Dear Ladies and Gentlemen! First of all I would like to congratulate you on the initiative you have taken for the organization of this Congress by bringing together specialists and actors involved in the construction sphere to discuss about road infrastructure which is one of the most important issues contributing to the development of the country. The Albanian Development Fund, which I represent here today, is one of the first institutions operating in the sphere of regional and local development since 1993. Over these years, through the implementation of primary infrastructure projects such as roads, water supply and sewer systems, school buildings etc, ADF has contributed in a constant and progressive way to the improvement of living conditions for the local communities and improvement of governance at local level as well. The main Program which is currently being implemented by the Albanian Development Fund is the Improvement of Secondary and Local Roads, otherwise known as the Rural Roads Program. Albania has a rural road network of about 10,000 km which is under the administration of first and second level Local Government Units. Prior to Program initiation, there wasn’t any appropriate inventory concerning the location, technical condition and administration responsibility for rural road network. According to a World Bank survey on secondary and local road network in Albania, over 70% of this road network was in poor or very poor condition (highlighting that in spite of classifying the majority of roads as being in “very poor” condition, they were impassable for the most part of the year.) Investments in these roads were almost nonexistent, fragmentary, uncoordinated and with entirely obsolete standards to meet the ever-increasing demand for transport. Even ADF financed with its own funds, paving gravel roads with an average length of 2 km, to cope with the difficult situation. Bearing in mind that almost half of the population lives in rural areas, it is evident the negative impact this road network has had on the pace of economic development , indicators of social services such as health care and education or the tangible feelings of isolation and abandonment. Given this complex situation where national strategies, government’s program and assistance strategies of major international financial institutions had to be coordinated in a large-scale intervention, I would mention two key points which consisted the turning point for rural road network and outlined the continued success of the Program: - - Firstly, the very clear and courageous vision of the Albania Government for a developed infrastructure and the great confidence in the impact of road infrastructure on transforming rural areas. Secondly , the professionalism and commitment of the staff of Albanian institutions and international financial institutions, and especially that of the Albanian Development Fund in establishing a Program of such size as the Secondary and Local Roads The Program started its implementation in 2008 based on two main pillars: 1. Establishment of a functional inventoried system for road network and prioritization of investments; 2. Large-scale rehabilitation of secondary road network, including about 1500 km and stabilization of the operation and maintenance of this road network. Now, four years after the start of this Program, there has been established an inventory of complete data for about 3800 km of rural road network; there has been raised a fund of 450 million USD from 8 (eight) international financial institutions. The establishment of project infrastructure which was firstly supported by the World Bank, to be followed by EU grants, paved the way for the commitment and cooperation of other financial institutions such as EBRD, EIB, CEB, IDB, KfW and OFID making this Program one of the biggest size Programs not only in Albania but in the Region as well. By combining good planning with the preparation of standards in designing projects, management and supervision of contracts, ADF has upgraded about 1000 km of road network with optimal traffic flows. Meanwhile technical documentation has been prepared for the construction of 500 km of road sections. The program has contributed to capacity building of project designers, supervisors, contractors (who responded to this challenge) LGUs staff and ADF staff as well. Combined with the construction of main national road axes and with other budget investment programs in rural road network, the road sections which have been upgraded in the framework of SLRP have released potentials of development which until recently were held hostage by deteriorated infrastructure, facilitating the access to main rural road axes, regional markets, administration, health care and education centers. A good part of the reconstructed roads (secondary) has passed under the inventory of the National Road Authority which will be in charge of their maintenance. The same procedure will apply to the other road sections which are going to be upgraded. Concerning road maintenance, a large-scale training program has been undertaken with the Local Government Units with the aim of improving the quality of maintenance service and raising awareness on the importance of road maintenance. Of course, this has been and still is a process which has asked for the intensive work of all involved parties. However we have tried to find sufficient time for reflection on findings and knowledge updates on the most recent studies in the sphere of road construction, road safety, new technologies for reducing costs and improving the quality of roads. Considering this reason as well, the organization of this Congress is in due time. We are very interested in the discussions which are going to be held during these two days and we have enthusiastically supported the organization of this event. We will try through a more detailed presentation of our experience to contribute to the common goal of improving road standard nationwide. Thanking once again the organizers of this Congress, I wish you good continuation!