Interview with the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania, Enio Jaço
Voice of America: Mr. Jaço, 20 years after its establishment, what can be said about the AmCham Albania’s accomplishments?
Enio Jaço: I think the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania has been very productive over these 20 years. It is one of the institutions with the clearest structures I have seen in Albania, with a clear vision, working completely in defense of the rights of members and the business community in general. It is a politically independent institution, but the most important is the product that the American Chamber of Commerce has been able to create and bring to Albania and the business community over these 20 years.
I think that it has given a high impact in defense of the market economy, the principles of market economy, has always denounced dishonest practices, has promoted transparent practices and has continuously influenced towards improving the business climate in Albania.
Because of this contribution, I think that our Chamber has created a broad alliance with a large number of companies, representing about 38 thousand employees, about 2.8 billion turnover and a common balance of these companies, which is about 21 percent of GDP. of the Albanian economy.
I take this opportunity to offer to the members of the American Chamber of Commerce that we have the general assembly next week. I invite everyone to register, exercise their rights and contribute to the best and most democratic corporate governance in AmCham.
VOA:Last week, the Albania-US Memorandum of Economic Cooperation was signed, with special emphasis on investments and business relations between the two countries. Will AmCham have an added role after that?
Enio Jaço:I think this memorandum is one of the most important since the 90s regarding the Albanian-American economic cooperation. In the first place I will talk a little about Skavica, which is part of this memorandum, which offers a new impetus for the Albanian economy in general. This is very good news for the Albanian economy. Now that the TAP and Devolli projects are nearing completion, the Skavica hydropower plant will provide a new impetus, offering a large number of jobs for Albanians. It will also provide employment opportunities for Albanian subcontractors, including members of the American Chamber of Commerce. Yes it is more than that. At the same time, Skavica enables Albania an energy independence, but also enables it to be a leader in the region in terms of energy.
Secondly, this memorandum testifies to the interest of the US economy in Albania and the region. This is also very good news.
Third, in relation to the American Chamber of Commerce, there is an element that intertwines and increases the need for further exchanges. We have started work internally on improving the business climate. Also in our relations with our international partners primarily with the American Chamber in Washington as well as with AmCham's extensive network. There are over 109 AmChams worldwide and there are many opportunities to increase economic cooperation and increase investment.
VOA:Given the problems that the business climate in Albania has today, where do you see opportunities to increase the presence of American investors?
Enio Jaço:The business climate is more important than ever at the moment. If so far we have a trade balance with the US, which has been below its potential, now we have the opportunity through this memorandum to increase this potential to perhaps the highest levels in the Balkans. Who can hinder the achievement of this potential? One of the reasons may be the business climate.
We publish an annual report on the Chamber Index, which has received a lot of attention. Last year we had a wider issue than other years. We have created a team of experts within AmCham, who work seriously on addressing these issues, by building a package of recommendations. This is a group, which will work with foreign and domestic experts, we have established very constructive relations with the relevant ministries, the Ministry of Finance and Economy, as well as the Ministry of Entrepreneurship, which are our government partners for them. further this cooperation. I think there is a will, but I would be a careful optimist about the implementation of these recommendations, so we will see in the coming months.
One of the key elements has been monopolies and unfair trade. This is something we have always discussed. Also the empowerment of human capital, in such a way as to anticipate the challenges of the market economy in the conditions in which we are. Challenges vary; we are in some extraordinary challenges for Albania and for the world, such as COVID-19 et., which gave an extraordinary negative impact to all businesses. This will create a reconfiguration of the market in the way businesses will continue to operate, how they will provide their services and this requires a workforce, which must be equipped with other qualities. I would not like to talk too much because some of the barriers have been made public while new barriers are being studied and will be published at the end of the study.
VOA:Does it offer opportunities to be used by Albania and the Agreement on the normalization of economic relations between Kosovo and Serbia?
Enio Jaço: TheAgreement on the Normalization of Relations between Kosovo and Serbia and I think it is of another rank, of another dimension, of another degree, incomparable with what we are talking about so far. In the first place, it will bring about a transformation in the relations between Serbia and Kosovo. But here it has a positive impact for Albania as well. This is an agreement, which has a project inside, which creates a giant infrastructure, which connects Serbia with Kosovo in a commercial way, but which has an exit to one of the Adriatic seaports, could be one of the Albanian ports.
If this happens, then it means that it turns Albania into a kind of regional center in terms of regional trade, with a broad perspective with a very high impact. I think it will be a tremendous potential and it will be the task of politics and the private sector to make this a reality.
The project has not started yet, other additional agreements will be signed. I think AmCHam members find themselves perhaps a little more than other businesses, will always be affiliated with other American Chambers. We have very good relations with the American Chambers in the region: in Kosovo, in Serbia, in Northern Macedonia, etc. The spirit of cooperation will always be and offering work to subcontractors, who have a relationship and are part of the network, will be something plus, something positive. Of course this is an opportunity for other Albanian businesses as well.