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ATCI: Albanian Times, 98-02-02

The Albanian Times (by AlbAmerica Trade & Consulting International) Directory - Previous Article

From: AlbAmerica Trade & Consulting International <http://www.worldweb.net/~ww1054/>

Albanian Times Vol. IV, No. 5 February 2, 1998


CONTENTS

  • [01] Minister Says Crime Aims at Keeping Foreign Investors Away
  • [02] EU Promises More Aid for Albania
  • [03] Pyramid Creditors May Lose Much of Their Money
  • [04] Deloitte & Touche: VEFA Cannot Pay Back Creditors
  • [05] Wages, Pensions to Increase by 20 Percent
  • [06] Albania Economy May Grow 10 Percent in 98
  • [07] Efforts to Ease Unemployment
  • [08] Fountain Oil and CanArgo Energy Inc. Join Forces
  • [09] Cigarette Prices Up
  • [10] Minister Says Millions Needed for Tirana's Roads

  • [01] Minister Says Crime Aims at Keeping Foreign Investors Away

    TIRANA, January 28 - Organized crime aims at taking foreign investors out of Albania Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said in the wake of killing of an Italian businessman in Tirana. Stefano Rossi, operator of a shie factory in Tirana was shot dead while driving to work. Police arrested one of the suspected gunnmen. "Organised crime and smuggling are being put under control, but the combat against them should continue seriously," Ceka said. Ceka said the murder could have been prevented if the businessman would have accepted a police offer for escort. He promised closer attention to the protection of foreign investors.

    [02] EU Promises More Aid for Albania

    TIRANA, January 29 - The European Union has promised an additional 52 million ECUs ($56.6 million) in aid for Albania and backed the coalition government's reform initiatives, Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said commenting on a meeting with EU ministers. The 52 million ECUs comprised 42 million pledged under the EU's 1998 PHARE development programme and the confirmation of 10 million announced last December to build hospitals and orphanages. The EU has already promised millions of dollars in aid to Albania, to upgrade its roads, schools, hospitals and infrastructure which were neglected during years of isolation. Milo said the European Commission would review its assistance to Albania in February before accelerating its aid. The European Commission has approved an aid package worth ECU150m for the construction 8th highway corridor expected to

    link several Balkan major cities Durres-Skopje-Sofia-Istanbul. The funds are expected to be used for the construction of Durres-Rrogozhina segment of the highway that is expected to start next March.

    [03] Pyramid Creditors May Lose Much of Their Money

    TIRANA, January 30 - Officials in Tirana said that Albanians who invested in pyramid schemes stand to lose much of their money because the funds were mismanaged. The chief controller of the government investigation into the five such firms, Farudin Arapi said a preliminary report by administrators Deloitte & Touche showed their money had been mismanaged. He was referring to all five companies -- Vefa, Kamberi, M.Leka, Cenaj and Silva. No comment was immediately available from Vefa Holding, the largest of the funds, but in an earlier interview, its owner Vehbi Alimucaj urged his creditors to stick by him and assured them he would pay up. Arapi called the pledges "absurdities". Arapi said auditors Coopers & Lybrand would know by June how much money was left and whether the firms were pyramid schemes. He said the commission would ask for prosecutors and the secret service to ascertain whether the firms had moved money out of former communist Albania, which is Europe's poorest country. ``From looking at the documents, we think there have been financial transactions with foreign banks, mainly in Italy and Greece,'' Arapi said. He said a possible distribution of what is left by the start of the second half of the year was under consideration. About 80, 000 people had invested in Vefa Holding alone. Arapi said Vefa had considerably overstated the value of its properties.

    [04] Deloitte & Touche: VEFA Cannot Pay Back Creditors

    TIRANA, January 29 - Deloitte & Touche said VEFA has too few assets to pay back its creditors. "VEFA operates with only some small businesses, without making any considerable profit," said Robert Cameron-Ellis, head of a Deloitte & Touche administration team in Tirana. "There are less than $7m in the banks, and these are very few to pay the creditors." Cameron-Ellis said that each month this sum is reduced by some $200,000, for operative expenses. "Moreover, no deposits have been made in the banks on behalf of VEFA so far, which means that the company is not generating profits," Cameron-Ellis said. VEFA reportedly owes around $300m to some 80,000 creditors. "We don't believe this situation is going to change in the future," he said said. "I think that Silva has many chances to make some quick payments," Cameron-Ellis said.

