Ina Allkanjari

It has been 2 years now since the urgent collapse of the National Theatre by way of a ‘blitz’ action. Construction of the Theatre should start in 2022 and end in 2024 as referring of the list of public investments funded internally. Although the construction of the new theatre was a priority for the 2017-2021 mandate, tenders does not actually appear to have been opened or contracts to have been concluded. Prime Minister Rama justified the failure of meeting deadlines for starting Theatre’s construction with the earthquake, pandemic and the war in Ukraine, however experts list arguments refuting such claims.

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“Unfortunately, it has been 3 years now from drafted plans and projects, while the country is facing massively strong interventions of foreign factors independently from us, as earthquake, pandemic and war in Ukraine, which has had a great impact in terms of price increases, in general and construction prices, in particular… We are dealing with such matter and I believe we will find a solution and the National Theatre shall be built as designed and as promised. “However, not all plans can be implemented in the set deadlines when a neither anticipated, nor avoided event occurs and enters between you and deadline. – stated  Prime Minister Edi Rama on 25 April at the conference dedicated to the International Culture Weeks.

Given such statement, Faktoje decided to address an official request to the Municipality of Tirana and the Ministry of Culture where, among others, we asked for information on the reasons why construction of the National Theatre building was not budgeted in 2021, whether the procurement process has actually started and if there has been an impact from the price increases and what is the estimated additional cost.

Screenshot, request for information to the Municipality of Tirana dated 29.04.2022

We haven’t received a response from the above institutions until publication of article herein.

In the official website of the Ministry of Finance we can find the list of Public Investments with domestic Financing for 2021-2023. The list shows the budget for Tirana Pyramid revitalization, but although National Theatre was demolished in May 2020, a year later there was no budget laid down for the construction of the new building.

Screenshot, list of Public Investments with Domestic Financing for 2021-2023

The building of the National Theatre appears for the first time in the list of Public Investments with Domestic Financing in the 2022-2024 budget.

Screenshot, list of Public Investments with Domestic Financing for 2022-2024

The starting year of the building’s construction is 2022 and the ending year is 2024 with a total investment value of 4.8 billion ALL (approx. 39 million Euro).

The value for the first year of works is 900 million ALL (approx.7.4 million Euro). According to the investments’ list, the total value of capital investments in “Art and Culture” for 2022 was of 2.043 billion ALL, which includes the relevant part for the National Theatre.

If referring to the amendments of 2022 budget and pursuant to the Normative Act of March, such value has not changed, so the government has not cut projects in this area in response to the crisis created during recent months (unlike education). We can say so far that Government keeps budgeting the National Theatre project.

A search made on the Open Procurement on 11 May 2022 showed that no tenders have been called for the construction of the National Theatre building and no contract has been concluded.

According to the government’s commitment, the construction of the National Theatre was a priority since it’s last governing term. The construction of the new building namely appears in the governing program of 2017-2021 stating:

We will also start the construction of the New National Theatre in cooperation with Municipality of Tirana.

Such statement was also stressed out by Mayor of Tirana, Mr. Erion Veliaj who on 5 July 2021, following the approval of the permit for the new National Theatre by the National Territorial Council, stated:

“We will wait for permit bleaching by NTC, we will respect the procedures and I believe that we will start the works of the new National Theatre in 100 days….. The new year will find Tirana with at least one new Theatre site”.

Faktoje asked economic experts why construction of the new National Theatre building is not budgeted for 2021 and they said that arguments related to earthquake, pandemic or war in Ukraine are not valid and doesn’t justify the starting of works on the new building,

“If we take the collapse time of the theatre into consideration, we must keep in mind that earthquake had already occurred just as we knew very well, we were under pandemic effects. Meaning that use of earthquake and pandemic as excuses for the two years delay of works for the new building does not apply.  If we would take also collapse time into consideration, it would be then obvious that the government has had all the time needed in 2020 to include it in the draft budget 2021, which did not happen. This fund was budgeted in 2022; however, we will happen to see in the future if it will be realized. One of the conditions on the law on budget system management requires allocation in the first year of at least 20% of the total contract value, which in this case is at least 960 million ALL and not 900 million ALL as defined in the list of investments”- state the experts.

As far as war impact argument is concerned, they say:

“The first aspect consists of re-prioritizing the budget, which so far has not happened in the case of the National Theatre referring to the budget with its amendments. The second is related to the potential increase of construction costs beyond predictions as for the value of the new building. If the latter argument applies, should we take a 10% increase in construction prices, then the impact would be around an additional 4 million Euro, which is easily affordable if it’s in the government’s priorities. “However, this argument would also be factual for other capital projects of 2022 which leads us to the prioritization topic.”