This book is a contribution by a diverse group of authors from the academic, business and policy advice communities to our understanding of recent social and economic developments in Albania. The motivation for this book is that there are lessons of wider importance to be learnt from the fascinating story of recent Albanian developments. Michael Kaser opens the book with a recounting of the country's history and political economy before and during transition. He brings to the job nearly six decades of professional experience as a diplomat and academic and an intimate knowledge of Albania. This chapter provides a detailed political history during transition up to late 2004. Dirk Bezemer contributes an analysis of the collapse in early 1997 of the economy and society brought about by Ponzi schemes. He links the lack of productivity growth and the growth of a 'virtual' financial sector to policy practice focusing on macro stability and state abstinence from interfering in sectoral issues -- policies which are still common in many transitions and developing economies. Volker Treichel, in a chapter reviewing the post-Ponzi economy, explains how Albania has implemented tight monetary policy, stabilised the exchange rate, implemented prudent fiscal polices, and achieved a significant reduction in domestic borrowing, all contributing to the decline of the overall deficit. Based on his expertise as an IMF analyst, Treichel discusses Albania's macroeconomic prospects. Nevila Konica documents the large Albanian emigration flows during transition, leading to an estimated ten percent of the population working outside Albanian territory. Based on her large primary survey data set, she explores personal attributes that characterise emigrants, as well as the extent of the 'brain drain'. She finds that remittances from emigration have been vitally important to Albania's economy by contributing to household incomes and reducing domestic unemployment. Klarita Gerxhani delves deeper into the nature of the informal economy and presents key insights from her original academic research based on fieldwork in Tirana. In her study of the street vending sector she traces its emergence to clear 'push' and 'pull' factors. Ahmet Mancellari, Dhori Kule, Stefan Qirici and Peter Sanfey consider the emigration issue in the broader context of labour market developments. They analyse the large regional differences in unemployment rate, the large share of long-term unemployment and the persistently higher-than-average unemployment rate and falling participation rate for women . They also conclude that emigration reduced the pressure of unemployment in the labour market and on the government's budget, and contributed to financing imports, consumption and investments through remittances. Gloria La Cava uses her research experience as World Bank Senior Social Scientist specialising in the region to address, jointly with co-author Rafaella Nanetti, the changing socio-economic conditions that Albanians face. They focus on the nature of people's vulnerability resulting from a loss of social support during the transformation years, and on social programs addressing new needs. World Bank analyst Malcolm Childress discusses the 'unfinished business of land and property reform' in Albania. He observes that land privatisation in rural areas has not led to the emergence of a dynamic land market and the sustained supply response which was expected. Urban property privatisation has fostered a construction boom in Tirana and along the coast and the creation of large areas of informal settlement on the outskirts of Tirana and Durres. Childress provides an insightful discussion of possible consequences. In the final chapter on agriculture, Pasquale Pazienza highlight key problems of land fragmentation and under-investment (particularly in the irrigation system), illuminating the current situation with the post-war history of agricultural and land reforms. He explores the determinants of productivity in a production function framework taking a long-term view, and draws out implication for what is still the largest sector in Albania's economy.
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