Cheap laughs and more expensive laughs

I saw this on the ground while I was walking Cooper today.

Page 6 of today’s Shekulli (Century) carries the headline “Bilanci i qeverisë Berisha asnjë fjalë për krizë energjetike“, which basically translates out to “balance sheet of the government, Berisha with no word about the energy crisis.” Yesterday, Prime Minister Berisha of the Democratic Party delivered an address on the last two years of his government, and he said that there had been nothing but success in many areas, such as the war against organized crime, improvements in national security, reduction in corruption, and increase in investment. He cites the dismantling of 142 criminal groups and organizations; the reduction in duties and taxes, including the 50% reduction in small business taxes; and the 6% increase in the economy. Somehow, the daily electricity blackouts – about 6 hours in Tirana and longer in the countryside – and the lack of safe drinking water didn’t make it into the speech.

(Also not mentioned is the fact that approximately 200,000 households don’t pay their water bills. This makes upkeep of the system a chicken-and-egg thing: you won’t pay your bill if you don’t get drinkable water, but as a result, the utility can’t afford to give you drinkable water, whereupon you don’t pay your bill.)

Another article in the same paper discusses how the government made four illegal awards for the construction of the Rrëshen-Kalimash road, which was supposed to be a $400-600 million road that was to have been completed by now. The road is not yet complete, and the budget has increased by €600 million. (Shades of the Big Dig?)

It turns out that the Minister of Transportation at the time was the current Foreign Minister, the young and energetic Lulëzim Basha, who certainly impressed me when Abby and I heard him speak in Washington DC about Albania’s economic success He has refused the General Prosecutor’s summons twice on the grounds that he is “too busy with work.” Shekulli describes the prosecutor’s file on Basha as documenting his incompetence and “dizzying” misuses of power, which has cost the state €161 million. Par for the course.