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Ekonomia

Minister of Finance Ervin Mete: I will tell you when the salary increase for teachers and policemen will start, we are working on a new pension reform, here is the big change we are preparing with the World Bank and the IMF

Minister of Finance Ervin Mete: I will tell you when the salary increase for

The Minister of Economy and Finance, Ervin Mete commented on the economic situation in the country and not alone. During an interview for the "SOT" newspaper, Minister Mete revealed when the salaries for teachers and policemen will increase, while he also talked about the pension reform as well as the scheme and how free professions will be taxed. During this interview, he stated that the pension fund has doubled in the last 10 years, stressing that a pension reform is necessary. The number one of the Ministry of Finance even showed the big change they are preparing with the World Bank and the IMF as far as the pension scheme is concerned.

- Mr. Minister, a very ugly scene happened in the Assembly last week, but the biggest damage is done to the fact that the discussion of the 2024 draft budget is the one in which you are forced to make total transparency and it did not happen because this other thing happened. What more can you tell us?

Of course, it is neither pleasant nor pleasant from the minister's point of view and from the citizen's point of view. The good thing is that there is a discussion, but that the draft budget is not those 24 hours but starts in the first 3 months, it is a process that also has its own legal deadlines, since if it is not approved it is impossible to make the necessary expenses budgetary. We would like to discuss, but this is how it came.

- The new justice pays attention to public expenses and the way the central and local governments operate, but it is said that the surplus that is being created is because the annual realization of expenses is low, how true is this?

There are a number of factors for the surplus you are talking about. Starting from the measures that were taken to cope with a possible energy crisis, we still started from the previous situation until the end of the year we considered the situation as potentially risky for energy, but 12 billion dollars were budgeted approximately for a risk of possible. Last year, we discussed a multiple increase in the price of energy, which materialized in many countries, but also influenced inflation, while in our country inflation did not reach those levels. Another reason is that the government took a Eurobond that provided for a second buyback of the 2025 bonus, this is due to debt management. A eurobond was foreseen, and this week the buyback procedure has also materialized. We had a good realization of the income, we made a normative act by planning additional income at the end of the year that reflects this good performance of the income. So they are a set of factors that are related to the surplus. There is a need to have a faster progress of public investments, but also to absorb foreign funds more quickly.

- Is there a shyness in the administration regarding the realization of public investments, the transfer of funds, because of this situation, does it have a significant effect?

Important for us is that we are discussing surplus. I remember that a few years ago we had difficulties on the other side, so to discuss liquidity to open the year, we discussed the repayment of arrears, the realism of borrowing, we had difficult years with the earthquake, as well as with the pandemic. There are those projects that have progressed well and there are those that are slow. One of the key points of the president of the world bank was this because he calculated how long a bank project needed to be executed from the moment it was disbursed.

- But public investments for 2024 will have a significant increase, where will most of them go?

It is important that we have budgeted an increase in public investments for next year, the focus of next year is the budget of salary increase and welfare in the country. Public administration salaries are increased with the aim of increasing competition and encouraging the private sector, and there is a bill that in its total, starting from January 1, 2025, reaches 40 billion ALL. In the last two years, pensions have increased by about 300 million dollars, the fact that we go with the increase for public investments, this is something important.

-Regarding the real effect of growth, pensioners are most interested, since we have low pensions, why in Albania you don't get a pension level that is close to the contribution you have made to society, has the time come to do a real increase in pensions?

I believe that all of us who live in this country are sensitive to this layer. In the last ten years, the pension fund that we spend as a state on pensioners has doubled, the number of pensioners has increased by 25 percent. This time without contributions and sometimes not and those who are today have been affected by this, the salary that is taken as a reference at the time the pension is calculated is the salary at the time of retirement and the employees who will come out in the future with higher salaries will have even higher pensions. Has the moment come to make a second reform, because the first one was a healthy reform. We have a pension scheme that will depend on the contributions we will have when we retire. We have also opened a discussion with the World Bank and the IMF, but this discussion should include not only the pensioners that we consider vulnerable, but also the other layers that we have in Albania. In the end, the budget responds to the requests according to the possibilities, at this stage where we are about 2.5 billion euros per year that goes to these layers is not an insignificant percentage. We need to have more contributors to increase pensions.

- The opposition says that freelancers are being taxed more than everyone else?

Free professionals will have such a profit scheme from 1 lek to 14 million new lek per year will be taxed at 15 percent, that is, the profit and not the turnover that is calculated as the effective tax that we pay as employees that we achieve the 23 percent level. The effective tax is calculated close to this level. The government has a duty to properly administer the contributors' share, because the beneficiaries' share depends on their life expectancy. It seems that increasing contributors will be the possibility of a reform in the pension scheme.

- It has been said that there will be a salary increase for teachers, policemen because I have encountered several complaints from these categories because they say that the salary increase does not start from January 1, 2024, but much later, how true is this?

The salary increase starts from the middle of next year and will become effective from the middle of the year.

-One of the good news for the economic situation in the country is that Albania has come out of the gray list in terms of money laundering, meanwhile the majority had a concrete idea about the fiscal amnesty, can this be done or has the government given up on this initiative?

First, the economy in the country is experiencing a good economic moment. Considered stable going forward by the IMF and the World Bank. We also had an expansion of the tourism sector this year, which is expected to be stable in the future. As for the amnesty, it has been said that any initiative in this direction must be compatible with international standards in relation to similar initiatives that have been taken in other countries.

Interviewed by: Rigels Seliman

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