ECONOMY

IMF, Albania get close to signing three-year loan facility deal today

TIRANA (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Friday that Albania had moved closer to signing a new three-year loan deal with the lender and urged the government to go ahead with the promised structural reforms. The IMF and the Albanian government are still working on some major issues but getting closer to reach an agreement over the new three-year program, the IMF mission chief for Albania, Istvan Szekely, told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Sali Berisha and representatives of local business. Szekely said that the structural reforms promised by the Albanian government will most likely be part of the arrangement. IMF started a 15-day mission to the impoverished southeastern European country last week. The mission focuses on the signing of a new arrangement with the country and the fiscal outcomes in 2005 and 2006. «We have agreed that the [2006] budget will be drafted in line with IMF requirements, so, within six months, we will have a refined and improved fiscal administration, tax and customs collections,» Berisha said. IMF and Albania signed in 2002 a three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program under which the fund lent or close to $40 million (33.4 million euros). The IMF and Albanian officials will hold a news conference at the end of the mission today.