With the implementation of decentralization reforms, municipalities have the opportunity to improve the quality of life of their citizens. Decentralization positions municipalities to improve the delivery of services, enhance local democracy, and foster local economic development. The building blocks are in place for stronger, more effective, and more responsive local governments. The time to build on those blocks is NOW.
Essential to the effective implementation of Territorial Administrative Reform is the new Law on Local Self-Governance (Organic Law). Enacted in December 2015, the Law entrusts the newly-consolidated municipalities with the authority and responsibility to serve their citizens better. The Organic Law explicitly states that local governments have the right and responsibility for conducting economic activities. The Law further states that the exclusive functions of municipalities in local economic development include: the preparation of programs for local economic development, support to small business development, the provision of financial grants to support small and medium sized business activities, and the performance of services in support of local economic development.
The USAID Planning and Local Governance Project is assisting three partner municipalities, Fier, Berat, and Elbasan, in the creation of Economic Development Advisory Councils to strengthen and institutionalize private sector engagement by providing an on-going opportunity for private sector actors to provide input and recommendations for municipal policies and priorities related to local economic development, including: improving the business-enabling environment and supporting the recruitment of new businesses and the retention/expansion of existing businesses. To fulfill these responsibilities, municipalities must intensify their efforts to engage the private sector.
Municipal officials worked with the USAID Project to prepare the ground work for establishing Economic Development Advisory Councils (EDAC), aiming to enhance private sector engagement at the local level. As a result, in February, the Municipal Council of Elbasan approved the creation of the Elbasan Economic Development Advisory Council.
The Elbasan EDAC has a composition of eleven voluntary members, a combination of representatives from the private sector and local government and is chaired by the Mayor of Elbasan. The first meeting of the Elbasan EDAC (EEDAC) was convened on April 13, 2018 at the Elbasan City Hall. Mayor Sejdini expressed appreciation for the support of USAID Project in creating the first ever Public Private structure for the Elbasan Municipality. The Mayor welcomed the representatives of local businesses to the EEDAC and highlighted the important role that they can play in offering advice on economic development issues, assisting in prioritizing investment priorities, and in supporting the implementation of the General Local Territorial Plan. Peter Clavelle, a Decentralization/Local Governance Expert for USAID’s project, gave a presentation on how this EDAC can advise the Mayor and the Municipal Council and support the Municipality of Elbasan in improving economic growth and boosting job creation. EEDAC kick-off is a good start in improving communications and cooperation between the Municipality of Elbasan and its council and the private sector representatives.
The launch of EDAC in Fier and Berat occurred respectively on April 23 and 24, 2018. A follow-up meeting of the Fier Economic Development Advisory Council (FEDAC) featured presentations from the USAID Project Urban Planning experts on the feasibility study and design of the Livestock Market and the sports facility in the city of Fier. An informative presentation from the USAID Project Tax Expert on property tax and new local fiscal changes was well received and appreciated by the FEDAC members, who demonstrated great interest in enhancing the private sector engagement in the local economic development projects and in improving the business climate at the local level.
In the Berat Economic Development Advisory Council’s follow-up meeting (BEDAC), presentations from the Business Improvement District (BID) were combined with questions and discussions of the BEDAC members, its Secretariat, and the Peace Corps Volunteer regarding more access to information on the new economic development of the historical neighborhood of the city and on the harmonization of public and private activities in the BID area. Local business representatives thanked the Mayor for organizing the meeting at their request and showed strong interest in having other meetings focusing on the economic development of the city.