A partial audit of Albania’s finances suggests that the country’s public debt is much higher than official figures show./
By Besart Likmeta/
An inspection of finances by the High State Auditing Office at the end of 2012 has uncovered hundreds of millions of euro in unpaid bills owed to public contractors.
“The unpaid obligations for road construction projects amount to at least 43 billion lek (€300 million),” the report, leaked to the daily newspaper Shqip, says.
The Finance Ministry disputes the figure, maintaining that it owes construction companies only 7 billion lek (€50 million).
According to the International Monetary Fund, IMF, Albania’s public debt has now reached 61 per cent of GDP, which is the highest in the Balkan region, though still relatively low by wider European standards.
The Socialist-led coalition, which won the June 23 parliamentary elections, has expressed concern over the state of Albania’s finances, complaining especially of the poor rate of collection of taxes in the first five months of 2013.
Experts suggest that Albania might collect €320 million less in taxes than was planned in 2013, while continuing to run a high budget deficit.
Although economic growth this year is expected to be positive, at 1.8 per cent of GDP, rising public debt and poor tax collection rates are causing concern.
The World Bank has called on the new centre-left government to seek IMF aid in order to consolidate its finances. It also urges the government to curb public investments.
“It’s very important that late payments to the private sector are settled, and… there is no fiscal room for major investments,” the World Bank country manager for Albania, Ksenia Lvovsky, said in July.