Albanians took to the streets of Tirana last night to protest against inflation and the increased cost of living at a time many are struggling to make ends meet.
Protests have taken place sporadically over the last few months, with some of the country’s largest-ever non-partisan demonstrations taking place in March. Wednesday’s protest was smaller in scale, but the demands are the same—that the government take more action to keep costs lower and support vulnerable families.
Following the protest, activists and politicians participated in television debates, with one, in particular, getting particularly headed. On Open, activist and professor Arlind Qorri from leftist organisation Organizata Politike accused the government of being unable to mitigate the crisis.
“We are fighting for vital things, we are not fighting for luxury, for the third car, for the villa on the coast. We are righting for food, for rights we should have and do not have because of a crisis. We do not have many things that we could produce ourselves,” Qorri said, referring to products like wheat and even fuels.
“There are alternatives for resolving this crisis, but do we have a government that listens to us?” he said.
Deputy Minister of the Economy and Finance, Besart Kadia, then engaged in an argument with him, where he accused the activist of dressing poorly and not coming to the show smartly dressed.
“Coming with this shirt does not suit you,” said Kadia, referencing Qorri’s simple t-shirt. He added, “you can come from the mine like this, but you cannot wear a t-shirt, as a lecturer, to the studio. In the civilised world, there are standards…dress a little better when you come to the studio,” he said.
The government has responded to the crisis so far by creating a Transparency Board to set prices. However, citizens are not happy with this as they claim those on the boar, including the owners of companies holding significant shares of specific markets, are not fair. They also approved a social resistance package, but again citizens say this is not enough.
Calls for the government to do more have also come from the Central Bank, with Governor Gent Sejko calling for scaling back on non-priority expenditures to help the country.
He stated it is necessary to adopt fiscal policies to support those individuals and businesses most impacted by inflation. This support should be financed by the additional income from price increases and by decreasing non-priority expenditures.
“By doing so, the intervention will be effective but will not harm public debt indicators,” he said.