A year ago, Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj declared that he was in discussion with a Chinese company to privatize the UKT. Back then he didn’t give any further information about the privatizations process, and it was thought he was just spreading his usual propaganda.
However, Exit has learned from sources with knowledge of the issue that indeed Mayor Veliaj discussed and negotiated for many months with a Chinese company to take over the water and drainage infrastructure management of the capital. Nothing is known of this negotiation process. There is no public information on the name or nature of the company or which basis the negotiations were held. Everything was done outside the usual procedures of government and law and without any official strategy of the municipality. This is yet another sign of the clientelism that shrouds Mayor Veliaj’s office.
As part of the negotiations, Mayor Veliaj traveled to China in October 2016, but without any result. Breaking point of the negotiations, Exit learned, were the maladministration of the company and its poor financial state caused by unpaid bills. The financial chaos within the UKT was indeed certified by two different auditors, which refused to certify the UKT’s balance sheet.
It is reasonable to think that after this failure, Mayor Veliaj is trying to improve the financial state of the company without having to go through the hassle of a fundamental cleaning and reorganization of the company. As the UKT has a monopoly on water provision in the capital, doubling the water price for the minority of people that pays their bills is a “cheap and dirty” method to rekindle the interest of the Chinese or any other potential buyer. As any privatization would be based on previous balance sheets, a guaranteed future doubling of the water price is indeed a lucrative offer.