On March 28, 2017 the National Business Forum (NBF) held the national conference which brought together Albanian business associations, Chambers of Commerce, business and media representatives, high level officials and national/international organizations. The event took place at Tirana International Hotel and aimed at presenting the National Business Agenda (NBA) which stemmed from an in-depth analysis based on grassroots inputs in the whole country. More than 120 business organizations and businesses operating in Albania shared their experiences on barriers to doing business along with basic proposals how to overcome them. The NBA was developed under four areas of priorities including: informality, tax inspection, VAT sectorialization and public-private dialogue.
The event was divided into two parts. In the first one the Forum members presented NBA recommendations and in the second part the floor was given to participants to discuss on the recommendations.Ms. Esmeralda Ballesha, Coordination Unit of National Business Forum (NBF), opened the event and emphasized the purpose of the National Business Agenda and the importance that these four challenges have on the business climate in Albania.

Mr. Gjegji Gjika, Chairman of Facon Chamber in Albania started the discussion stressing out some issues of the business community particularly those selected by the NBF, while emphasizing that the NBA aims to help the business community.

Ms. Martina Hrvolova, Program Officer at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) spoke about CIPE’s work in Albania and its cooperation with ACER and the National Business Forum. In this context she highlighted the support that CIPE has been providing to the NBF since the latter was created, as a way to improve the private sector’s participation into public policy dialogue.

Ms. Brunilda Kosta, ACER Expert presented the methodology used for designing the NBA. She stressed that that more than 113 organizations across Albania took part in the business issue identification process. The brainstorming technique was used as a tool on identifying first hand concerns along with the respective recommendations to overcoming them. The selected organizations expressed 30 problems, but NBF members agreed to tackle under the NBA four issues: the issue of public-private dialogue, informality, tax inspection and VAT sectorialization.

Mr. Blenard Durmishi,Deputy Director of theAlbanian Chamber of International Trade and Developmentsuggested that tax inspections should be carried out only based on the risk analysis assessment. He also suggested some recommendations on how to overcome concerns related to this issue: the lack of prior information and notification from tax administration, unmotivated administrative penalties, and problems caused by the new electronic tax system and the ethic and professionalism of tax inspectors.

Mr. Ilir Hebovja, Director of Albanian Constructors Association (ACA) addressed the issue of informality and highlighted the non-effective approach of the government action toward this phenomenon. Then he enlisted the respective steps to overcome problems faced during the action. He also mentioned some factors that force taxpayers shifting to the informal sector: the fragmentation of the profit tax, the fragmentation of VAT, high business duties associated with hidden costs, legislation quality and instability, low trust of business community toward the appealing institutions, etc.

The VAT sectorialization in the facon, tourism and agriculture sector was another important subject during the event.Mr. Gjergj Gjika, Chairman of the Albanian Chamber of Facon (CFA), expressed his concern about the newly implemented law. According to this law the subcontractors are taxed with the VAT rate of 20%. Therefore, he recommended the provision of services for subcontractors to contractors of the inward processing procedure, to be taxed with VAT tax rate of 0%.Mr. Zak Topuzi, Chairman of Albanian Tourism Association (ATA), stated that the biggest burden that tourism sector operators face is the VAT of 20%. That is why, he recommended to the Ministry of Economy, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Tourism, to reduce the VAT from 20 % to 10 %. Ms. Esmeralda Ballesha, Agriculture expert, recommended to the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture to take into consideration the implementation of reduced VAT for agriculture sector from 20 % to 10 %.

Ms. Flutura Xhabija, President of the Women Association (SHGPAZ) addressed the issue of public-private dialogue. Despite the positive steps undertaken in this regard, Ms. Xhabija provided her recommendations that may contribute solving the overlapping problem of existing platforms, lack of effective results, lack of communication channels with the local level, lack of transparency and technical capacities of the respective secretariats of the existing platforms and the lack of effective implementation of the law “On notification and public consultation”

The second part of the event was moderated byMr. Zef Preci, Executive Director of the Albanian Center for Economic Research (ACER). He suggested and hoped that this event should not remain only in the context of a meeting, but it should be seen as another dialogue opportunity which provided concrete solutions. These solutions may be transformed into tools that can influence positive changes which will be beneficial for the national economy, business climate and public tax sector.

Given that one of the main discussions were about the fiscal problems,Mr. Xhavit Curri Deputy Director of the General Tax Directorate shared his ideas on this topic. He admitted that some of the recommendations presented in this event, such as the simplification of the tax rate or the unique threshold of VAT were appropriate. Mr. Curri also stated some of the benefits provided by the new electronic tax system.

Ms. Elizabeta Katiaj, Deputy Director of the General Tax Directorate replied to the informality issue addressed during the conference. She stated that the level of informality in the country is between 34-39%. Ms. Katiaj shared some recent initiatives undertaken by GTD, such as the Hotline, and the clarification and detailing of the previous legal provisions.

The conference was also attended bymedia representatives. Ms. Violeta Shqalsi, Media Expert, emphasized the importance of effective collaboration between businesses, government and media. Another key factor was the need for more collaboration between business community and media.

Ms. Reila Bozdo, National Coordinator of the Democratic Party stated the high interest that discussions with business representatives have and that business is hugely important to the country`s economy and therefore further steps should be taken in improving the public-private dialogue.

Mr. Dorjan Teliti, Advisor for Economic Affairs in Democratic Party, stated that business is Albanian`s economy engine, and therefore should definitely have the support of policy-makers. He continues his argument, saying that the public-private dialogue needs further improvement to reach a balance line between business and government. He further augmented a flat VAT for the whole economy, thus to get reduced from 20 to 15 %.

Ms. Mirela Muça, General Director of Economic Development at the Ministry of Economy figured out another instant business barrier which needs to get further studied remains the judicial system. Ms. Muça mentioned some of the improvements that have been done in this regard during the past years.

Mr. Artur Papajani, Director of Taxpayer Service Directory stated that one of the most problematic issues is the failure to notify taxpayers. He also mentioned some of the recent initiatives that the GTD has undertaken with the hope of reducing the problem faced so far. Ms. Brunilda Paskali, Deputy Mayor of Tirana emphasized that she has been supporting the NBF since its creation. She stressed that it is very important to create a partnership between the government and the business community. Ms. Paskali emphasized the importance of the businesses being members of chambers/associations in order to have real representation in relation to the government. In order to foster the formalization of the economy, it is important to develop awareness campaigns in the whole country.

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