SUA – cel mai puternic stat capitalist, ar putea lua lecţii de economie de piaţă de la mica ţară balcanică Albania, care timp de decenii s-a zvârcolit sub cruda dictatură stalinistă si apoi mulți ani în haos mafiot. Astăzi Albania are cea mai promiţătoare economie din Europa, în ultimii ani a fost singura economie din Europa care a crescut. Cel care s-a exprimat astfel este Steve Forbes, editorul şef şi proprietarul faimoasei publicaţii cu acelaşi nume fondată în 1917 la New York şi care este un etalon în ceea ce priveşte analizele economice şi policite din lume întreagă. Primul ministru al Albaniei Sali Berisha, a fost invitat in birourile Forbes pentru a prezenta cifre si informatii despre miracolul numit Albania. VerticalNews vă spune azi o poveste reală, iar în oglindă stă înfrigurată România.
Când au scăpat de comunişti, în 1992, venitul pe cap de locuitor era de doar 200 de dolari. Astăzi (2011), acesta a atins deja pragul de 4.000$, fapt ce poate fi socotit un miracol. În ultimii trei ani, Albania a depăşit ţari precum Ucraina (3.000$ pe cap de locuitor) şi Moldova (1.600$). România cu 8.666$ pe cap de locuitor este încă departe, dar specialiştii Forbes insistă pe creşterea spectaculoasă a economiei albaneze, iar noi apreciem economia românească în regres.
Cum a fost posibilă o asemenea minune? De ce Albania a decolat pur şi simplu în plină criză mondială, iar România, care a beneficiat de zece ani de creştere, s-a prăbuşit inexplicabil? Cu ajutorul celor de la Forbes care au prezentat în detaliu strategia economică a albanezilor, am descoperit punctele care fac diferenţa:
În Albania există o taxă unică de impozitare. De numai 10%!! Şi atentie aceasta taxă de numai 10% este atât pe veniturile personale cât şi pe cele din afaceri.
Albanezii plătesc un singur impozit pe salarii care s-a micşorat din 2010, de la 35% la 15%. În România pentru un salariu de 1.000 de lei angajatul şi angajatorul mai plătesc către stat încă 680 de lei. În Albania taxa perceputa de stat este de doar 150 la 1000. Asta evident contribuie pe de o parte la creşterea consumului, pe de alta parte la dinamizarea activităţilor economice, la lărgirea bazei de impozitare şi nu în ultimul rând, la eliminarea muncii la negru, la dimininuarea evaziunii fiscale.
În Albania TVA-ul este de 10%. În Romania TVA-ul este de 24%, unul dintre cele mai mari din Europa. Mai ales dacă ţinem cont de faptul că limita maximă admisă în Uniunea Europeană este de 25%. Asta deşi este deplin demonstrat că statele care se duc cu TVA-ul în sus pierd bani la buget, iar cele care reduc TVA-ul câştigă bani la buget. Pare un paradox, dar nu este. De fapt TVA-ul redus, ca şi impozitele reduse pentru firme şi salarii lărgesc baza de impozitare. Colectezi mai puţin de la mai mulţi şi, în final, bugetul de venituri al statului devine mai mare.
În Albania, mai mult de 70% din mărfurile care se comercializeză pe piaţă sunt -obligativitate prin lege!- de producţie internă, mai cu seamă produsele agricole. În România procentul este din păcate exact invers.
În 2008, guvernul de la Tirana a iniţiat o lege care impune ca toate construcţiile noi, locuinţe, sedii administrative, inclusiv staţiile de benzină, să aibă incluse echipamente ce folosesc energii regenerabile: panouri solar-termale, panouri fotovoltaice, pompe de căldură, instalatii eoliene etc.
În Albania, sistemul judiciar este independent, independenţa este garantată. În Romania sistemul judiciar este dependent, subordonat preşedintelui, primului-ministru, ministrului Justitiei, politicienilor, dar mai ales banului.
Guvernul, în Albania, a rezolvat definitiv problema proprietăţii. Ceea ce a fost de restituit s-a restituit şi o lege specială garantează acum toate drepturile derivând din calitatea de proprietar.
Mulţi susţin că ex-premierul Emil Boc şi, mai ales, preşedintele Traian Băsescu, au mers prea mult pe mâna contabilului Jeffrey Franks, şeful misiunii Fondului Monetar Internaţional în România. Albania nu a recurs la sprijinul FMI. În plus, Albania nu este membră a Uniunii Europene.
