The American Chamber Business Index (ABI) in 2015 has registered a significant drop by 4.83 points of percentage, going down from 42.77 to 37.94 points.
The American Chamber of Commerce introduced on Wednesday the fourth edition of ABI for 2015- 2016 in a working lunch followed by a discussion panel, which was attended by Minister of Finances Arben Ahmetaj, Minister of Economic Development Milva Ekonomi and American Deputy Ambassador to Tirana David Muniz.
This is the first time that this index registers drop since 2012, which is the first year when it was measured. A slight improvement to 40.61 is expected in 2016, which still remains under the level of 2014, when it registered the highest level. The index measures important elements like government policies, tax level, corruption, informality, law implementation and other elements related to the performance of businesses and Albanian economy.
More than 65 percent of the members of the American Chamber have perceived the business climate in Albania as unfavorable, or very unfavorable, 5.2 percent have considered the climate as positive and 29.1 as neutral.
The three main concerns reported by the respondents for 2015 were "the general level of applied taxes" (26.89), "monopoly and unfair competition" (27.8), "government bureaucracy" (28.17). The perception for the general level of applied taxes has dropped during 2015. This is also the indicator that has marked the biggest drop, from 34.13 points in 2014 to 26.89 in 2015.
The members of the AmCham have perceived a deterioration of economy trend in 2015 (31.44), compared with 2014 (40.14). They expect economic growth to change trend again in 2016. From 27 indicators that the index measures, only three result increasing: public order and safety in the country, level of informal economy and total change in employment.
Minister of Finances Ahmetaj declared that the comments of the members of the chamber are positive for 2016, which means that trust in economy has started to return.
"I am careful in my pleasure for 2016, but I can't help saying that we have left the crisis behind. This is a community that has suffered crisis directly. We still have a lot to do and your expectations are a challenge," said Ahmetaj.
Meantime, Ekonomi said that government's communication with business will continue and reforms will be made in the field of finances and taxes.
The US Deputy Ambassador Muniz expressed his confidence that the members of AmCham will cooperate with the government to address political issues and improve the business climate.
Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to Albania, Donald Lu expressed concern regarding the drop of percentage points of ABI published on Wednesday. In a letter made public at the beginning of the meeting for the Business Index 2015- 2016, Lu said that he was disappointed when he noticed the considerable drop of ABI in 2015. Further on, he encouraged the government and other business leaders, to use this report as a powerful means to focus on and to give priority to the reforms for the business climate in Albania.
However, the ambassador that the report is not entirely bad news, given that the members of the AmCham are optimistic for 2016.
According to Lu, ABI gives an excellent summary of expectations to the Albanian and foreign business community. He added that the US Embassy will support the AmCham and ABI and will continue to cooperate closely with the members to promote interests of US business community in Albania.