TIRANA, Jan 5 (Reuter) - Albanian Finance Minister Ridvan
Bode pledged to reduce the country's burgeoning budget deficit
and improve links with international financial institutions,
Albanian daily Rilindja Demokratike reported on Sunday.
The budget deficit of the former hardline communist state in
October was 23.9 billion leks (around $240 million), the
equivalent of 10 percent of gross domestic product, according to
figures from the Albanian central bank.
``We aim to gradually improve the parameters of the budget
deficit,'' Bode said in an interview with the newspaper. ``1997
will be the year to overthrow the fiscal situation of our
He said the deficit was 10 billion leks more than planned.
Albania would begin negotiating a three-year agreement with
the International Monetary Fund in February and had already
started discussing new lines of credit with the World Bank.
Tirana was also attempting to conclude an association agreement
with the European Union, Bode said.
The Democratic Party government of conservative President
Sali Berisha would present its 1997 budget to parliament this
month with the aim of raising revenue by 40 percent more than in
1996, he said. A three-month provisional budget was put in place
to cover the period until the annual budget is passed.
The budget will have no trouble winning approval in
parliament where the ruling Democrats hold most seats following
a general election last May, described by foreign observers as
failing to meet international standards.
Most of the opposition, including the main Socialist Party,
have refused to take up the few seats allocated to them in the
The finance minister said that in a drive to halt tax
evasion, more training would be given to improve the standards
of administrators, who had failed to collect the estimated level
of tax last year.
He said the government would also review the list of
imported goods currently excluded from value-added tax while
striving to support domestic production mainly in agriculture
and livestock products.
``We are aiming at a well thought-out policy of protection
(of domestic production),'' Bode said.
Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi said last month economic
growth had risen 14.3 percent in 1996, compared with 13.4
percent a year ago.
Bode repeated the government's intention to privatise fully
three state-owned banks -- the Commercial Rural Bank this year,
the National Commercial Bank of Albania in early 1998 and the
Savings Bank at an unspecified later date.