Şi dacă nu credeţi în miracolul albanez, vă invit să vedeţi cum se construiesc acolo autostrăzile. În mai puţin de patru ani, Bechtel (companie americană angajată şi de români) a dat gata 170 de kilometri de autostradă. Linia de mare viteză de la portul albanez Durres până în Kosovo a costat un miliard de euro, patru benzi, 27 de poduri şi un tunel de 5,5 kilometri.
forbes – Flat Tax in 2011 When Robert Ernest Hall and Alvin Rabushka published the book The Flat Tax in 1985, they didn’t have much historical evidence to go on. Only Jersey, Hong Kong and Guernsey had identifiable flat tax systems, plus a few other places like Singapore with similar tax regimes. Today there are at least forty governments with flat tax type systems, most of which made the switch in just the last decade. These include: Estonia 1994-21%, Lithuania 1994-15%, Latvia 1995-23%, Russia 2001-13%, Serbia 2003-12%, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2004-10%, Slovakia 2004-19%, Ukraine 2004-15%, Georgia 2005-20%, Romania 2005-16%, Turkmenistan 2005-10%, Kyrgyztan 2006-10%, Albania 2007-10%, Mongolia 2007-10%, Kazakhstan 2007- 10%, Mauritius 2007-15%, Tajikistan 2007-13%, Bulgaria 2008-10%, Czech Republic 2008-15%, Belarus 2009-12%, Seychelles 2010-15% and Hungary 2011-16%.
A number of these countries have been having problems recently, mostly due to unstable money and the generalized effects of the recent global economic difficulties. We could take 2007 as a representative pre-crisis year. How did the flat tax countries do then? For thirteen countries for which information was available from the IMF, the average GDP growth rate was 10.0%, ranging from 6.2% (Slovakia) to 23.1% (Ukraine).
However, even this impressive number hides more dramatic gains. In my opinion, in high-growth areas, the true rate of growth tends to be hidden by inflationary adjustments. Prices rise, but it is not because of the debauchment of the currency, it is because people are getting richer. Rents, restaurants, hotels, medical services, education and so forth all become more expensive. Thus, the nominal GDP figures give perhaps a better impression of the true rate of growth. The average nominal GDP growth among these thirteen flat-tax countries was 21.8% in 2007. We are not talking about adding a percentage point to growth. We might be adding ten percentage points. The cumulative effects are astounding. Are you getting the idea of why this policy has been so widely imitated?
Another surprising theme has been the amazing stability of tax revenue as a percentage of GDP. Among ten flat-tax countries for which data is available from the IMF, I took the revenue/GDP ratio of the last year of the former tax system and the first year of the flat-tax system. How much did the revenue/GDP ratio change? The average change was … minus 0.10%. Yes, a tenth of a percentage point. Hardly any change at all. Six countries (out of ten) had an increase in the ratio – they actually got more tax revenue, as a percentage of GDP, than with their old tax system. The largest decline was Slovakia, whose revenue/GDP ratio fell to 40.57% from 45.60%. Maybe that was a little high anyway.
However, when you combine the typically high growth in nominal GDP with these stable revenue/GDP ratios, nine out of ten countries experienced an increase in tax revenue in the first year of flat-tax implementation. The average increase in revenue was 17.7% (when excluding outlier Estonia, which had an 81% increase). Even Slovakia, with the biggest decline in revenue/GDP, had a revenue increase of 6.1%. Mongolia, with their 10% flat tax replacing a system with rates up to 40%, experienced a 33% increase in revenue! The only decliner was the Czech Republic, which had a 0.50% reduction in revenue. However, even that could be explained by the fact that the Czech Republic implemented its flat tax in 2008, a year of economic crisis worldwide.
So you see, most of the seemingly-impossible promises of the flat-taxers – higher growth, stable revenue/GDP ratio, rising government revenue – are in fact common and repeatable. Russia, which implemented its flat tax in 2001, provides one of the best longer-term examples. Between 2000 and 2008, Russia’s GDP (in U.S. dollar terms) grew at an average compounded rate of 26% per annum. The end result was that GDP in 2008 was 546% higher than in 2000. Russia’s tax revenue/GDP ratio was 31.4% in 2000, and 31.6% in 2008. With this ratio stable, you can see that the Russian government’s tax revenue also grew right alongside the growth in the economy as a whole, increasing to more than six times its 2000 amount in less than a decade. The funny thing is, between 2000 and 2008, Russia’s population actually declined from 146.7 million to 141.4 million. Blaming economic stagnation on population, as is common regarding Japan today, is a waste of time.
