Yesterday, Prime Minister Edi Rama decided to blame the Albanian corps diplomatique for the absence of foreign investments in Albania. In a way, this was the first time that Rama openly admitted that his government failed to improve the Albanian investment climate.
Only recently the Prime Minister denied the failure of his foreign economic policy after the Trieste Summit with Western Balkan countries led to precisely zero EU investments in Albanian infrastructure. In April, he even boasted he had brought in 1 billion euro in foreign investments, even after several trips to Asian trade forums led – again – to nothing.
Moreover, international indicators, such as Moody’s recent rating, explicitly mention a decrease in foreign investments. Foreign diplomats openly address this issue, linking the absence of investments to the widespread corruption in the country.
It now seems that the Albanian foreign service, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati, have become a convenient scapegoat.
However, it is the Prime Ministry itself which should be probably blamed most. According to the organigram of the Prime Ministry, there is supposed to be a department called the “Delivery Unit” (Departamenti i Jetësimit të Prioriteteve), headed by director Anna Sakiqi. According to a blog post written by Sakiqi,
The Albania Delivery Unit (DU) was set up in March 2014 with the purpose of helping the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to advance reforms in priority areas. Of the six priorities of the Government of Albania (GoA), the DU has focused on in four: (1) Energy; (2) Irrigation and Drainage; (3) Good Governance; and (4) advancing Foreign Direct Investment. The DU facilitates reform by identifying bottlenecks and providing solutions. With strong political support provided by the Prime Minister, the DU has been able to focus on strengthening the institutional frameworks established to the deliver on GoA policy objectives.
So there is department in the Prime Ministry, “with strong political support” of Rama, that focuses on four of the “six priorities” of the Albanian government, one of which is “advancing Foreign Direct Investments.” It was set up based on the advice of former UK Prime Minister and war criminal Tony Blair and his consultancy firm for an undisclosed sum.
So how does this Delivery Unit work in practice?
Functionally, the DU works with line Ministries and departments to identify obstacles to achieving progress within the priority areas. Where issues require executive level decisionmaking, the DU has designed monitoring tools that emphasize critical dimensions and priorities.
In other words, if for four years the “obstacle” to foreign investment had been the Albanian corps diplomatique, it should have been the responsibility of Sakiqi’s department to “identify” this, and use its direct access to “executive level decisionmaking” to solve the problem. In 2015, Sakiqi writes, the “key result” of the Delivery Unit in the area of attracting foreign direct investments was:
The framework for identifying bottlenecks to FDI [foreign direct investments] and enabling the GoA [government of Albania] to address these in a targeted manner that will improve the investment climate is being designed. The methodology and tools for tracking and follow up on investment opportunities is being put in place.
Whatever this “framework for identifying bottlenecks” was, it clearly didn’t function properly. In fact, a blog documenting several failed foreign investment projects shows quite clearly how her office dealt with foreign investors.
And it is not that Anna Sakiqi would have no access to first-hand information about the way in which embassies deal with foreign investment. Her sister, Adia Sakiqi, is Albanian ambassador in the Netherlands, which is, according to the Bank of Albania, the second-largest foreign investor in Albania.
Very recently, Anna Sakiqi’s sister indeed found a very productive way to engage foreign governments and lure in new investors. In an interview, Ambassador Sakiqi subsequently called a major Dutch newspaper “sensationalist,” distorted the contents of its reporting, made claims about interactions with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs which were then denied by that same ministry, after which it turned out that was in fact called twice by the newspaper in question before the article came out. And she also suggested that legalized soft drugs and legalized prostitution in Amsterdam would be responsible for the rise in (Albanian) crime.
So there you have it in its full glory, the behavior of an Albanian ambassador toward the second largest investor in her country: pissing off one of its largest newspapers, making false claims about her interaction with the local government, and casting blame on its national policies.
Anna Sakiqi recently left for the UK, joining the thousands of Albanians looking for a better life outside the country. So maybe the biggest failure is neither the ambassador’s nor the director’s, but perhaps Edi Rama’s HR policy?