From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
What Is the Tirana Municipality Actually Doing?

About a month ago, I wrote a rather critical review of the new Skënderbeg Square. This article had two immediate consequences. The first one was that the municipality removed overnight the two tiles containing the Fusha shpk logos near the top of the pyramid. It correctly realized that branding a “prestigious” public square with one of the close friends of the government may not have been the smartest move.

The second was a public response of the Director of Urban Planning, Joni Baboçi. In brief, his claim was that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and that “we will see who is right in the coming months.” My response was as follows:

I think that we will see who is right in the coming YEARS. Because for sure in the months after the opening the municipality will spend a lot of public money to make sure many “events” are organized on the square to show off its “success.” Just like you tried to do with Mother Theresa Square.

And indeed, if we take a cursory look at the Facebook page of Mayor Erion Veliaj, we find that the municipality is busy organizing events every day on the square. Meanwhile, Mother Theresa Square, Veliaj’s previous ” carfree hotspot” is all but abandoned to traffic.

It is not by itself a bad thing to organize public events from time to time during the summer; but it is not a sustainable way of integrating the new Skënderbeg Square into the lives of the citizens. Without the entertainment, it is what it is: a scorching hot desert in the middle of the city, without shade during the day or lighting at night.

However, all these events organized by the Municipality cost money, even if just the electricity bill. And then the question arises, what is that money not spent on? The answer is very clear. Most infrastructure projects that you can find in the city, except for the “prestigious ones,” of course, are unfinished, half-done, overdue, or failing. And if they were recently finished, they are already in decay. Let me give a few examples from my own neigborhood:


Two projects of the UKT in Tirana, which falls under the responsibility of the municipality. The first one is a project for the reconstruction of the sewage system, tendered to Igor Elektrik shpk and Rei shpk for 11,920,522 lekë (~€90,000). Starting date is March 30 and during two months. However, 6 weeks after the works were supposed to be finished, the street remains open without asphalt, creating clouds of dust every time a car passes by.


Another company, perhaps the one below, has been also opening several side roads, put in other pipes, and closed the holes with mud and stones:



Other parts of the street have been opened by different companies, Kombeas sha and Arjeil shpk, for the sum of 32,560,862 lekë (~€246,000). Although in this case, the two companies managed to put a first layer of asphalt, inhabitants of the neighborhoods have been waiting on the second layer for weeks, while the first layer is already starting to show serious holes:



The fences may suggest that people are working there, but no worker has been signaled there for weeks.

A third company opened the sidewalks along the main street, also to put in new pipes. This company, which didn’t put up any sign as far as I could see, was presumably called BE-IS shpk. At least, that’s what the workers’ reflective jackets showed. Apart from permanently damaging parts of the sidewalks, which in recent years had been fixed, together with the road, again here large holes were left to linger:



And do you remember the neighborhood market opened by Erion Veliaj earlier this year? By now, the majority of its stalls are empty. And as you can see, the initial construction had to be stabilized and made rain resistant. The metal support poles are a recent addition, as well as the strips of plastic covering the gaps between the sun shades. The result is that they can no longer be opened, which was the whole point of constructing the market like this.

And finally, only half a year ago, in December 2016, the Tirana Municipality spent their budget on “coloring” several zebra crossings in the city. This is how they look today:


It is unfortunate that the Municipality of Tirana time and again chooses grandiose prestige projects, sucking up much of the public funding, over actually improving the lives of citizens in the different neighborhoods of Tirana in a significant and especially sustainable manner: clean streets without potholes, public works that are finished properly on time, local investment projects that are actually thought through and managed accordingly, avoiding double work, and so on.

It is easy to throw money at a few events on a concrete square and call it a “success.” Creating a city that is livable for all its inhabitants on a daily basis is much more difficult (and unrewarding).