Criminal industry may harm Albania’s long term economic forecast, experts say

Former Finance Minister of Albania Arben Malaj
Former Finance Minister of Albania Arben Malaj

Albanian experts of economy and finance ring the alarm bell on what seems to be building up as a ‘criminal industry’ across Albania, warning that such activities as drug cultivation and narco-trafficking will harm the future of economy in Albania and impoverish Albanians who are already leaving the country in hope of finding a better life abroad.

In the coming future problems relating to cannabis cultivation will become more evident,’ says former finance minister Arben Malaj in an interview with weekly magazine Monitor, adding that ‘this is actually not the first time that Albania is engaged in such criminal business’, recalling the bitter pyramid schemes and arms trafficking of 1997 which still impact the country’s economy.

In the future, what we’re doing now will absolutely turn out to be a wasted and poor investment’ concludes Malaj.

Prof. Dr. Ardian Civici of European University of Tirana on the other side says that ‘it is impossible to even imagine that cultivating cannabis will be the future of the country’s rural areas’. Comparing the situation to other countries such as those in Latin America or Asia, that have tried to get better incomes from this business, Civici warns that this is going to have serious socials and economic effects.

Rexhep Uka, an expert of agriculture in Albania, agrees that trying to associate cannabis with agriculture is a fatal misconception. ‘Whoever thinks that cultivating cannabis will promote agriculture and transform it into a well-established business, is absolutely wrong,’ says Uka. “Those who claim that cannabis trade will bring income to the state budget know it very well that this is not a long-term practice and is does not mean a sustainable development’.

Albania is struggling to control the massive explosion of cannabis cultivation, which according to Italian Guardia di Finanza representatives, has more than quadrupled in the last year alone. The issue has been a topic of hot debates in recent weeks, with the opposition accusing the government of police involvement in protecting cannabis plantations, and Prime Minister Edi Rama on the other side dismissing such claims, arguing that the police have identified and destroyed more than 90% of plantations found across Albania.

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