Albania’s finance minister replaced, no reason given

TIRANA, Albania – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama fired his finance minister on Tuesday and nominated former Economy Minister Arben Ahmetaj to take the post, but gave no explanation for the move.

Shkelqim Cani, appointed finance minister in September 2013, learned of his ouster while in a meeting with international finance officials, a source close to him told The Associated Press. The source would speak only on condition of anonymity.

During Cani’s time in office, the country’s debt rose from 62 per cent of GDP to 73 per cent now.

Ahmetaj, 46, was replaced at the post of economy, tourism, trade and enterprise ministry by Milva Ekonomi, former deputy health minister.

Despite international assistance, Rama has continuously complained of poor results in money collection from the taxation and customs authorities, both within the Finance Ministry.

Rama’s Cabinet inherited more than $700 million (€626 million) arrears on payments due to private company, and also face a significant fall in remittances from Albanian expatriates working mainly in Italy and Greece.

However, hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development helped the government take the country’s growth back to positive trends with 2.7 per cent in 2015 and the inflation kept at 2.1 per cent.

Albanian is one of the continent’s poorest countries, lacking significant foreign direct investment and suffering from unemployment of about 17 per cent.

Cani keeps his parliamentary seat with the ruling left-wing Socialist party.