And what about Albania? On January 1, 2008, Albania implemented a 10% flat tax on personal and corporate income, replacing a system with rates from 10-30% on personal income and 20% on corporate income. The result? Tax revenues went up 18.4%, even though 2008 was a crisis year worldwide.
forbes.com > Sali Berisha – Growing Albania
Steve Forbes: Prime minister, it’s really a great honor to have you with us today. And even though Albania may be a small country, it was very distinguished in Europe as being about the only country that had economic growth in 2009 and is growing again in 2010. How did you do it?
Sali Berisha: First, allow me to thank you from my heart, Mr. Forbes, for having invited me. It’s a great honor for me. Yesterday I was at the U.N. listening to heads of states and prime ministers. They debated on millennium development goals. What came to my mind was September ’92 when I came in this room there and I addressed to the audience as a president of a country which was, at that time, the third or the fourth most poor country in the world, with 204 U.S. dollar per capita as income. A country almost entirely under starvation with 80% unemployment. There has been no country devastated more than my mine from hyper-collectivization and dictatorships.
But now, yesterday, I sat there representing really a different country. A country which went from the abysses of poverty and misery to a middle-upper-income country. A country which has had a total collapsed economy to a country which last year has had the highest growth in Europe. A country which was producing totally from the public sector, a country which produced now 80% of its GDP from the private sector. A country which has a long way to do but still, in all the ways of globalism, definitely is achieving, one by one, high roads that are crucial for the future.
If you look at our education system, it’s totally different. I was very pleased to see that this year was marked by more than 90% of those who have elementary school went to high school. Seventy percent of those who have had high school went to universities. Every Albanian school has now Internet and computer cabinets. It is a country marking its path and its journey, achievements, building the future. But it is very important that it is building the future. And if you look at the longevity, it’s only zero, 15 years behind the United States today. It comes in my mind, and it comes all as it comes, a famous sentence of then Secretary of State Jim Baker when he came to Albania and found there the most devastated country from dictatorship. But he told Albanians that freedom will work, and freedom is working in my country. That’s all I could tell about.
Introducing Flat Tax – Forbes: Some of the things you have done in Albania, several years ago you put in the flat tax. Only 10%. And it worked. Berisha: You know, my background is cardiology. And I assure you that 20 years ago when I started politics, my knowledge on economy were zero. Forbes: That’s true of most economists.
Berisha: But what happened once I started politics, I started also to acquire some knowledge, I started the career as a low-tax man. I put at that time, the lowest fiscal burden country on Europe and it worked, my country jumped in ’95 as a two-digit-growth country. I went in opposition. Then government adopted progressive taxation.
Back in power in 2005 I diminished by half the small business taxes. I diminished this by the corporate tax from 25 to 10%. The personal income tax from 23% to 10%. The Social Security contribution from 32% to 15%. I did it convinced that the money’s worth [more] in the accounts of the investors than in the public cases. But I never expected such a growth of revenue. The revenues in Albania, budgetary revenues, doubled. From $50 billion in 2004, to $104 billion in 2009 (taxes and custom).
The crisis came. Still I kept my basic idea of the best immunity from this crisis is to help business. To enlarge the spaces and freedoms for it. That’s why we simplified the tax system from 26 national taxes to six national taxes. We we removed taxes for private education. We dropped so many tariffs. And also we managed to modernize the business registration. We rank now 27% higher than the average of OECD in business initiation. We rank now several points higher than the average of OECD in investing cross-sectors in the country. We focus very much on a friendly business climate.
Improving Biz Registration – Forbes: So on registering a business, you brought in one-stop shop?
Berisha: Yes, registering a business can be done in 30 minutes, in a one-stop shop. Now we are also doing online business registration. We droped two-thirds of all license and permissions, and one-third we assembled it in a one-stop shop for licenses and permissions. It had diminished many times the time required for a license and the permission, but also the cost. .. And now we have really a good climate for investors. The economy is doing quite well. Exports this year have increased by 62%. And this year the revenues increased by 13%. We cut in June 25% of expenditures, being somewhat afraid that we will be affected by the Greek crisis. We were wrong. At the end of August, we saw that 99.6% of the plan was realized, but we are not going to enlarge more. [We’re] keeping it because we must be somehow cautious.
