Two days ago, the workers from the ARMO refinery asked Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister Arben Ahmetaj and Damian Gjiknuri for the umpteenth time for months of unpaid wages. But both the prime minister and his ministers, the true representatives of those who mix up the private (of others) with the public and then their public with (their) private, ignored them, explaining that the refinery is owned by a private company, and that the government cannot intervene.
But the government in fact intervened heavily in the factory. Besnik Sulaj’s company couldn’t have taken control over the refinery without the collaboration and protection of the government, because it is a strategic asset which (at least until recently) was owned by a company of which the state was co-owner.
Without the collaboration and protection of the government, all the functionaries of ARMO and the different companies that made agreements with it would be in jail for tax evasion, perhaps the same jail in which the government throws those street sellers who don’t charge VAT.
Meanwhile, just in 2017 ARMO amassed €50 million in unpaid taxes. It didn’t pay Bankers Petroleum for any of the crude oil it refined and hasn’t paid the wages of 1,200 unfortunate workers.
The issue of ARMO privatization should not and cannot change the core of the problem: respect for the law, which in any environment and for everyone is still the duty of the state, even though because of the co-governance platform and the many judicial reforms it is quite unclear who should be in charge of enforcing it.
For years on end ARMO has failed to pay social insurance, carbon taxes, or petrol excises. How can it be explained that no one in the tax administration noticed this? And if no one noticed this until now, shouldn’t all the news articles of the last days and all the “official decisions” published in the media not be translated into massive abuse of office by the government?
But no one is saying anything, because all understand that it is a very complicated political and juridical issue, involving interests that could easily shake the entire government.
According to US Ambassador Donald Lu, former Prosecutor General Adriatik Llalla was the one not opening investigations against the “big fish,” but there is now a new one, Arta Marku, elected in violation of the Constitution in the name of the judicial reform, who is supposed to clean up the political scene.
And what is Arta Marku doing?
Will she show that she has professional integrity, that she has the will to change the opinion about her shady election by starting investigations, perhaps even arresting, one of these “big fish” so wanted by the internationals, or will she continue to remain silent and not disturb the powers that elected her?
And the opposition, what should it do?
Maybe it should stop for a moment its meetings with the base, throwing their shoes, or seeking alliances with ten parties “in a family format,” and loudly demand an intervention into ARMO. That’s how it could show that it’s still alive and a real opposition.
Otherwise it may be better for them to leave the meetings and alliances, and save their shoes – which they’ll soon need to cross the mountains to Greece.