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the October 2001 issue of World Press Review
in Albania: Up from the Bottom
Alfred Peza, Klan (independent
weekly magazine), Tirana, Albania, July 30, 2001.
one year after former President Sali Berishas departure from
power, in August 1998 the World Bank ranked Albania as the most corrupt
state in Europe. Almost half of Albanian citizens admitted to paying
bribes, while two-thirds of public officials admitted that bribery
was a common phenomenon in the country. However, even at this time,
corruption did not present a dire issue for Albania in the eyes of
the international community. The country had just recovered from the
turmoil following the collapse of the pyramid [financial investment]
schemes [in 1997 in which thousands of Albanians lost their savings].
Corruption indices were going down as the state was consolidating
and the economy was recovering. In 2000, the World Bank ranked Albania
as Europes seventh-most corrupt country.
in Tirana, Albania protest the collapse of a government-run
pyramid scheme in 1997 (Photo: AFP).
On June 6, the European Commission recommended to the European Council
the beginning of negotiations for an Agreement of Stabilization and
Association with Albania. According to the recommendation, considerable
progress had to be made, because although good results have been achieved
in the past two years, problems persist, especially in the functioning
of the judicial system, all related to widespread corruption. As a
result of pressure from lending agencies and donor countries, the
Albanian government established an Anti-Corruption Monitoring Board.
In a study published in July, the board concluded that Albanian
institutions have entered a new stage in their fight against corruption.
A concrete example is the establishment of a controlling department
in each government ministry. The board has called for an improvement
in the governments general anti-corruption plan, especially
in the Ministry of Public Order and the attorney generals office.
This year alone, 140 employees of the ministry have been fired on
corruption charges. Two were police commanders for the customs offices
of two districts, Korca and Gjirokastra. From 1997 to 2001, the attorney
generals office discharged 12 district attorneys, five of whom
were taken to court for abuse of duty, accepting bribes, and
violation of investigation procedures.
For the past year and a half, Albanian customs has brought in 100
percent of expected revenue, improving the image of Albania in the
eyes of the international financial institutions that were critical
of repeated occurrences of fiscal evasion in these offices. Since
May 2000, 39 customs employees, including station managers, have been
At first glance, the struggle against corruption may seem abstract
and intangible. But it can become very tangible if citizens are not
forced to bribe an official to get a telephone line, if they do not
have to bribe the doctor to get proper treatment, if they do not have
to bribe to get a passport, to receive a lighter sentence in court,
or simply to get their car registration.
Corruption, which is a characteristic of poor countries in transition,
will begin to disappear only when meritocracy rules rather than various
clan interests supported by millions of dollars gained through illegal
tenders, smuggling of goods, or even worse, smuggling of people, drugs,
That is the only way that the income of the individual citizens and
private companies will increase and Albanians will not be forced to
steal electric power and water or to bribe the staff of utility companies
to charge them less. That is how the state will collect more taxes;
that is how its budget will grow. That is how it will be possible
to make more investments in the improvement of roads and the power
and water systems, in more recreational facilities for the people,
and in the increase of wages and pensions. Only then will the new
socialist government be able to lower the level of corruption and
open the door for small individual investments and bigger investments
from overseas. Only then will it be able to reach the goals that will
lead to the signing of the Agreement of Stabilization and Association
with the European Union.
All levels of the state administration and justice system have
been subject to corruption in the past 10 years. Bribery is
most common in customs, taxation, telecommunications, the justice
system, police and attorneys offices, construction permits,
and health care service. Another major mani-festation of corruption
is the payoff needed to secure a post as customs inspector,
tax inspector, judge, natural resource administrator, attorney,
policeman, or local government official. This is explained,
even by government officials, by the very low wages of state
administration and justice system employees. The minimum monthly
wage of a state administrative employee is 7,000 lek [US$47.14]
while the highest paid state job in the country, that of the
president of the republic, is 156,000 lek [$1,051].