Until the last breath

Until the last breath
This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.afp.al

By Sonila Meço

“People will forget what you’ve said, they’ll forget what you’ve done, but they will never forget how you have made them feel”. Everyone who reads this phrase said by Angelou, makes a quick analysis of himself and the way others are making him feel.

If there’s one thing that we notice during the whole time is the way those who govern make us feel. And this whole thing starts with the economy. There aren’t many families who can say that they do not feel the government’s hands deep in their pockets.

Let us make an analysis of our small household economies to better understand and remember how they have made as feel as a nation with lots of resources, but impoverished to the extreme. For this, we just need to understand what economic growth means. It means that more should be produced, businesses should make more profits, companies should be able to invest more capital and to create more jobs. If there are more jobs, there are more incomes. If there are more incomes, more goods and services will be purchased. High consumption leads to further economic growth. Therefore, economic growth is the best indicator to evaluate what we’re measuring and if the value is improving living standards for every Albanian. For this, we need to judge the factors of economic growth which are being stimulated: long-term ones which have an impact in the wellbeing of society or short-term ones which have a temporary impact. So, what we have in Albania is the fact that thanks to the short term impact of two major projects such as TAP project and Devoll Hydro Power Plant, we have a temporary economic growth. But, these investments have not generated added wellbeing among Albanians.

What does Rama 2 government tell us on economic growth and will it have an impact on the finances of our households? Are we going to remember how we will feel after a while, despite of what they say and do? In its program announced a few weeks ago, the government told us that economic growth at the end of the governing term will be 6%, while public debt will fall under 60% of GDP, as opposed to 70% of GDP where it currently stands.

Ambitious and hopeful, the program offers an optimistic picture, nonetheless, the same government, in its first term, applied austere measures, high taxes and didn’t do anything to address unemployment and massive corruption.

It’s hard to face decision makers with these issues, but let us try to make an analysis based on credible sources.

First, how will the government achieve a 6% economic growth at the end of its term in office? Where does it rely for this forecast? In which sectors? What will have an impact in this optimistic indicator? Given that neither the government’s program, nor its analysis can answer us on this, let us quote the projection of the IMF. According to this institution, in the best case scenario, Albanian economy will reach a maximum economic growth of 4.1% in 2021.This figure is likely to be achieved, but let us recall that economic growth in 2017 is estimated to be 3.6% as opposed to 4.5% which IMF had projected when the Albanian government accepted its program in the end of 2014.

According o the IMF, public debt must go down to 53.4% at the end of the four year term in office of the government, but the government projects this figure to be 60% and this doesn’t include the debt incurred from concessions. Why should Albanians be interested on this and how will it impact their lives? Well, economic growth stagnates if public debt doesn’t drop, but it also stagnates as a result of new debts incurred in the form of concessions.

National media and ERTV have not revealed the fact that BMI FITCH, one of the most important international institutions for the assessment of risk, has declared that although Albania has registered economic growth, it doesn’t generate long-term wellbeing. Meanwhile, TradingEconomics says that average incomes of our population amount to 37% of the global average and that for many years, economic growth will be stuck at 3%. In spite of the optimism accompanying macro-economic figures, the important economic institution doesn’t conceal the gridlock of a situation which has not yet been addressed by the government in the best case scenario or addressed in the wrong way without any planning, in the worst case scenario.

Although they are trying to make us believe that this economic growth is having an impact in the life of every Albanian, it only makes sense once it’s reflected on the general wellbeing of the population, because its growth means more money to be spent for consumption, to save for the future and to invest. This means that however they play with this figure, if economic growth doesn’t have an impact on consumption, savings and investments, then it’s just a trick of the propaganda specialists to play with the psyche of each of us.

It’s hard to be informed through the traditional media that the Bank of Albania has published the data for the second quarter of 2017, according to which, foreign direct investments have fallen by 25% compared to the same period a year ago. And the reasons relate to the lack of guarantees in terms of compliance with contracts, laws, with the poor infrastructure, bureaucracy, corruption and the lack of orientation in policies concerning priority sectors. Why does this affect common Albanians? Because the lack of foreign investments has a direct impact on economic  growth and unemployment, compromising their wellbeing. A report of the European Commission on industrialization in the region, shows that this promise for a 6% growth is nothing else but a bubble, which, if it explodes, it will drive us all into an economic abyss. According to the report, in Albania, industry’s contribution on GDP is 14.6%, among the last in the region. In spite of the significant contribution of agriculture, Albania continues to import many food products, while the processing industry is becoming less and less competitive in front of imports.

To identify logic in the Albanian government’s economic policy is the same as if playing an extreme sport. Albanians will remember how this government has made them feel morally, financially and spiritually. None of us can speak on behalf of everyone, but we are all a statistic on the desk of someone who sharpens his colored pencils to draw in the world’s biennales with the money that belong to each one of us.

Those who manipulate statistics, affects what keeps us alive.

God knows how Albanians will feel when the government will have already done the damage and with its own cunning method, it would have found on whom to blame it on too. And one thing is sure: it will not stop until it exhausts every natural resource and takes every last breath of people in need. And then, nobody will even bother asking us: How do you feel?

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy.

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