    [05] Wages, Pensions to Increase by 20 Percent

    TIRANA, January 30 - Albania will increase half a million public sector wages and pensions by an average of 20 percent starting February 16. The basic public wage would rise to 5,700 leks ($38) a month from 4,400 leks ($29) previously. According to the last official figures from the Institute of Statistics, Albania's average public sector wage was 8,638 leks ($57) in 1996. Police would enjoy the highest wage hike of 50-80 percent, followed by the judiciary and finance staff with 50 and 30 percent increases respectively. The greatest hikes will be for those police units which are most exposed to crime.

    [06] Albania Economy May Grow 10 Percent in 98

    TIRANA, January 26 - Albania's economy stands to grow by 10 percent in 1998 provided the authorities can maintain order, the World Bank said. Carlos Elbirt, head of the World Bank resident mission in Tirana, said the country's economy had regained some stability after the anarchy in early 1997. "The economy has recovered surprisingly fast and now seems to be growing. Inflation has come down and tax revenues are increasing," he said. Some private sector activities, such as construction and services industries, were now booming, but Albania needed to strengthen its legal institutions and law enforcement agencies to continue to attract foreign investment. "It needs to strengthen the public sector by paying highly qualified people more, while gradually looking for ways to re-locate excess personnel to other sectors," he said. Elbirt said the World Bank would soon be approving a $10 million loan to create a scheme guaranteeing non- commercial risks in Albania, which would help the private sector. "If an investor has stocks, merchandise, or he is paying credit for a plant and there is a political disruption in the country, the damage related to those events will be covered," he said.

    [07] Efforts to Ease Unemployment

    TIRANA, January 31 - The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has launched a campaign aimed at evaluation the unemployment situation. "Based on these data, the government will compile an efficient employment plan," the ministry said. Official figures indicate that there are over 300 000 unemployed people in Albania. The Ministry has plans to arrange seasonal employment agreement with Greece and Italy to ease the jobless situation.

    [08] Fountain Oil and CanArgo Energy Inc. Join Forces

    OSLO, January 27 - Fountain Oil Incorporated which has an onshore drilling project in Albania, has executed a letter of intent with CanArgo Energy Inc. under which a business combination would be effected on approximately a 50/50 basis taking into account anticipated dilution. To implement the business combination, CanArgo would prepare and submit for CanArgo shareholder approval a Plan of Arrangement under which CanArgo would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Fountain. CanArgo is a Canadian public company. The combined company would also pursue Fountain's Stynawske project in Ukraine and the Gorisht-Kocul project in Albania together with further exploration in Georgia. The head office of the combined company would be located in Calgary, Canada.

    [09] Cigarette Prices Up

    TIRANA, January 29 - Cigarette prices increased considerably during the last 7 days. The favourite L&M was sold at Lek95-100 from Lek80 a week ago. Karellia Slims went up from Lek90 to Lek110 while prices of expensive cigarettes have remained unchanged. Some sellers blame put the blame on the wholesalers but others say the increase is artificial. Financial experts claim however that the price increase shows that the smugglers' reserves are running out. An amount of over five millions packs seized recently by the police and sold in auction by the government has not gone into the market yet. The only licensed company that had the exclusivity of Philip Morris in Albania left the country for "lack of fair competition."

    [10] Minister Says Millions Needed for Tirana's Roads

    TIRANA, January 29 - About $100m are needed to rebuilt the streets of Tirana, Gaqo Apostoli, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works said. He was commenting on detailed study of the roads' situation in the Albanian capital. He said work would start to rehabilitate the almost inexistent streets of Tirana but the money needed equals the amount of the state budget for the whole1998. The minister said Tirana is entering the new century with destroyed roads and minimal possibilities to face

    the increasing nedds of transportation.


    This material was reprinted with permission of AlbAmerica Trade and Consulting International (ATCI). For more information on ATCI and the Albanian Times, please write to AlbaTimes@aol.com.

    Copyright © ATCI, 1998


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