One-Euro Districts – Forbes: What other reforms have you introduced to strengthen property rights?
Berisha: Yes. We passed during these days a very important law. The law says every investor who has got the land from private people with original, official documents never could be disturbed further. Whatever claim must be addressed to the state. And the state doesn’t prevent people to claim that, but it is considered as nationalized the land the private investors had owned, and the state deals with those who claim. It was very important, this law. It’s unique, but it’s also very important. No one could make or could disturb investors with fixtures or falsities. This was the aim of it. And also, in the case that it is public land, investors will have it for one euro. The entire contract. And it is working very well.
Forbes: So explain your one-euro districts? Berisha: One euro. Whoever is building a plant or whatever or wherever [they] would like to have for agriculture purposes, let us say planting olive trees or planting hazelnuts or walnuts or whatever, and the land is public, is going to have it for one euro. Whoever would like to build a touristic resort, and it’s public land, will have it for one euro. We do not change. We put this initiative three years ago. It’s working. We integrated the cement plant 10 days ago. They got the whole piece of, the whole of the land for one euro. It’s working.
Increasing Outside Investment – Forbes: Foreign direct investment. The volumes are even greater than selling or privatization?
Berisha: Yes. Much greater. They are much greater. Last two years, especially after NATO membership, Albania has become very attractive for foreign investors. There have been more than $6 billion in European contracts signed, mostly on energy matters but also in tourism and other matters. Now the concessional law that we passed with a special Swiss article is working very, very well. In two years we signed contracts for 220 hydropower stations. Among them one is the biggest–a 1 billion euro investment in cascade of Divol. And the other foreign companies, like Verbund and others, are constructing hydropowers in Albania. There are to be built more than 400 hydropower stations in my country, but also large wind parks. Look, it’s a small country, but with a really enormous–extraordinary potential for [the] biggest world compan[ies], and it’s situated in the very heart of Europe and at a very large market. That’s why I profit from this occasion to invite investors to seriously consider investing in my country.
Becoming Part of the E.U. – Forbes: And you mentioned your membership in NATO. How are your relations with the E.U.? How are you coming on becoming a member of the E.U.?
Berisha: Last year during 2009 we had a general elections. They were assessed as free and fair elections by all international observers. These elections did [make it] possible that the E.U. foreign minister decided on Nov. 16, 2009, to grant Albania the opening of negotiation for candidate status. Later we were provided the questionnaire of 2,284 questions.
Forbes: Three-hundred eighty-four pages? Berisha: Yes. And we sent that–there are 3,000. Three thousand 854-page books. The largest book published ever in my country. It’s under review from the E.U. commission. … There [have been] several missions from the E.U. commission and E.U. member countries to see the development.
And definitely most of them found a totally different country [than] what they thought …[they would]. That’s positive one. And 10 days ago, the commission had given its definitive opinion about the removal of visas for Albanian, Bosnia-Herzegovina, member countries. We’ll look on review. I am an optimist. I am sure that in months to come this process will happen.
Forbes: So that means you just need what they call bio-passports? Berisha: That means Albanians for 90 days could move freely in all European [countries and] in all Shangen area with no visa. This is but 90 days. And after 90 days they must be back, and they could go back after a time.
Battling Corruption – Forbes: The battle against corruption. How is that going?
Berisha: I think among all reforms the reforms against corruption are fundamental for the success of all other reforms. Now we were very tough in fighting corruption. First we promised Albanians small government in ’95. And it happened. We shortened it by 33%.
We promised Albanians a review of the whole of interest legislation. It happened. And now a serious institutional review, the assets and the revenues of all officials. And it takes serious measure in any break. We promised Albanians new rules on operating expenses of public administration, and we managed to shorten it from 2.2% of GDP to less than 1% of GDP, because corruption [is something we] should fight. I told you we’ll start from ourself. We’ll support new rules on transport of officials–that is from 3,000 drivers and cars. Now there are only 31 official drivers and cars. Yes. Because there have been abuses.
