From: Alice Taylor
Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj Allegedly Asks for EUR 36 Million From Budget for Theatre Construction

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj has allegedly asked Parliament for EUR 36 million to construct the National Theatre, according to a document published by the Democratic  Party.

Former MP Jorida Tabaku claims that Veliaj has asked for the money to come from the state budget.

“The state budget has been used for eight years for the benefit of a small group of people. For years, Albanian taxes have been stolen or used as a tool to help oligarchs and to burden other business…

Erion Veliaj has sent a letter to the Albanian Parliament requesting that EUR 36 million of Albanian taxes be used for the tower/theatre project that will be built on the site which was once the National Theatre,” she said.

Currently, the Economy Commission is reviewing the 2021 budget

A&E Engineering won the tender for the design and study of the new construction. The winner was announced of 5 October. The tender, worth around EUR 500,00 was held by the Municipality of Tirana during July.

The news of the large chunk of state budget being used for the controversial construction was also condemned by former MP Albanian Vokshi. She said that the money should be used for COVID-19 tests, PPP equipment, disinfectants, and bonuses for teachers.

In a Facebook post, she wrote that the money would be better spent on the following:

“Widespread periodic COVID-19 testing for teachers;

Masks and disinfectants for students and teachers;

School infrastructure including appropriate hygiene and sanitary standards and running water;

Investment in distance learning platforms;

Free internet tablets for every teacher and student;

To cover the costs of treatment for teachers;

A bonus for teachers work with such dedication in the difficult conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Albanian government is set to borrow a further EUR 500 million in 2021 which it will use to finance public investment and pay off old debt. Albanian public debt already stands at around 86% of it is GDP- a historic high.

The Bank of Albania (BoA) has expressed concern about the government forecast in the 2021 draft budget of tax revenues, public-private partnership (PPP) investments, and high public debt.

The country is being loaned and granted hundreds of millions from the EU and foreign countries to help with reconstruction from the 26 November earthquake and to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Theatre was demolished on the last day of lockdown in May this year. Armed police and special forces entered the building at around 4am and forcibly removed activists who were inside. The demolition started while some were still in the building and many lost their belongings. This marked the end of a two year civil society protest against its demolition and the plan to erect multiple towers and a new theatre on the site.