April 14. 2024. 7:35

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World Bank pledges €900 million to help Albania create better jobs, beat brain drain


The World Bank announced on Wednesday it will make €900 million available to Albania to invest in projects designed to strengthen and stimulate human capital, job creation, and resistance to crises as the EU hopeful grapples with ‘brain drain’.

During a press conference held with Prime Minister Edi Rama, the representative of the World Bank in Tirana, Emanuel Salinas said the money demonstrated a commitment to help the country over the next four to five years.

The money will be divided between three pillars, the first of which is creating more jobs for Albanians, particularly youth and women.

“We put the emphasis on the best part- better jobs. In the future, our challenge is to create better workplaces and to create incentives for people to work here,” Salinas said.

The second pillar relates to human capital. Salinas noted the worrying situation of mass emigration and said it is important to strengthen human capital through improving education, health and social protection.

“Much has been achieved in this regard, but we think there is scope to do more in the future,” he said.

As for the third pillar that of resistance to crises, “It seems like every year there is a very big crisis. We need to increase resilience to reduce the impact of some of these events in the future,” Salinas said.

In terms of specific projects, Salinas noted increasing fiscal resistance, increasing the resistance of agriculture to climate change, reinforcing bridges at risk of earthquakes, and supporting the Vjosa River National Park.

“The commitment to Albania is to realise all this. We look forward to you holding us accountable,” Salinas said.

Rama also spoke at the conference and said the announcement resulted from a “long process of conversation and negotiation with the World Bank to determine the new partnership programme.”

He added, “ I want to thank the World Bank once again for all its support in all the years, but in a special way, I want to thank it for this process that we have crowned now.”

During his address, Rama detailed several statistics related to the country’s developing economy. These include agricultural exports increasing by 59% compared to 2019, exports reaching €4.1 billion, 57% more than in 2019, a 36% increase in foreign visitors with a double increase in the amount of money spent, and a 29% increase in foreign direct investment.

While the figures look promising, numbers published by Eurostat this week highlight the country’s ongoing issue with migration as 23,400 Albanian citizens have been asked to leave the European Union in 2022, registering an 8.05% increase from 2021.

The countries that returned the most Albanians throughout the year include France with 7,105 returns, Greece with 6,540, Italy with 3,370, Germany with 2,700 and Belgium with 1,430.

Since the end of communism in 1991, over 1.4 million Albanians have left the country, with 700,000 going in the last decade. In 2022, the population of 2.78 million fell by 1.3%, equivalent to around 36,000, due to migration. The majority of these were under the age of 29.

In terms of the economically active, those employed or working and paying into the system decreased by over 32,000. The actual number is likely higher, but there will be little clarity until the twice-postponed census is carried out in September of this year.

The situation has led to employers experiencing difficulties in hiring skilled hospitality, tourism and manufacturing staff. Now, they are bringing in employees from third countries such as the Philippines and Kenya.

Especially hard hit is the medical sector, with over 3500 doctors and nurses leaving in the last ten years, mainly for Germany. This prompted the government to announce a new initiative to retain them, including favourable home loan rates, higher salaries, and a requirement to remain in Albania for a certain period after completing studies.

In an interview with EURACTIV in December, Rama said he could not stop people from leaving the country.

“I have never thought, and I still don’t think that it’s a good idea to believe and let alone communicate that the young people should absolutely stay here because I think they have the right to try, and they should make use of their freedom, and it’s absolutely in their hands,” Rama said.

He added that it is important to get young people to return as they bring a different mentality that can benefit the country.

“These people return with a different mentality, they come with some experience, and they open enterprises, they do things differently, and they make successes,” he said, adding it is also important to improve conditions at the local level.

(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)