Qazim Sejdini, Mayor of Elbasan, Albania

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City of Elbasan sheds
‘ghost of communism’

By Kristine Jennings

14 November 2010: The city of Elbasan (population 126,700) in central Albania is shrugging off the ‘ghost of communism’ with its novel policy of community participation in budgetary development. Mayor Qazim Sejdini, sworn into office in May 2007, said that citizens who had previously been suppressed by the ‘ghost of communism have now been given a voice’. This involves regular meetings held in 23 different neighbourhoods where people of all types have a say in how money is spent – the first time this has happened in Albania. Often there is standing room only at these meetings.

The objectives of the budgetary process are to improve the administration of public funds and to enhance transparency between local government and community.  All citizens are encouraged to attend the meetings, to comment on the performance of the municipal government over the previous year, to discuss various issues - and to question the mayor.  The people then vote on local priorities.  In 2008 investments in Elbasan decided upon by the people totalled 625,000 euros.  A further $664,500 euros was invested by popular vote in 2009.

The municipality is actively working on a 10-year strategic plan for the city. Changes and improvements will be sought in clean water supply, electricity provision, sanitation, waste management, telecommunications, social services, urban transport, shopping areas, housing, urban planning, business development, sport and culture, area investments, education, and the environment. 

Future proposals include improving roads surrounding the city to meet European standards, which include putting new life into the historic Via Egnatia road running through the town centre (a 1.5m Euro investment to be funded by the EU), heating systems in schools, city-wide security cameras to protect transport, cameras outside all schools, and the installation of energy-efficient lighting.   

Elbasan has a population of 126,700.  The mayor boasts that changes over the past three years are evident. He declared: “The intention is to continue to modernise the city and to build an economy capable of attracting domestic and international investment.  To this end the focus is on infrastructure investment, economic and business development - especially small business growth. The number of registered businesses has increased by 16 per cent.” 

In 2007 the city launched its ‘Social Plan’, revising it in 2009.  Tangible outcomes include a total of 96 new houses for the poor (achieved with the help of the European Commission), a new retirement home, a new kindergarten for Roma children, and a public attorney to help and advise people on legal matters. Education has also been a main focus of investment. Courses for professional development have been made available at an educational centre financed by the municipality.  Internet access has been provided in all schools, and the building fabric properly maintained.  All kindergartens and nursery schools have been equipped with heating systems.

Elbasan is also striving to improve its tourist industry.  In 2009 it received a tourism award at the Swiss International Holiday Exhibition in recognition of its promotional efforts and achievements. New cultural destinations include a new art gallery inside the walls of the historic castle and the archaeological discovery of a mosaic of international interest

Mr. Sejdini, who seeks a second term at the elections next March, points to the concrete achievements of his municipality that could ‘pave the way for Albania’s EU membership’.

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