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Local government modernization in Albania: Historical background and the territorial reform 2015-2020

Elona Guga (Department of Management and Law, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 14 May 2018




An attempt will be made to shed light on the course and pattern of the decentralization process by analyzing the historical development of local government and the territorial-administrative reform of 2015-2020 in Albania and the factors that have been shaping it. The scope is to understand the impact of the reform elements on the subnational governments and in general their overall impact on the government. The purpose of this paper is to fill the gap in the existing literature for Albania and at offering some insights on the administrative-territorial reform. Furthermore, it will contribute to the current debate on fiscal decentralization in South Eastern European (SEE) countries and the public management model implemented after the last reforms.


The first section analyzes the historical development of local government reforms from the 1990s to today and will help to identify if there is instrumentalism advocacy. The second section explains the determinants of the local government’s fiscal autonomy in Albania of the period from 2003 to 2016. Three indicators are used as proxies for fiscal decentralization: the proportion of subnational expenditure over national expenditure, of total subnational revenues over total revenues of central government and the indicator of own subnational revenues over total revenues of the central government. The data from the budget and the revised budgets are then compared.


Despite Albania’s commitment to decentralize its government functions, there is still work to do. The territorial and administrative reform has not generated the expected results. Almost 90 percent of the revenues still come from the central government’s unconditional transfers. Therefore, the Albanian Government should build capacities and skills, and train the employees of each level of government that currently benefit from international assistance.

Research limitations/implications

The analysis represents a single case study on the territorial-administrative reform in Albania. Its implementation started in 2015 and it is probably too early to discuss outcomes. However, it might be useful to analyze the first results after a two-and-a-half-year period of implementation of reforms. Despite contributing to the existing gap in the literature, additional research will be necessary to better understand the decentralization process not only in Albania, but in all SEE countries.

Practical implications

It is necessary to first understand the lack of initial output, as well as the various challenges faced, in order to take the corrective measures on time.


This paper discusses in detail the reform adopted and the progress made by the Albanian local government units. The reform attempts to develop better relationships between the central and local governments and hence improve their service delivery, transparency and accountability. This paper is the first one that is attempting to analyze the initial output of the territorial-administrative reform of 2015-2020.



Guga, E. (2018), "Local government modernization in Albania: Historical background and the territorial reform 2015-2020", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 466-506.



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