MUSLIM SUCCESS STORY
March 28, 2008
Kosovo, with a predominantly ethnic Albanian Muslim population, has grabbed headlines by declaring its independence. Skeptics wonder if the new state can make it economically. But there's one Muslim country in the oft-tumultuous Balkans that's already doing things right: Albania. During the past two years Albania's government has enacted a number of exciting and eye-opening reforms, says Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine.
On the economic front, Prime Minister Sali Berisha proudly points to Albania's now having the smallest government per capita in Europe:
- It has enacted a 10 percent flat tax on both personal incomes and business profits.
- This rate is lower than Albania's previously low maximum rates of 23 percent on individual incomes and 25 percent on profits.
- Social security levies have been lowered by 31 percent.
- Tariffs with European countries have been eliminated; government personnel have been cut by almost 30 percent, and the cost of procurement is down 20 percent.
- Total revenues have surged from 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 27 percent.
- To make government more efficient, the prime minister initiated a program with Estonia -- a pioneer in this -- to bring high tech to tax collection and government contracts.
- Foreign direct investment -- albeit from a low base -- is growing impressively, having tripled in 2006 and nearly doubling again in 2007.
- The government has worked to make it easier to do business in Albania, instituting a "one-stop shop" for registering a business.
- Education is also being emphasized, particularly by the private sector.
Since the fall of communism, Albania has been a stalwart U.S. ally, even supplying troops to help us in Iraq. Its economic and anticorruption successes are models for other Muslim nations, says Forbes.
Source: Steve Forbes, "Muslim Success Story," Forbes, April 7, 2008.
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