Should one stay or should one go?
By By Arber Kadia
Albanian Daily News
Published April 2, 2015

Last weekend I attended Tirana's Economic Forum, which
proved to be a very qualitative leap forward in the discourse for a better
business environment and a more functional public administration. To be honest
I was pleasantly surprised that such a standard is being formed and that young
economists are lending a hand for the country's economic recovery. Despite
being mainly a cash economy, Albania is still feeling the squeeze mainly due to
the burst of the real estate bubble, but most importantly due to the dramatic
fall in the once steady supply of remittances.

What struck me most was a phrase uttered by a friend who had
recently returned from a year spent in Oxford. We were jokingly listing
everything that is wrong with Albanian economy, security and other such matters
in our beloved Albania. At one point he said to me how "wrong" was this
country, how could people ask you and I, straight after finishing our studies
in UK "Why did you come back?" How can someone ask you why did you come back
home? It makes for a very bizarre set of questions. How can your own people see
your newly acquired skills and knowledge as not being useful?

In the seven years spent working and studying in this
country I am somewhat closer to the answer. For starters, Albanians continue to
have a sincere disdain of institutions and order. When using the term Albanians
I am referring to everyone, from the security guard/policeman; which does not
offer any real security, the footage of Artan Santo's shooting backs my claim,
to the doctors that do not respect most protocols unless money is involved, to
the politicians or authorities that claim not to know that someone, that
someone being a member of parliament, is accused of murder in Brussels, the
very last stop of Albanian efforts towards EU integration.

In a twisted sense the people that ask the above questions
have made peace with the fact that this is not an easy place to live in. They
know that a qualitative life can be lived only in the developed west. They know
that even governmental authorities that are empowered by law to respect the law
keep violating it themselves more than any other entity. They know that if you
have spent your formative years studying abroad, you are not fit for the "real
life" that awaits you in this country. They know that even if you run a
business, there are hidden costs that you have to take into account. A minimum
of 7% of your yearly budget allocated for bribes, this is a data offered by
most studies and it is just about the required amount to
get a proper head start.

Going back to the question of the title piece, an Albanian
citizen is hard pressed not to consider emigration as a solution to one's
problems. A few days ago a group of Italian consultants that have made a mint
in Albania were telling me that life has become very hard in this country and
their polls show that there is an increase of 30% of people that want to leave
Albania compared to 2013. They too were looking into relocating. Personally I
have decided to stick it out here, but the question is still lurking. On the
other hand my friend from the economic conference Tuesday was offered a doctoral
program at one of Oxford's colleges and won't have to deal with this Damocles
sword of sorts, hanging over the heads of educated Albanians.

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