Weight-watchers in Tirana

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Albania_3Regulatory reform is like losing weight: with some focus and effort, losing the first couple of kilos is relatively easy. As soon as friends and relatives start to notice, they give compliments and encouragement - emboldening you to take it further. The hard part comes later: sustaining a healthy bodyweight over the years requires long-term efforts. Often, a lifestyle change is needed. Reforming a country's business environment is no different.
Last Thursday, September 18, 2008, the World Bank/IFC launched Doing Business 2009 in Tirana, Albania, the runner–up reformer this year. Between June 2007 and June 2008, Albania threw off excess weight in the administrative burdens that face small and medium entrepreneurs. The country made an impressive jump of 49 places on the Ease of Doing Business: from 135th last year to 86th this year. This was thanks to reforms in the areas of starting a business, access to credit, protecting minority investors and taxation.

At the launch event in Tirana, representatives from the local World Bank office, private sector and media applauded the government’s new waistline. Albania’s Prime Minister, although happy with the report's recognition and ranking, “will not rest until the country tackles each aspect of the business environment, one by one.”


In a country where 60% of the economy still takes place in the informal sector, more remains to be done. The government's top priority between now and the upcoming elections are a guillotine-type of licensing reform, eliminating 103 licensing and speeding up the process to obtain the remaining ones. Bankruptcy reform is next. And judicial reform will be the ultimate challenge. 
The Albanian government knows it entered a 'never ending race' to sustain a healthy business environment, cutting unnecessary red tape for small entrepreneurs. But strong economic growth and job opportunities will require a lifestyle change: better infrastructure, more FDI, less corruption and, especially, a can-do attitude. With its recent jump on the Doing Business rankings, there is no reason to doubt that anything is possible.

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