HomeProjectsStrengthening fact checking journalism in AlbaniaMarkets in Shkodra with scandalous conditions, elections bring back the broken promise

Markets in Shkodra with scandalous conditions, elections bring back the broken promise

Agricultural and livestock products in Shkodra are sold in scandalous conditions, a testimony of unkept electoral promise. The markets have deteriorated to the point where most traders have moved to the pavements, hardly leaving any room for pedestrians. Verification shows a total dysfunction of the chain of responsibilities from the provision of conditions to monitoring and sanctions for trading in the absence of hygienic and sanitary conditions, where the last fine dates back to 2018. A few days ago, or 4 weeks before the elections, the municipality published the project for the markets, without making any transparency about the public consultation and its value.

Emi Kalaja

Almost 8 years ago, the mayor of Shkodra, Voltana Ademi , committed to upgrading markets in the city, especially to creating some daily markets.

She came with a package of promises in this area.

The upgrading of markets was also foreseen in the development plan of Shkodra Municipality.

Shkodra municipality’s plan for markets

Shkodra municipality’s plan for markets

Based on the great importance and direct impact on the lives of citizens, we made a check on what has changed and how much the market situation has improved in the municipality of Shkodra.

From the verifications, it appears that in 2018 the Municipality of Shkodra invested a fund of 30 million lek, which included the upgrading of sewers and the placement of counters for sale in the fruit and vegetable market in the Rus quarter.

Within 2 weeks of entering the “rehabilitated” market, merchants showed dissatisfaction with the poor and non-functional investment. They started reusing their own tents to protect themselves from the sun and rain, while the municipality’s investment turned out to be a failure.

The market in Rus quarter, Shkodra, March 2023

“There are no conditions at all. The cabins are small, inadequate, no standards”, said a seller for Faktoje.

“What they have done is almost like pigeon homes. No counters. The counter is so small that not even two tomato boxes fit. The old counter was perfect,” said another seller.

In this market, there are about 60 merchants trading, and 116 counters. And yet a significant part of the merchants today sell on the street, outside the market.

Street vendors on Shkodra sidewalks, March 2023

The current mayor of Shkodra, Bardh Spahia, raised the issue of the markets a year ago as a concern, repeating promises of investment.

However, our verification of the 2023 budget of the Municipality of Shkodra, approved by the Municipal Council, shows that no funds, not even minimal funds have been allocated to improving the conditions in the markets.

The situation on the ground, a year after the latest promise, has deteriorated even further.

“The road to this market (so-called Rus) is terrible, you risk breaking your neck in the mud, metal, and plastic. We pay 3 thousand old lek per day in taxes, but get nothing in return. Outside the market, the street is full of street vendors and no one buys inside” – says a merchant who has been selling in the Rus market for 15 years.

The food market in the Rus Quarter of Shkodra, March 2023

The food market in the Rus Quarter of Shkodra, March 2023

The food market in the Rus Quarter of Shkodra, March 2023

“How can it be considered a market when there is no roof? Rain falls inside. This is like Africa. You can’t really blame people for not buying. It’s so uncomfortable coming here that people would not come even if we give them things for free” – says a merchant for Faktoje.

In Shkodra, there are more than 120 street vendors, almost more than the number of those formalized in the market of Rus and Zdrale.

They state that they can not afford paying their monthly taxes, but they can pay daily taxes if the municipality finds them a suitable place to trade, rejecting the current markets which they say are inappropriate.

“Where do you expect me to go, other than drown myself in Buna River? I am 72 years old, I come out here with bags, sometimes they send me away, sometimes they tolerate me, this is our bread-winning job, we have nowhere to go, says a merchant who goes out every day on the sidewalk to sell milk.

Gëzim Kraja, 62 years old, tells us that he has been buying in the Rus market for three decades.

“It gets worse every day with dirt and mud everywhere. But I’m old and I can’t afford shopping enywhere else, it’s cheaper to buy from the villagers. I even come before the market closes and buy it at the end, because it’s cheaper. I take the products that they are too lazy to load again, they are dirty, but what can I do, just clean them. Things are more expensive in supermarkets!” he says for Faktoje.

We addressed an official request for information to the Local Food Authority (AKU) in Shkodra, asking for data on the hygiene-sanitary situation and safety in the markets, as well as the measures taken by this institution.

The response from Shkodra AKU provides general information that control groups have been set up in cooperation with the Municipality, the Police, and the Directorate of Tax Investigation and that the last fine reported for trading products in the absence of hygienic and sanitary conditions dates back to April 2018. In general, the inspection groups, according to the answer, have an advisory role.

For economic expert and lecturer Mario Çurçija, such a situation has a negative impact as far as competition is concerned for other registered traders who pay rent, cleaning taxes, local taxes, etc.

In the answer to Faktoje, he underlines that the street vendors who are found in every corner of the building or a few meters from their homes, certainly bring us local organic products at low prices, shortening the transport chain of producer-trader-customer, but in the concept of the market economy, there are many abusive elements that affect first of all those traders who want to conform to the standards and the taxation system.

“On the other hand, the negative effect is the crowding of the sidewalks, hindering pedestrian traffic. The quality control of the products is also called into question and the food safety standards are uncertified”, concludes the expert Çurçija.

With the approach of the next local elections, the scandalous situation of the markets in Shkodra is again on the electoral agenda of the candidates, this time on the agenda of the Socialist Party candidate Benet Beci, who says in a post on social networks that the market needs immediate rehabilitation and investment.

The post of Benet Beci, SP candidate for Shkodra municipality

On March 21, a few days before the publication of this article and while Faktoje was waiting for the response to the request for information sent to the Municipality of Shkodra, the latter posted on Facebook the announcement that the project for the Russian market is ready.

Post of Shkodra Municipality March 21, 2023

The 3D project of the market in the Rus neighborhood, published by Shkodra Municipality on March 21, 2023

Despite the propaganda of the project, a few weeks before the local elections, the Municipality has not announced any preliminary public consultation, nor has it made transparency about the value of the project.

Another question that is raised is the fact that there is talk of a project which is “sold” as being ready for implementation, but only between the lines it is understood that it is an application to the Agency for Rural Development and Agriculture with a focus on “Support for the construction of markets for agricultural products, markets for live animals or slaughterhouses for commercial companies with 100% state capital, owned by local self-government units, in the value of no more than 30 million ALL per subject”.

*This article is published as part of the call for 10 articles with a fact-checkingprofile, part of the “Strengthening Fact Checking Journalism in Albania” Project, which is being implemented by Faktoje, supported by the Dutch Embassy. These articles are part of the national competition for “Fatos Baxhaku” award.


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