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We will do for students more than all previous governments combined

Government spokesperson, also Minister of State for Relations with Parliament, at first press conference:

Greetings everyone,

Thank you for coming!

This is the first and hopefully not the last communication with you as in my capacity as the minister in charge of relations with the parliament I will also serve as the government spokeswoman.

So, with you, but also through you, I would like to communicate with the public, enjoying at the same time your kindness regarding all government initiatives, bills and acts that have a direct impact on the citizens lives. It is important that we establish this kind of communication together so that the citizens receive full information on the government initiatives that affect their lives, but also increase the transparency process at all levels.

Likewise, in my capacity as minister in charge of relations with parliament, I am also tasked with hosting public consultations, including the media and citizens, on drafting various initiatives in compliance with the European Union best practice in framework of freedom of information law, since, as you all know, all public authorities are obliged to provide information to the media and citizens over the documents they produce or preserve. When this happens, so when certain public authorities want to keep the documents that they produce or have issued for themselves, thanks to our communication, we will make sure that these acts are made public by the media as well.

This is a step as part of efforts to enhance transparency as well as the obligation for the public authorities to be accountable to the public and the media.

To conclude, allow me to briefly comment on the opposition’s reaction to the statement issued by the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy Belinda Balluku over the decision to cancel the public private partnership procedures for Thumane – Kashar highway and channel this fiscal availability to the Minister of education under the Pact for the University.

The decision gave rise to a series of speculations over the past two days and even a chart was presented, suggesting that no funding was earmarked by 2019 state budget to support construction of this highway. Indeed, it is regrettable that such an unfair political struggle takes place at a moment when the Pact for the University and the level of growth or impact we need to improve university life should be higher not only by the government, but by all to finally make the transformation of university life possible.

I express my regret for the opposition, but I am also pleased for being given this opportunity to explain exactly this mechanism that has been misunderstood, but also deliberately distorted through defamations that are frequently made and issued to the public opinion.

Namely, the Arber Road project was included on that self-discrediting chart drawn by the opposition, claiming that no funding was projected in the 2019 state budget for construction of this road. Indeed, the construction cost for the Arberi Road project has been covered by the construction company itself to date, and the government will start contributing this year. This is the basic principle of a public and private partnership and this is the reason why PPPs are not crimes, as the opposition propaganda claims, but instead they are incredible tools to develop projects that wouldn’t have been implemented otherwise.

The procedure on the Thumane-Kashar highway project was about to be presented to the government and the construction works were set to kick off shortly after by the private firm, which, I reiterate, would receive not a single penny from the state budget during this year, until it completed the percentage of works as stipulated by the contract. This is the truth!

A question to help the opposition, but also to clarify public opinion:

Was the Milot – Balldren road project included on that table?

No. Because there is no funding earmarked by the 2019 state budget.

What about the Orikum – Llogara road?

Again, the answer is no. There is no funding projected in the 2019 state budget to support construction of these two roads, just like it is the case for the Thumane-Kashar highway project, as the opposition claims.

Works to construct these two roads will start very soon, because the official procedures are completed and they will be built to the planned extend 100 percent with the company’s money, while the state will start its contributions year after year, according to the agreed financial calendar.

Thus, three years since the start of construction works, Arberi Road will complete and payment to the private firm will be settled in traches for 13 years. The same procedure will be applied for construction of all roads.

In short, our opposition members were completely wrong when they claimed that no money was allocated for the project in question and it is a situation one can cry and laugh at the same time, because not long ago they used to claim that the project was a mega theft, whereas no money is provided to support for the project today. Indeed, it was neither a theft yesterday, nor a words game today. These roads will be a reality and they will serve this country’s citizens.

The Thumane-Kashar Highway PPP procedure has been cancelled since yesterday and the fiscal space available to this highway PPP will be channeled to the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth for construction of the new university campus, as well as other new arrangements in the university life and infrastructure.

We promise what we can do and we definitely do what we promise. This cabinet is also a fruit of the student protest and this government will do for students more than all previous administrations combined.

-Since we were talking about the procedure on road construction project, would please clarify it because you said that the state budget intervenes at a later stage, since it is the private firm that covers entire project cost. Can you provide an exact figure on this fiscal space that will be transferred to the Ministry of Education and the higher education system?

For good reason, at the start of my presentation, I also noted my capacity as government spokesperson that will provide for the communication with the media and real time provision of whole information under the freedom of public information law, which, for the sake of truth, has not been equally enforced by all public authorities and if you have any questions over the government’s or other authorities’ financial calendars, please forward first a request, as stipulated by the law, also send a request to the ministries and should no reply is provided – although I am sure you will receive a response from Minister Balluku and other authorities – then we will certainly intervene together in order to make sure that a reply is provided.

So you can’t provide an accurate figure as minister and government spokeswoman?

I even pointed out some concrete road projects, so a financial calendar has been envisaged for all roads projected to be built under PPP contracts, including the Arberi Road project, which will be settled in tranche payments over the next 13 years. The same procedure will be applied for the Milot-Balldren road, Orikum-Llogara segment, and so on and so forth. So, the financial calendars determine the years when the payments will be made. What I actually emphasized, and I believe you are referring to it, is the fact that the private companies will cover the construction costs until it fully completes the part of works as stipulated by the PPP contract and the government then starts providing the due state budget funding.

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Public Administration and Human Rights, Mr. Ulsi Manja, stated a day ago that he identifies some constitutional loopholes in regards to the President’s second nominee for the post of the head of the Supreme State Audit. Has the Socialist majority made a decision on the parliament vote about this candidate, so, will the majority back or reject him?

Mr. Manja’s opinion is a result of his function as the Committee chairman. We trust Manja’s judgement and that’s why he has been entrusted with the task of chairing that Committee. We will examine the candidacies and will then act in compliance with the law. In this case, Mr. Manja has highlighted the fact that the law stipulates that the candidate for the post of the head of the Supreme State Audit should have experience in the area of finance. This is the only aspect Mr. Manja has noted and the President, most likely, hasn’t taken into consideration when proposing honourable Mr. Shaqiri for the post.

A question about the Thumane-Kashar highway project. To understand it right, a certain funding has been forecast to be allocated once the road completes, yet the project has been cancelled. What is the exact amount of funding projected for 2019?

We need to distinguish between the two. The PPP procedure on Thumane-Kashar highway was about to complete. So no state budget money has been spent so far and no funding was to be provided should the company failed to honour the part of the contract. That’s why PPPs are an extraordinary tool to invest in major projects, without incurring a burden on the state budget and without being sure that the project will certainly complete. That’s it. This completely differs from the propaganda that has proclaimed such projects as public crimes, of course because of the fact that these projects are already underway. Construction of Arberi Road was not our promise, but it was a promise made by those who never kept it and it will now complete within three years.

Does the cancellation of PPP contract imply legal consequences?

The cancellation has no legal implications. It is a decision that has been made yesterday. Quite the contrary, it has many positive social and economic effects, because we believe it is better to channel such a funding to support construction of the university campus, rehabilitation of infrastructure at Student City and other university issues instead of construction of that road.

How the funding will be transferred?

I can’t say it here in my first press statement, but I believe it suffices to explain details. If you have more questions about the Thumane-Kashar highway, you can address to the respective ministry.

The President of the Republic of Albania, Mr. Ilir Meta, has returned the bill on cadastre, an initiative by the Council of Ministers. Will you examine or reject the President’s decree?

We will examine it according to the parliamentary procedure and it will be then forwarded to parliament for a vote.

Thank you very much! I welcome any communication with you and I am looking forward to fruitfully working with you.

Thank you!