% of GDP
In 1990 Albania ended 44 years of xenophobic communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven difficult as corrupt governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, a dilapidated infrastructure, widespread
gangsterism, and disruptive political opponents. International observers judged local elections in 2000 to be acceptable and a step toward democratic development, but serious deficiencies remain to be corrected before the
2001 parliamentary elections
Update No: 076 - (28/08/03)
The Albanians to the fore
Albania has long been thought of as a joke country. The distinguished English athlete and cricketer, classicist and educationalist, CBS Fry, was offered the throne of Albania before the First World War and refused it. So the legend goes. He preferred to try and educate English public schoolboys on a ship, kitted out to be a school in the Thames estuary, than to attempt to preside, or just prevail, over unruly peasants and highlanders of the mountainous Albania.
The country was instead ruled in the interwar period by highland chieftains with resonant names like King Zog and his son, Leka. The last reigned as an infant for a few months in 1939 before Italy under Mussolini invaded and occupied the country. He is still alive and attempted a comeback in an election in 1998. But he made the mistake of standing as a prospective premier, clearly wanting to be a king. Despite his splendid stature of 6ft 8ins, he failed to impress his subjects to be with his hereditary right to rule. He came nowhere in the election. His cousin in Bulgaria, Simeon II, Saxe Gotha- Coburg, learnt the lesson and totally renounced the throne before accepting leadership of his new party, National Movement. He is now premier of Bulgaria.
In the interim between the infant Leka and the events of 1989, the Albanians were ruled for fifty years by the communists. This meant in effect the personal dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, an extraordinary character, perhaps the most extraordinary the communist world threw up. He kept his country in virtually complete isolation. It became the poorest in Europe.
The Socialists consolidate
Albania had a severe crisis in the 1990s, with a financial crash in mid-decade. The population took a while to understand the rules of the capitalist market-place. Thousands lost their savings in pyramid investment schemes. But from the turn of the millennium it has done well, compared with its bleak past. GDP has been rising by 7-8% per year, albeit from a very low base. The Albanians are no longer absolutely the poorest people in Europe. That dubious distinction now belongs to the Moldovans.
The Socialist Party is benefiting and was re-elected comfortably in 2001. Tirana is 100% behind the US anti-terrorist campaign, having no truck with ethnic Albanian secessionists next door in Macedonia and Kosovo. The last thing the Albanians want is a war of any sort. With Milosevic gone there is no reason to quarrel with the Serbs.
Spat with EU
The Albanians blotted their copybook, however, with the French and the EU by supporting the US over Iraq. Indeed they have even agreed with the US not to extradite Americans to the International Criminal Court.
The two leading premiers of the PS government have been Pandeli Majco (now defence minister) and Fatos Nano, the current holder of the post. Both are very highly regarded in Washington, which sees Albania as its closest ally in the region, now that the Turks have refused cooperation over Iraq. The grimness of the Hoxha years have made the Albanians no friends of dictators.
IMF board completes Albania's 2nd review
The executive board of the International Monetary fund (IMF) recently finalised its earlier in-principle approval of the completion of the second review of Albania's economic performance under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility arrangement, New Europe has reported.
This decision followed the World Bank executive board's review of the annual progress report of Albania's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) on July 10th. Albania will now be able to draw SDR four million from the Fund.
The three-year PRGF arrangement was approved on June 21st 2002, for a total of SDRl28m. So far, Albania has drawn SDR eight million under the arrangement.
The PRGF is the IMF's concessional facility for low-income countries. It is intended that the PRGF-supported programmes will in time be based on country-owned poverty reduction strategies adopted in a participatory process involving civil society and development partners, and articulated in a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).
This is intended to ensure that each PRGF-supported programme is consistent with a comprehensive framework for macroeconomic, structural, and social policies to foster growth and reduce power. PRGF loans carry an annual interest rate of 0.5 per cent, and are repayable over 10 years with a 5˝ year grace period on principal payments.
Albanian statistics institute publish figures on unemployment
The number of unemployed persons in Albania at the end of the second three months period of 2003 was recorded to be 172,000 persons, ATA News Agency reported quoting the Albanian Institute of Statistics.
According to this institute the total number of people employed for this period in Albania is recorded to be around 919,000 persons, from which near 117,000 are employed in state sector and 526,000 in the private sector. According to the same sources, unemployed people who get assistance aid include around 12,000 persons.
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