Albania

O'Brien, T., et al., 2020. Accelerating Growth in Albania through Targeted Investment Promotion, Cambridge: Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

The investment promotion process in Albania is underperforming versus its potential. Between 2014 and 2018, the Albanian economy saw accelerating growth and transformation, which has been tied to the arrival of foreign companies. However, Albania has the potential to realize much more and more diversified foreign direct investment (FDI), which will be critical to accelerating growth in the period of global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Albanian economy weathers the storm of COVID-19, it is critical to look to the future by enhancing the investment promotion process to be more targeted and proactive such that Albania can attract transformative global companies aligned with the country’s comparative advantages. This is not only a critical step toward faster and more resilient economic growth in Albania; it also happens to have very high returns in comparison to the limited fiscal spending required to implement the actions required.

The targeted investment promotion approach discussed in this note would capitalize on Albania’s many existing comparative advantages for attracting efficiency-seeking FDI. It would not displace Albania’s Strategic Investment Law nor the activities of the Albanian Investment Corporation (AIC), which aim to expand the country’s comparative advantages. Efficiency-seeking FDI — global companies that expand into Albania to serve global markets because it makes them more productive — do not need extensive tax incentives, regulatory exemptions, or other subsidies. In fact, an overreliance on these approaches can crowd out firms that do not want or need to rely on government support. Adding targeted investment promotion to Albania’s growth strategy would lead to more jobs, better quality jobs, more inclusive job growth, faster convergence with the income levels of the rest of Europe, and ultimately less outmigration.

This note summarizes the Growth Lab’s observations of the investment promotion process in Albania, over the last year in particular, and lays out recommendations to capture widespread opportunities for economic transformation that have been missed to date. The recommendations provided at the end of this note provide a roadmap for building an enhanced network for targeted investment promotion that is specific to Albania’s context. These recommendations recognize the current constraints that the COVID-19 pandemic creates but also look past the pandemic to prepare for opportunities that will emerge during the global recovery.

A Deep Dive on the Albania Investment Corporation

The Growth Lab has been engaged in an applied research project with the country of Albania since 2013. In this time, we have conducted research on numerous, diverse workstreams related to stimulating economic growth in the country.

During this research engagement, our team worked with policymakers on the creation of the Albania Investment Corporation (AIC), an entity within the Albanian government responsible for engaging with both the public...

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Building Capability to Design and Implement Growth Reforms: The Case Study of Albania

The Growth Lab has been engaged in an applied research project with the country of Albania since 2013. In this time, we have conducted research on numerous, diverse workstreams related to stimulating economic growth in the country. During this research engagement, our team worked directly with policymakers to help build their capabilities so they can better design and implement policy reforms.

In this podcast episode, Growth Lab researchers Jessie Lu and Ermal...

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Iterations of a Growth Diagnostic: The Case Study of Albania

The Growth Lab has been engaged in an applied research project with the country of Albania since 2013. In this time, we have conducted research on numerous, diverse workstreams related to stimulating economic growth in the country.

During this research engagement, our team conducted Growth Diagnostic analyses to understand and test potential binding constraints to economic growth in Albania. After the initial Growth Diagnostic study in 2013,...

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A Snapshot of the Growth Lab's Research Engagement in Albania

The Growth Lab has been engaged in an applied research project with the country of Albania since 2013. In this time, we have conducted research on numerous, diverse workstreams related to stimulating economic growth in the country.

In this podcast episode, we kick off a larger outreach campaign, which showcases our engagement in Albania, by gathering members of our research team to discuss their work. Hosted by research assistant Jessie Lu, this podcast features Ermal Frasheri, Tim O’Brien, Shreyas Gadgin Matha, Spencer Bateman, Ricardo Villasmil, and Daniela Muhaj,...

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Public Policy in Action: What Did Working in Albania Teach Us about Economic Growth?

