Q: According to greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets, Albania has one of the lowest levels of crossborder inflows in Europe. Why is that?
A: Our system has been obstructed by corruption and unpredictable fiscal legislation. A lot of changes in a very short time made things difficult for many investors. But it also must be said that those who were courageous and dared to invest in Albania are being rewarded now. I am sure we are on the right track to fight organised crime and the system of bribery, and there is a massive effort to modernise the mechanics of the system.
Albania has a very central location, and there is a totally new era in the western Balkans. It has always been an area of conflict, always perceived as a no-go zone because of wars, fights and disputes, and now it is an area of peace. This is a huge opportunity also in terms of economic development because it is time to set in motion new politics of regional co-operation, where countries are ready to make a border not an obstacle, but an opportunity.
Q: In what ways are you and your newly formed government involved in attracting new investments into Albania?
A: We are working closely with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, with which we are starting a project aimed at making the investment climate in Albania better. We want to have a much clearer framework for investors and we want to make the system much more accountable and predictable.
We are also setting up a brand new structure that will make sure every investor who comes to Albania receives not only a warm welcome but also all the support needed to get things done. The prime minister’s office will be focused very much on this, with a deputy prime minister in charge to guarantee follow-up, and a special delivery unit that is currently being built in co-operation with the World Bank and Tony Blair Associates.
It does not stop there. We also have a Harvard University dream team of economists who work for us, with Ricardo Hausmann [a director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University] being our top economic advisor.
Q: Albania has a very big diaspora. Apart from international experts, do you also plan to tap into its potential, when working on improving the country’s business climate?
A: I see reaching out to the diaspora as important as getting more FDI. This is an investment in very precious human capital and we should do much more about it.
We are very interested in creating conditions for the well-educated, new generation of our diaspora to contribute to changes in Albania. The initial signals connected with that are very positive.
Q: What sectors have the best capacity to attract more FDI into Albania?
A: We get many expressions of interest from investors asking about our hydropower sector. We also have a lot of oil and other minerals, and in the tourist sector we have a beautiful virgin coast which is still waiting for sustainable investments. On the top of that we have a vast labour pool to work in manufacturing and we also have a great deal to do in agriculture and in food processing.