Sir Suma Chakrabarti, EBRD President
Plaza Tirana hotel, Albania
Reception to celebrate the 25th birthday of the EBRD
Celebrating 24 years of cooperation with Albania
Prime Minister, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to this reception to celebrate the 25th birthday of the EBRD. And to celebrate 24 years of our cooperation with Albania.
Over the last quarter of a century EBRD has made a difference. A very significant contribution to the transition of our countries of operation. Through investment of over €105 billion in over 4,500 projects, allied with support for policy reforms that improve the investment climate.
Our business model – focused on the private sector – has been so successful that our shareholders agreed over the years to expand the number of countries in which we invest.
From the original 8 to 37 today. From Casablanca in the west to Vladivostok in the east, from Tallinn in the north to Cairo in the south.
And across all sectors – from financial institutions, to industry, commerce and agribusiness, to energy and natural resources, to infrastructure at regional, national and municipal levels. And, from day one, focused on private sector development – 80% of our lending today is to the private sector.
Albania became part of the EBRD story in December 1991 when it joined the Bank. In March 1992, only a few weeks after the first democratic elections in the country, we started operating in Tirana from a hotel room. We then opened our first proper office here in 1994.
Our first project here was a sovereign 10 mn ECU loan to Albania Telecom, the second was for $4mn a Coca Cola bottling plant on the road from Tirana to Durres.
At the time, the two lane road was a succession of empty fields and derelict irrigation pipes from former communal farms. Today it represents Albanian entrepreneurship with hundreds of companies employing thousands of people.
Over those 24 years, EBRD has invested over €1 billion in Albania. In 75 projects across all sectors.
On top of that we have around 65 advisory service interventions per year with small business in Albania. This includes a successful Women in Business programme. And this will be a record year for EBRD investment in Albania with an expected level between €150-200 million in some 6-10 projects.
We have recently signed the landmark restructuring of KESH, the state owned power generation company. We signed today, in the presence of the Prime Minister, the highly innovative Albania Agribusiness Support Facility. This facility would not have been possible without a €36 million grant from the Albanian Government, which also marks Albania’s emergence as a donor to EBRD.
And going forward, we have a solid pipeline of projects in Albania. In national infrastructure, in agribusiness, and potentially in power and energy.
I hope we can also move in to municipal and environmental infrastructure, where we have great expertise.
And I am proud of our work with the Government and business community to establish the Investment Council. It is doing great work and coming up with ideas for how the investment climate could be improved further.
All of this is squarely in line with EBRD’s country strategy for Albania, approved by our Board in January. We have three priorities in Albania going forward.
To improve the competitiveness of the private sector through project financing, advisory services and policy dialogue.
To strengthen the economic linkages between Albania, the region and the EU.
And to support commercialisation of public utilities.
But the development of this benchmark partnership between EBRD and Albania could not have happened without the reforms led by Prime Minister Rama and his government.
Their efforts to clear sovereign arrears, stabilise public debt, enforce the payment of electricity bills, stop illegal construction, consolidate the number of municipalities, and start the fight against corruption and informality have provided the positive context for all of us.
And the latest reform – of the judicial system – is a landmark achievement.
It is hard to achieve the political consensus to have it passed by Parliament. So it showed a particular drive and determination, and real political skill, that we should all admire.
It sets a very positive context for building momentum for Albania’s EU appropriation process.
Of course, there is more to do. More reforms to improve the business climate. Better and more communication of the actions to date. Building a stronger administrative capacity. This Prime Minister and his government recognise that.
Our job in the international community is to support that effort. I have talked about the EBRD. Our commitment to Albania will remain strong.
Here though let me also praise the efforts of the IMF – great to see the programme on track and growth return. Also the World Bank, EIB, the European Commission – who put money into some of our programmes and projects.
And thanks also to the bilateral development finance institutions and donors. Without this network, the sum of the parts would be less than the whole.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, in Albania and across all of our countries of operation, the EBRD’s impact would not have been possible without the development of the “EBRD person.”
Able to combine vision with realism. To tell it as it should be. As well as how it is. To innovate. To marry policy with investment. To partner. To translate international experience into the local environment.
And that is why I am so proud of our Resident Office in Tirana. And of our sector bankers and policy people based in London and the region. They embody these qualities.
None more so than my old comrade, Christoph Denk. He used to be head of my office when I arrived at the EBRD back in 2012.
He then led the Resident Office in Tirana with great passion and skill. The rebuilding of our pipeline and the greater focus on policies to improve the investment climate here in Albania owe a lot to Christoph’s leadership. We welcome him back to London now to take charge of country strategies and results management.
His place in Albania will be taken by another person who embodies EBRD to his fingertips. Allow me to announce officially the new head of the Albania Resident Office: Matteo Colangeli. I am sure Matteo will also lead our operations here in Albania with great distinction.
So, ladies and gentlemen, let me propose four toasts:
- to the EBRD at 25;
- to the EBRD/Albania partnership;
- to the EBRD staff here, to our new and old leaders of the Resident Office; and
- to all our partners – government, business and international communities.
Thank you very much.