Since 2013, the Center for International Development has been collaborating with the Government of Albania to identify binding constraints to economic growth and create policy solutions to solve them. CID’s Growth Lab and Building State Capability programs have used the tools of growth diagnostics and problem driven iterative adaptation (PDIA) to help drive economic growth in the country. CID Researchers Ermal Frasheri and Tim McNaught have seen firsthand how theory informs public policy and how insights from public policymaking, in turn, enrich our theoretical frameworks. In this Growth Lab... Read more about Public Policy in Action: What Did Working in Albania Teach Us about Economic Growth?
Santos, M., et al., 2020. Albania's Industry Targeting Dashboard. The Growth Lab's VizHub. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This industry targeting tool is custom-made for Albania. Users can choose any of 272 industries (based on NACE Rev. 2 industry codes) from the above drop-down list and explore the industry’s match with Albania’s current productive capabilities and comparative advantages and disadvantages. The tool is designed for use by government and non-government entities that seek to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to Albania to accelerate economic development. Harvard Growth Lab research in Albania shows that the long-term pace of economic growth will be determined by the pace at which the country can absorb new economic activities and productive capabilities from abroad. Detailed information on the methodology and data sources used in this tool can be found here. This tool can be used in combination with the Growth Lab’s Atlas of Economic Complexity to explore patterns in global trade in very high detail.
O'Brien, T. & Lu, J., 2020. Can Albania’s Economic Turnaround Survive COVID-19? A Growth Diagnostic Update. The Growth Lab's VizHub. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The Growth Lab, which works with countries to identify obstacles to growth and propose targeted policy solutions, has been conducting applied research in Albania since 2013. This brief analysis takes stock of Albania’s economic growth prior to the COVID-19 crisis and what the strengths and weaknesses of the pre-COVID economy imply for recovery and the possibility of accelerating long-term and inclusive growth in the years to come. Albania is a place where much has been achieved to expand opportunity and well-being as growth has gradually accelerated since 2013-14, but where much remains to be done to continue this acceleration once the immediate crisis of COVID-19 has passed.
Gadgin Matha, S., Goldstein, P. & Lu, J., 2020. Air Transportation and Regional Economic Development: A Case Study for the New Airport in South Albania.Abstract

Considering the case of the proposed airport in Vlora, South Albania, this report analyzes the channels through which a new greenfield airport can contribute to regional economic development. In December 2019, the Government of Albania opened a call for offers to build a new airport in the south of the country. While there is evidence indicating that the airport could be commercially viable, this does not provide a grounded perspective on the channels by which the airport could boost the regional economy. To evaluate how the new airport would interact with existing and potential economic activities, this report evaluates three of the most important channels of impact by which the airport could serve as a promoter: (1) economic activities directly related to or promoted by airports, (2) the airport’s potential contribution to the region’s booming tourism sector and (3) the potential for the country’s development of air freight as a tool for export promotion. In each of these three cases, the report identifies complementary public goods or policies that could maximize the airport’s impact in the region.

The operation of the airport itself could stimulate a series of economic activities directly related to air traffic services. Airports have the ability to mold the economic structure of the places immediately around them, acting both as a consumer and as a supplier of air transport services. Not only activities related to transportation and logistics thrive around airports, but also a variety of manufacturing, trade and construction industries. Nevertheless, the agglomeration benefits of a successful aerotropolis are not guaranteed by the construction of an airport. For South Albania’s new airport to actualize its potential returns, integrated planning of the airport site will be required, with focus on real estate planification and provision of complementary infrastructure.

Establishing an airport in Vlora has the potential to spur regional development in South Albania through facilitating the growth of the tourism sector and its related activities. Albania’s tourism industry has seen strong growth in the last two decades, but still lags behind its potential. Albania only has a strong penetration in the tourism market of its neighboring markets, and the high seasonality of the tourism season further limits the sector’s growth. The establishment of an airport in South Albania would ease some of the tourism industry constraints tied to transportation into the country and region. Given the high reliance of the tourism industry on its many complementary inputs, more than one area of concern may have to be addressed for the impact of the new airport to be maximized. Facilitating transportation access around the South Albania region and specifically to tourist sites; preparing natural and cultural heritage sites for tourism use and expanding tourism infrastructure to accommodate potential growth are some of the interventions analyzed.

