“Territorial” causes a debate in the Commission, Korreshi: The villages are left fallow, Mziu clashes with the civil society expert
The Territorial Reform Commission started work today. During the hearing with representatives of civil society organizations, the two democratic MPs Bledion Nallbani and Saimir Korreshi asked some questions for Mrs. Albana Dhimitri, Executive Director at the Institute of Public and Private Policies.
Referring to a study on per capita income from the change of the territorial map, Dhimitri said that the income is much higher at the municipal level than before the reform.
Democratic deputy Bledjon Nallbati emphasized that the panorama presented by Dhimitri was not realistic.
Nallbati: I have two direct questions. He said that the revenues of the municipalities have increased. Do you see this as better efficiency of the municipalities or maybe it is related to the increase of taxes and local fees. Second, you say let’s not deal with the salary fund. Today there are more parasites consuming Albanian taxpayers’ money in local government units. Today, there are many employees who receive their salary without knowing what their job is, without going to work for a single day.
While MP Saimir Korreshi presented in the session some problems that the country’s municipalities are facing.
Korreshi: Have you ever been in the field to see? Second, is it normal that 14 municipalities were merged into 12 existing municipalities? If you went down to the field, what is offered in the administrative units? I am not referring to Tirana, we who sleep down there are in trouble. Now you have digitized them, but those deserts have not come down to Lushnje for several years, not to have digitization. They plant watermelons there. How is it possible that today there are more employees in the administration even though we have digitized the services? Do you know that Lushnja’s schools have been closed since 2015 and that 5 primary classes teach in one class with one teacher. This co-governance law adds or removes this autonomy. Now where is the quality of service? Has the quality of service increased in other municipalities? Did you make a report? Villages have been left barren.
Mrs. Dhimitri answered the deputies by bringing to attention 2 elements that are connected and separate from each other.
Dimitri: There is a concept called the minimum national standard. The state creates those laws and obligates the municipalities to create the minimum national standard. Each citizen benefits from a minimum standard of services and municipalities compete with each other to achieve these standards. Debate does not return to the salary fund. Conceptualizing a reform is about where you look at local government, it’s about the role you want to give to local government.
Also, the deputy of the Democratic Party, Xhelal Mziu, a member of the commission, was involved in a debate with Albana Dhimitri, Executive Director at the Institute of Public and Private Policies.
According to Dhimitri, 61 municipalities were established to stimulate the economy and increase investments. For the civil society expert, the increase in the number of municipalities is not worth it. But according to Mziu, the expert is drafting and not analyzing, or answering questions.
Mziu: The gap between the salary in the state and that in the private sector has increased. The average is somewhere between 8%-8.25%, in Albania the difference is 24%. So in relation to the EU, they are three times more. The number of employees and the salary fund have doubled. In 2014 it was said that the property tax would be primary. The reason that was used was that within the first term this would capture a value of 0.8% in relation to GDP. But today we are where we were before 2014 and this cause was not achieved, why is this tax not being collected? Is it related to the cadastre? Is it related to the election?
The main goal in the territorial divisions is to focus on the service being close to the citizens. But this division that we have after 2014 has a disproportion of services, depopulating the local units. Why is the geographical aspect invalid? Last, I did not hear your opinion in relation to the local government we have today. The local government must have independence, and in my opinion, the independence and autonomy of the local government has been more curtailed than before. We had 309 municipalities, with a personal number of 10-15 employees. That public money in my judgment was not used in the right way. The salary fund must be judged from the point of view of the administration and public services provided by that administrative unit. However, the essence of a reform is not maintained by looking at the salary fund. The result is the quality of the service, as it is the final derivative, which gives the answer as to whether the reform has been implemented well or not. The wealth tax has been collected more than it has been in absolute value.
Dimitri: Today the value of the property has increased. Today municipalities generate more income thanks to the property tax is not discussed. Ask the Ministry of Finance about how much it is in %, but it is greater in value. The reform has influenced this good organization and revenue collection. Why was 61 Municipality decided? To foster economies of scale and increase investment. It is naive to think that Municipalities are only there to collect revenue and pave roads. This is my opinion as an expert. In the Netherlands, local government autonomy is perfect even though mayors are appointed, not elected. Let’s sit down and discuss concretely, municipality by municipality, to see where it falters. But not to have an increase in the number of municipalities, it is not worth it! The performance of the municipalities is many times better than before 2014. Decentralization has increased functions, but the problems of local units with elements of health or others are not increasing. But let’s see who works best, how we can strengthen these points that are efficient.
Mr asks for the word: It is not a civil society.
Denaj: Don’t be the noisemaker, let Ms. Dhimitri finish speaking, as it is not ethical to talk about Ms. Dhimitri
Mziu: I directed you with four questions
Denaj: Let me finish her speech…
Mziu: He is drafting, not analyzing, and he is not answering questions
Dimitri: Local government is not independent, but it should be autonomous. Let’s discuss how autonomous it should be. It should be discussed function by function, service by service, revenue by revenue. The discussion should not be political, but factual.