My name is Jaime P. Monfort. I have lived three consecutive years in Tirana, the capital city of Albania. I have learned the language. I hold 8 Master’s degrees in engineering, economics and finance. I speak 8 languages, 5 of them fluently. My first book has been endorsed by Federico Mayor Zaragoza and Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri. I will convince you why Albania is one of the World’s top ten FDI destinations, as an insider, discovering a new reality for the global financier and the global investor.
I can assure I am the most qualified foreign analyst who’s lived the longest in Albania until today. I am the only foreign analyst who has learned the language fluently and in addition I am the only one who has met face to face 250 of the country’s most relevant personalities, including Ministers and former Ministers, Professors, CEO’s, Ambassadors, Economists, Lawyers, Architects, Engineers and Architects, Cooks and Hoteliers, Writers and Painters. I have been tough and blunt with Albania, read my 2015 piece “The Drama of Albania” published on The Huffington Post in 2015.
Nothing has changed about my assessment of Albania, in fact my assessment in terms of politics, governance, leadership and corruption has only worsened. Albania is today Europe’s third poorest republic, only after Moldova and Kosovo. It has Europe’s worst University system, one of the worst infrastructure imaginable, an inherent difficulty to start and run a business, low freedom of expression and press, and a high degree of corruption at the political level. Of course Albania also runs Europe’s most notorious mafia after Italy’s, the difference is that most crimes in Albania are drug related, more particularly cannabis related, reason why I support the legalization of cannabis and the decriminalization of all drug related crimes, a drug that is by the way most often consumed in more developed countries of Western Europe. There is one missing piece in the equation: Albanians.
Albanians are resilient, entrepreneurial, hard-working, tough, devoted and loyal. They earn Europe’s lowest minimum salary and after retirement a pension that I can label ridiculous. Life in Albania is tough, yet Albanians do not complain, they rarely demonstrate as the French and the Spaniards do, they rarely go on strike, they sometimes migrate.
I have lived and visited 41 countries. I am very impressed with Albanians, who wake up early, whose work ethics is tremendous, who deliver in all sector of the economy. Albanian is a tough language, more difficult than German, and it has more phonetic sounds than any other European language. As a result Albanians speak any European language literally without an accent. Italy is increasingly basing call centers in Albania.
Albania’s diaspora is enormous, most of it resides in Greece, Italy and the United States. It is very easy to meet al Albanian woman or man who has spent a few years abroad. They get back home because they miss the mild weather and open and friendly way of being. A person who’s lived abroad adapts better and faster to any challenge, and assumes with more ease responsibility. Albanians are Mediterranean, but also traditional, perhaps the most traditional in Europe.
Albanians are tolerant, in fact it is the country in Europe where three major religions coexist best. Security is high and crime is low. In 2011 I met Albania’s Ambassador to Spain Kastriot Robo. I first discovered the country which ranked most beautiful in the World in 2011 according to Lonely Planet. The 30 000 km2 republic has almost three million inhabitants. I have visited the south and the North, the coast and the mountains, the lakes in the east, and wrote my 2016 piece on The Huffington Post “Dhermi Unexplored Paradise“.
Investors have to bypass the politics and remember that the mafia is strictly a cannabis oriented business. Albania is in the very center of Europe and contrary to Macedonia has large ports in Durres and Saranda. Its potential is incredible precisely because much remains to be done in spite of 27 years of unfinished transition which -mainly because of political leaders- has left the country in a state of crony capitalism and flawed democracy. Investment opportunities are most appealing in tourism, agriculture and textile. Manual labor in Albania is cheap, so cheap that a textile worker can earn as little ast 10% of the French or German counterpart.
And in spite of its obvious barriers to entry and relatively naive and quasi incompetent political leadership, the economy is still growing at 4% per year. This is a country which could grow 10% per year for the next 25 years. Enver Hoxha’s extreme communist dictatorship lasted until 1991. Albanians particularly those who lived the dictatorship are tough and resilient, they work and fight hard because they are very well aware life is not easy, unlike the so called millenials who are born demanding rights and benefits and forgetting the mix also includes obligations and responsibilities. It is all better depicted in my 2016 piece “Memoirs of Tirana“.
Albania’s corporate leadership is so competent, dynamic and visionary that I have even proposed Avni Ponari as Albania’s Next President, in my piece “Bravo Avni Ponari“.