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Privatisation vouchers Part 1

Recently, the Albanian government made public its intention of privatising the remaining state ownership of subjects operating in the strategic and non-strategic sectors. However, apart from certain signals coming from the Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Energy (METE), the use of privatisation vouchers in this new and probably final phase of privatisation has not been made clear and concrete through concise strategy and legal backup.

The term subject covers juridical persons, either under the full or partial ownership of the state, regardless of their juridical form as state enterprises or joint stock companies.

Privatisation vouchers were introduced for the first time in Albania in the mid-nineties as tools of a mass privatisation model that was widely implemented in several other post-communist countries during that period. In 1998, they were categorised as privatisation titles, together with other privatisation instruments such as the privatisation lek and privatisation bonds. The destination of the privatisation titles is strictly linked to their use in the privatisation of state property.

The legal framework that served as the basis for creating, issuing, printing, distributing and using privatisation vouchers has undergone several modifications and reformations in time so as to adapt to the privatisation needs and outcomes of particular periods.

At the core of the Massive Privatisation Programme (MPP) of 1995 stands the use of privatisation vouchers in a process based on three waves of privatisation. However, the government failed to strictly implement the methodology set out in the MPP of 1995. The normative acts that followed the programme narrowed the privatisation process to two waves of privatisation, and the participation of the vouchers in the actual privatisation was significantly limited. The programme was formally abolished in 2000.

In 1998, the Albanian legislator enacted two laws that formed the new legal basis for the privatisation strategy: (i) law 8306, dated March 14 1998, on the strategy for the privatisation of the strategic sector, later amended; and (ii) law 8334, dated April 23 1998, on the strategy for the privatisation of a subject operating in the non-strategic sector, later amended. Both laws recognise the use of privatisation vouchers in the privatisation of the subjects operating in the strategic and non-strategic sectors. However, none of these laws set out in a clear and definitive way the actual use of privatisation vouchers by shifting it onto the specific normative acts setting the privatisation formula. This legal gap has resulted in a fractional use of the vouchers in succeeding privatisations.

In the majority of cases, the state privatised its ownership of subjects operating in the strategic or non-strategic sectors through a formula that did not enable the participation of privatisation vouchers in public bidding. Following this formula, participation was limited only to those holders of privatisation vouchers that fell into the category of employees or former employees of the subject under privatisation. We find the same formula adopted in the laws on the basis of which state ownership was privatised in the past and also in companies that are in the process of being privatised. For instance, we can point to the legal formulae for the privatisation of the National Trading Bank JSC (BKT), the Savings Bank JSC (Banka e Kursimeve), Albkrom JSC, Albanian Mobile Communication JSC (AMC), SERVCOM JSC, Albtelecom JSC, ARMO JSC, INSIG JSC and the Distribution System Operator JSC (OSSH).

Rezarte Vukatana & Sokol Nako

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