Rama Back in Asia, Hires Foreign Consultants to Organize “Trade Forums”

While the World Economic Forum in Davos is taking place, the world is holding its breath for the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, and tensions between Kosovo and Serbia are reaching new high points, Prime Minister Edi Rama has attended the Singapore–Albania Trade & Investment Forum, organized by Developing Markets Associates (DMA).

DMA also organized a previous trip of the Prime Minister to Hong Kong, to the Hong Kong–Albania Trade & Investment Forum in October 2015. DMA is a consultancy firm specializing in “investment promotion for sovereign governments.”

The list of companies represented at the investment promotion event in Singapore are partially the same as those present in Hong Kong: Christian Canacaris, CEO of Raiffeisen Bank; Grigor Joti, CEO of Infosoft; and Klodjan Allajbeu, CEO of American Hospital Group Albania. All three companies have close ties to the Rama government, while Allajbeu is currently under investigation for the death four people in the hemodialysis clinic he operates as part of a public–private partnership with the government, as well as several other malversations in his hospital.

Both Singapore and Hong Kong have featured in a series of “investments” in Albania that mostly have failed to materialize:

  • Former Minister of Transport Edmond Haxhinasto signed a concession to build an oil terminal near Porto Romano with the company Porti MBM, 97% of which is owned by a company based in Singapore;
  • The company M.POS, which in early 2016 proposed a concession to the Ministry of Finance to privatize VAT collection, is registered in Hong Kong, owned by a shell company on the Seychelles.
  • In July 2016 the company Star Bridge Port Developments Ltd, owned by a Singaporean company One Gate PTE Ltd, proposed a container port and economical zone of 1,700 ha near Karpen, electrical power plant, sports academy and so on, worth an investment of $5 billion. A draft law approving the proposal was passed through parliament quickly, but no new developments regarding this unlikely proposal have been reported since.

The only “real” investment from Hong Kong or Singapore has been the construction of a thirteen-floor building at the entrance of Rruga e Elbasanit in Tirana by the company S.E.R.E, registered in Singapore but linked to Albanian businessman Samir Mane, who previously accompanied Prime Minister Rama to Hong Kong.

In other words, all proposals for concessions listed above, linked to shell companies in tax havens, have so far had no real impact on the Albanian economy, and the real question is why the Prime Minister chooses to spend public money on hiring an external consultancy company to organize “trade forums” in Asia, while these so far have brought no real economic impulse or investment.