Albania will not ‘cry at Europe’s door’, PM says

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said, ‘To say that Albanians will become Swedes, I don’t think it will happen.’ (AFP)
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Updated 06 February 2020

Albania will not ‘cry at Europe’s door’, PM says

  • The country of 2.8 million hoped to get the greenlight to start EU entry talks in October, but France, Denmark and the Netherlands vetoed the move
  • Neighbouring North Macedonia’s bid was also put on hold due to resistance chiefly from Paris

TIRANA: Albania will not “stay at Europe’s door and cry” for it to open, Prime Minister Edi Rama told AFP, stressing that the Balkan state must focus on its own future while Brussels sorts out thorny questions over its admissions process.
The country of 2.8 million hoped to get the greenlight to start EU entry talks in October, but France, Denmark and the Netherlands vetoed the move.
Neighbouring North Macedonia’s bid was also put on hold due to resistance chiefly from Paris.
The French-led “non” outraged many in the Balkans and in the EU, where most member states had wanted to reward the two countries for pushing through significant reforms.
Brussels is now redoubling efforts to get all member states on board to approve the start of Albania and North Macedonia’s talks at a summit in May.
Prime Minister Rama, however, is not holding his breath.
“I do not expect anything,” Rama, a painter and former basketball player, told AFP in an interview conducted in French.
“We should do the things that should be done” regardless of decisions in Brussels, he said, adding that the country cannot “continue to live with this anxiety of waiting for something that is out of our hands.”
“We will not stay at Europe’s door and cry,” said the 55-year-old, who was wearing a long black coat and sneakers.
“We are not on this path because the French or the Germans are asking us, but because it is the only reasonable path for the future of our children and for the future of this country,” he said.
Rama added that the EU’s own reforms are far from Tirana’s control, though “it is important for us too that Europe changes.”
Europe “is suffering, it doesn’t work as it should, that’s clear.”
In order to placate French demands to rework the EU’s entry requirements before opening the gate to new members, the European Commission proposed a tougher and more political admissions process this week.
For Tirana, the main areas under scrutiny are its efforts to root out corruption and organized crime, as well as to strengthen rule of law.
The country has carried out intensive justice reforms since 2016, with hundreds of judges and prosecutors vetted for any links to crime or other unethical conduct.
While Brussels has applauded this process, a progress report in 2019 still noted that “corruption is prevalent in many areas” in the Balkan state. The next report is due at the end of the month.
“Albania did more than any other country for the opening of negotiations,” insisted Rama, who has been in power since 2013.
But the country will “continue to do its homework (because) we are not doing it for them, we are doing it for ourselves,” he added.
On that front, the government recently adopted a decree to bolster the fight against organized crime.
It has also asked parliament to crack down on corruption and crime in the construction sector — an issue that came to light after a deadly earthquake in November damaged more than 80,000 buildings, killing 51 people.
Authorities say they will put an end to decades of unchecked urbanization, especially in coastal tourist areas where many developers have built without proper permits or respect for safety codes.
The cost of the earthquake reconstruction effort is estimated at a billion euros (dollars), with which Albania is set to receive help at a donor conference later this month in Brussels.
“We greatly appreciate the will to organize this conference and we hope it will be successful,” Rama said.
Asked if the earthquake was a wake-up call for Albania generally, Rama said he was a “realist.”
“This is a huge opportunity for the country to demonstrate it is doing things differently,” he said.
“But to say that Albanians will become Swedes, I don’t think it will happen.”


Cross-class marriage urged to tackle Indonesia poverty

Updated 21 February 2020

Cross-class marriage urged to tackle Indonesia poverty

  • Country ranks sixth among those with greatest wealth inequality: Oxfam

JAKARTA: A senior Indonesian minister has suggested that poor people should marry someone of higher social status to reduce poverty.

Muhadjir Effendy, the coordinating minister for human development and cultural affairs, told a meeting on the national health program in Jakarta on Wednesday that he would ask Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi — who also attended the meeting — to issue an edict recommending the move.

Effendy said that the edict could prevent the emergence of “new poor households” and provide Indonesia’s majority Muslim community with a new interpretation of the principle that one should marry a person with a compatible socioeconomic background for the sake of equivalence (kaf’ah) between prospective spouses.

The principle, he said, makes poor people marry among themselves and “automatically give birth to a new poor household.”

The minister on Thursday clarified that his intention with the “intermezzo” statement was to kick-start a social movement to break the cycle of poverty in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s poverty rate declined to below 10 percent for the first time in the country’s history, in September 2019, according to the latest data available from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS).

The BPS sets the poverty line at $32.13 per person per month, or an average of $1.07 per day.

FASTFACT

President Joko Widodo frequently requests his ministers to come up with ideas to accelerate the anti-poverty programs and close the country’s income inequality gap.

President Joko Widodo frequently requests his ministers to come up with ideas to accelerate the implementation of poverty alleviation programs and close the country’s income inequality gap, which has widened over the past 20 years.

In September, the level of inequality in Indonesia measured by the Gini coefficient stood at 0.380, improving by 0.004 points from the previous year, according to the BPS. The index ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality.

An Oxfam report in 2017 showed that in the past two decades, the gap between the richest and the rest of the population in Indonesia had grown faster than in any other country in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is ranked sixth among the countries with greatest wealth inequality, according to the UK-based NGO.

Oxfam said that the four richest men in Indonesia have more wealth than the poorest 100 million people. Inequality is slowing down poverty reduction, dampening economic growth and threatening social cohesion, it said.

However, economists said that suggesting the poor pursue a Cinderella story to graduate from their low-socioeconomic status was not the solution that Indonesia needed to reduce poverty and tackle income inequality.

“How would the state manage such domestic affairs? Even parents could not choose for their children,” Enny Sri Hartati, a senior researcher at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), told Arab News on Thursday.

Indef Deputy Director Eko Listiyanto said that there was no guarantee that Effendy’s proposal, if approved, would be effective in tackling poverty. “There is no urgency for such an edict . . . the root of the problem lies with the issuance of economic policies that widen inequality as they only benefit a small group in the society,” he said.

Listiyanto said that the government was unable to drive upward mobility as the majority of its policies revolved around populism rather than empowerment. He called on the government to stop making regulations that served only oligarchs.

“It would be better to improve the national education system to prepare the next generation for their economic leap. That move would be far more sustainable compared with issuing the marriage edict,” he said.

Pieter Abdullah Redjalam, research director of the Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Indonesia, said that Effendy’s idea of a cross-class marriage edict showed that he was out of touch with reality.

“He seems to forget that there is a very wide gap between the poor and the rich,” Redjalam said. “The poor are generally trapped in the poverty cycle. They cannot go to school, so they stay poor.”

Redjalam echoed Listiyanto’s recommendation of opening access to and improving the quality of Indonesia’s education system to reduce poverty in the long term. “It is a shame if the former education minister does not understand that,” he said, referring to Effendy.