Airfreight infrastructure could in theory provide opportunities to improve the competitiveness of Albanian exports but developing a successful air cargo cluster is no simple task. An airport can facilitate an alternative mode of transport for specific types of goods and hence promote a country’s exports. In Albania’s case, not only existing textile and agriculture products could be competitively exported through air freight, but also air freight itself could improve Albania’s position to diversify into “nearby” industries, identified by the theory of Economic Complexity. Nevertheless, an effective air freight strategy does not and cannot uniquely depend on the simple availability of a nearby airport. Air cargo operations require both traffic volume that Albania may not be able to provide, as well as complementary cargo-specific infrastructure. Although the potential for air freight in South Albania could be high, it is by no means a safe bet nor does it imply with certainty significant impact in the immediate future.

Hausmann, R., Nedelkoska, L. & Noor, S., 2020. You Get What You Pay for: Sources and Consequences of the Public Sector Premium in Albania and Sri Lanka.Abstract

We study the factors behind the public sector premium in Albania and Sri Lanka, the group heterogeneity in the premium, the sources of public sector wage compression, and the impact of this compression on the way individuals self-select between the public and the private sector. Similar to other countries, the public sectors in Albania and Sri Lanka pay higher wages than the private sector, for all but the most valued employees. While half of the premium of Sri Lanka and two-thirds of it in Albania are explained by differences in the occupation-education-experience mix between the sectors, and the level of private sector informality, the unexplained part of the premium is significant enough to affect the preferences of working in the public sector for different groups. We show that the compressed distributions of public sector wages and benefits create incentives for positive sorting into the public sector among most employees, and negative sorting among the most productive ones.

Listen to a podcast with author Ljubica Nedelkoska as she discusses the factors behind public sector wage premiums. 

Stock, D. & Zuccolo, B., 2019. Research Note: "One Village One Product" Programs, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract
The One Village, One Product (OVOP) movement started 40 years ago in a rural Japanese prefecture, with the aim of helping small villages and towns develop by focusing on their local culture and resources. Since then the principles of the OVOP movement have spread to other countries, including Thailand, Malawi, and beyond. The varying levels of success across these different versions of OVOP suggest some lessons on how to best organize rural development programs that could be useful as the Albanian government embarks on its flagship 100+ Villages project.
Besra, N., 2018. Agritourism in Albania: Trends, Constraints, and Recommendations, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

In Albania, the average specific expenditure by foreign tourists (non-residents) was 13.3% of GDP during 2013-2017, which clocked a 30% growth within the four-year duration. The number of foreign citizen arrivals in the first half of 2018 has seen an increase by 9.1%, as compared to the same period in 2017. "Holiday" is the second most popular purpose of their visit reported after "Others." Tourism being the largest industry since 1990, with Europe representing 42%3 of its total share, there remain huge economic dividends to reap for the emerging tourism industry in Albania. Moreover, this sector can generate non-farm employment in the agriculture sector. The challenge then is it to understand what is driving tourism growth in Albania, and what binds Albania’s tourism opportunities from growing faster.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as an enterprise that achieves a balance between the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development for long-term benefits to recipient communities. The Government of Albania, led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, has identified Agritourism as a particularly inclusive and sustainable tourism opportunity and prioritized its development as a rural economic diversification tool within the country’s new "100+ villages Programme." Consistent with this program, the Ministry of Tourism and Environment (MoTE) has started certifying Agritourism businesses, while Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) through the Albanian Rural Development Agency (ARDA) is in the process of funding Agritourism projects. It is essential to understand the emerging patterns within the sector to strategize appropriately supportive policies.

The Movements of citizens in Albania (INSTAT) report for June 2018 indicates a decrease by 13.3% in the number of foreign citizens’ arrivals as compared to June 2017. There is (month-by-month) erratic traffic of tourists and hence undefined tourism season for the country. The Government of Albania faces a dearth of tourism specific information, like in attractions visited most by tourists, or mapping of identified agritourism farms to make better policy judgements required for seasonal tourism preparedness.

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