a gangrene and great distress to everyone living in that area, as well as to the numerous tourists there. This will certainly be the last year of this distress as we were forced to terminate the existing contracts, a terrible legacy of the past with firms failing to pay each other and blocking progress of works on construction of both the Fier bypass and the Vlora bypass projects.
We have resumed the procedure with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and we have already concluded the initial prequalification phase and we will be likely ready to commence and continue work until the Fier bypass completes ahead of the next tourist season.
The talks focused on construction of the agricultural ring of the Myzeqe area, but, beyond the strategic importance of the Myzeqe’s agricultural ring, I believe it is worth focusing on tourism, considering not only making this blessed area we are in more effective, but also promoting agritourism development. It is an area with totally untapped huge potential to turn natural beauty, tradition and hospitality into more employment and real development of the household economy.
To this end, the government has prepared a support package for everyone choosing to invest in agritourism and it is not about major investments, but individual and family investments in their existing own homes, in existing small farms to create the conditions for accommodation and hospitality facilities by benefiting from a completely different fiscal regime with a six percent Value Added Tax rate and a five percent profit tax rate.
These are two measures I think will stir the imagination and muster courage of all of those who are unable to earn enough and generate the desired income by dealing with the traditional agricultural activity, but their houses and properties are located in strategic positions in terms of nature, the agricultural and livestock production and instead of struggling to sell the meagre resources and products on the sidewalks it would be better for them to have them the others coming to visit them at their guesthouses and farms.
Agritourism has been a major success story across the Mediterranean Europe and the current few examples in Albania show agritourism is a successful business model both in terms of profitability and efficiency and a tool to move out of poverty. This area has fantastic potential for agritourism development and the government has developed a special program to provide direct funding for the agritourism structures through the Agricultural and Rural Development Agency. The agribusiness entrepreneurs will receive a government grant to support construction of a new guesthouse or a small farm.
The European Union’s support program has allocated 11 euros in funding for those choosing to invest in agritourism. It is interest-free funding. These are government grants provided to anyone seeking to invest in agritourism.
Such a regime will be applied until 2021 in a bid to give a strong development impetus to agrotourism, since we are deeply convinced this program will become the main engine for the development of the rural household economy across the country.
I won’t make any further comments on the gas pipeline or the high voltage 400kV line from Fier to Elbasan and Bitola, practically a power interconnection line linking Albania with Macedonia. I won’t also make any further comments on an old wound, which is the oil refining, as with a new agreement in place and serious commitment to addressing the matter, we are hopefully on the right track. However, I tend to act cautiously in speaking on these, because experience has taught me that I have to be cautiously optimistic about enhancing the refinery’s capacities, about boosting first security and then the production.
A know well that most parts of this territory faces water supply scarcity. Providing an ultimate solution to the water supply problems remains a top priority. Significant progress has been made in the municipality of Fier and smaller municipal units in the area. Major investments are planned in construction of new water supply systems, as well as in upgrading and rehabilitation of the existing water distribution networks, addressing first the acute problems in Patos, Roskovec and many other rural areas.
The Deputy Finance and Economy Minister, who is who directly tasked with monitoring employment and vocational education in the country, provided an outline of the government investments in vocational education. The truth is that we still face a huge gap, although the number of students attending vocational education has considerably increased considerably and the investments have increased and the support for vocational education structures has grown. If you were to visit the Fier Job Fair you would have found out that skilled workers and the professionally qualified human resources are the main shortcomings of the private companies.
The renowned expression suggesting that there are jobs, but no skilled professionals to meet the labour market demands is the one you would randomly hear almost at every company, claiming that they have a range of jobs on offer, but there are no skilled workers to take up them. Welders from as far as Thailand, Turkey, Pakistan and all over the world are currently working in the construction of the National Football Arena in Albania. They are also working in major investments as part of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline. And this happens, because Albanian labour market lacks skilled welders. Albanian companies are paying welders coming from Thailand, Pakistan, Turkey or China. Albstar is one of the most fantastic Albanian companies. It is a Fier-based company, a high-technology production and exporting company that needs welders.
Students attending vocational education stand 35 percent higher employment chances compared to the high-school graduates and 20 percent higher than the university graduates. The vocational training graduates s get a job more easily and are paid more than those with high-school diplomas, because they know to do something. In this aspect, we will work hard to further strengthen and expand the range of opportunities of the vocational education in Fier, keeping also on investing in construction of several primary and high-school buildings in the whole district.
We have already identified 300 healthcare centres which are a legacy of the lamentable state of the country’s public health care system over the past 20 years. All 300 health facilities will be reconstructed within this term in office, 80 of them to be reconstructed within this year.
We are closely working with the Mayor of Fier – and I avail myself of the opportunity to congratulate him for the excellent work he is doing, because it is unlikely that radical transformation Fier has gone through go unnoticed to the naked eye – to press ahead with the efforts to address the flood-related situation. Work is underway in collaboration with the Turkey’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry to develop two important projects, one on Vjosa River and the other on Buna River, designed to build flood protection capacities and fully eliminate that part of the floods triggered due to lack of such capacities.
I am very pleased that an absurd polemic over the waste treatment, largely incited by political charlatans and manipulators of all kinds and not only political ones, is already over and Fier will now have a modern waste management and processing plant which will also generate electricity.
What people should well understand whenever listening to these charlatans is that meanwhile trash and urban waste which are out of control keep on causing long-term problems including the groundwater and agricultural land pollution. A waste-to-energy production plant has been built right at the heart of Vienna and all European Union members states tend to give up landfills that cover large territories and have a short processing cycle through the waste incineration and generate electricity.
So what is going to happen in Fier too, just like in Elbasan, Tirana and elsewhere across the country, since these are investment that take time and cost, is that we will finally put waste management under control in an area with agriculture and agricultural production being a top priority. We will finally protect the environment from pollution and toxins and the waste related consequences.
This is the truth and the local residents around that investment not only do not have to worry about what is happening, but rather they must breathe freely as they will finally get rid of the invisible day-to-day poisoning.
Another important element I would like to highlight at this meeting is the 100 villages programme, under which we will develop 100 models of sustainable rural development. Nine villages in the district of Fier have been selected to be part of the programme to build integrated examples of transformation as part of tourism development.
Tourism is our future.
Tourism is the main engine of our natural economy and therefore we should increasingly focus on tourism development by harmonizing policies and investments from the country’s coast to the Apls in north, from the urban areas to the remotest rural parts, by combining traditional tourism with the agritourism.
We will keep on developing the urban rebirth projects, combined with rural rebirth projects, because we are well aware of how much the infrastructure of all kinds is needed, especially in areas outside the municipalities, but there is still a need within the municipalities.
Thank you very much for your attention!
I am quite confident and I believe there is the evidence for everyone to see what we promised when we adopted the administrative territorial reform, saying that with the government support we would be able to do more than what it had been done during all years combined, either in Fier or in other district of the country.