We lowered taxes. It was really very helpful. We privatized all major enterprises which were nests of corruptions. We are digitalizing. The transparency. We [have] become the first country in the world with 100% e-procurement. And that’s why U.N. rewarded us with a second-prize reward for that project. But it was very kind to reward us. But it was also very important that now there is no other [option] than e-procurement in my country. There is a strong stand of the judiciary against corruption. I believe these were fundamental [changes], helpful for what we achieved. Now we have almost a double budget compared to five years ago.
Beefing Up Tech – Forbes: And in terms of what you did in bringing the high-tech age to procurement, you worked with Estonia on that?
Berisha: I’m working with Estonia, and they were very helpful. Very helpful to me was also UNDP. I have had very special relations with computer in my youth days. That’s why I remained always convinced that it is a way to change a life. And ’95, ’96, I took this initiative for Internet in every school. It was Costa Rica’s president applying it. But I went to opposition. Back in power I took the project. And I found my country very low in IT penetration. It was a terrible low. And now it’s jumped several times. It was 4.8. Now it’s 32. But my ambition is–and I will proceed–to catch the average of E.U. and growing faster. Estonia is helping very much. Austria is helping us very much. UNDP was very helpful to us. But the digital age is, if you look at the biological age of my country, it’s digital one. Our people should be little age in technical point of view.
Privatizing Farms – Forbes: Great. How did you privatize the farms? Your agriculture? Since you’re so heavily agriculture.
Berisha: Yes. It was a very fast process. Based in the Jeffersonian principle of the land to those who are living in and working in. This principle was applied. We have not chosen applying other principles because of what happened in my country. Fifty years long people were banned to move from their birthplaces. To be in town. And entire districts become real [human] reservoirs. We are obliged to apply this reform. And we created in one year 460,000 small farms. One hectare. But they tremendously changed the production and the life of these people.
Now still I am focused on agriculture. We are a blessed country in many aspects. We are an olive tree country, and we tend to multiply by five the number of olive trees in four years, and the project is going on. Now [there] is a new project based mostly in nuts. Chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and pomegranates. That we could become a real, very serious producer and also exploit tens of thousands of hectares of land which is not used for the moment. This is very ambitious project which aims mostly to fight bitter poverty in the mountainous and the rural areas.
Forbes: And you’re also not only exporting nuts and agriculture products; you are doing shoes. You have a company that’s exporting shoes? Berisha: Fifty-two percent of our exports are shoes, textiles, manufacturing.
Forbes: And now frogs’ legs. Berisha: Yeah. Yes. Seventeen percent are minerals. You know we are a very important country in mineral deposits. In chromium, nickel, copper, pherum, pherum nickel, ore, iron ore, and we are working to better organize our mineral sector.
An American Ally – Forbes: Terrific. And you remain a strong ally of the U.S.? Berisha: Definitely. I know no other country which is more in hearts and feelings more friendly to the United States.
Forbes: And Americans should know you’re primarily a Muslim nation? Berisha: Yes. But multireligious. Where I think the greatest asset of my nation is an excellent religious tolerance, but which is a long day one. This is a very great heritage. Never in my nation have we had the smallest conflict or incident [that was a] religion-based one. But we were like that. And they have this great heritage. They have had a very difficult history. Very, very difficult. But they were blessed also because in some very crucial moments of their existence, of their freedoms, the United States has helped them. Helped us. This was the very moment that we managed to succeed.
Forbes: Thank you, prime minister. Berisha: Thank you, Mr. Forbes.
2013 Albania Abandons Its Flat Tax On December 28, 2013, the Socialist majority in the Albanian Assembly, in power since September 2013, passed the 2014 budget on a strict party-line vote. The budget replaced the 10% flat tax on personal income with two higher rates. The new personal income tax imposed two rates of 13% and 23%, after exempting the first 30,000 leks of income. ($1 =102 leks) The 13% rate applies to incomes between 30,000-130,000 leks, above which 23% is imposed. The government claims that the higher rates only affect the top 3% of income earners, while those with wages under 130,000 leks will pay less than under the previous 10% flat tax. Corporate profits tax was increased from 10% to 15%, with an exemption provided for small businesses.
The tax increases were part and parcel of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (!!!) that granted a 300 million euro loan to help stabilize Albania’s public finances. Albania is seeking membership in the European Union (!!!), which requires its meeting deficit reduction targets. Albania is the third country in the past two years (Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 2012) to replace a flat tax with two rates.