Albanian prime minister Edi Rama unexpectedly announced on February 16 that he will replace finance minister Shkelqim Cani. The cabinet office has issued a brief statement that did not reveal the reasons for the decision.
The move came as Albania is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to increase budget revenues, which are below the planned target. The IMF said in November 2015 that Tirana needs to continue improving tax compliance and broadening the tax base.
Cani will be replaced by Albania's minister for economic development Arben Ahmetaj, according to the statement. Meanwhile, deputy healthcare minister Milva Ekonomi, who previously headed the statistics office, will replace Ahmetaj.
In the statement, Rama thanked Cani “for the trust and close cooperation in overcoming successfully the inherited situation of financial hardship in the last two and a half year ago.”
He called on Cani to continue “with the same professionalism and dedication as a member of the parliament and the member of the parliamentary commission for economy and finance.”
Cani was governor of the Albanian central bank from August 1997 to October 2004, when Ardian Fullani took over the position.
Local media reported recently that top officials from the governing Socialist Party, which came to power in 2013, were holding intensive meetings and that changes to the government were possible.
Albania is expected to receive the next tranche of SDR57.8mn (about €73.8mn) under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement with the IMF. Albania's 36-month EFF arrangement with the IMF was approved on February 28, 2014.