Stronger VET, IT sectors to give new boost to Albania-Italy ties, ambassador says

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 11, 2017 13:43

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  • “It is important that the Albanian labour market relies on youngsters so that they should not only be motivated and skilled at learning foreign languages which is a very important advantage, but also trained to handle important technical activities such as IT technicians, in addition to other professions such as cooks, carpenters,” says Italy’s ambassador to Albania Alberto Cutillo

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Italy’s ambassador to Albania Alberto Cutillo

TIRANA, July 11 – Top trading partner Italy has urged Albania to make better use of its human capital and geographical advantage in order to become more competitive and attract more Italian foreign investment and know-how.

Italy’s ambassador to Albania Alberto Cutillo says Albania should focus on the vocational education and training (VET) and IT sectors to boost its growth and investment opportunities.

“I believe Albania has not fully made use of its economic potential yet. For the moment, Albania primarily makes use of some natural resources, its labour cost comparative advantage and lower taxes compared to the European average, but has not yet fully made use of its human capital and logistic advantage such as the strategic position that can potentially place it at the center of bigger Western Balkans market,” Cutillo has told Monitor magazine in an interview.

Italy is Albania’s top trading partner and the third largest foreign investor in the country. The host of some 500,000 Albanian migrants since the early 1990s following the collapse of the communist regime, the Albanian migrant community in Italy has played an important part in the country’s development in the past 25 years of transition, contributing through remittances, investment and know-how.

The small Albanian economy is very reliant on Italy, Europe’s fourth largest economy, as about half of Albania’s exports are destined there and about a third of imports are carried out through Italy, the neighbouring country across the Adriatic. More than 120,000 jobs, especially in the garment and footwear industry and in the call center industry rely on Italian demand.

The Italian ambassador says strengthening the vocational education training system can help the Albanian labour market become more competitive in terms of attracting foreign investment.

“Albania should invest in education and training and this should be more technology-oriented. For this, Albania has to rely on all main European partners and the United States as we all agree that Albania’s future is increasing the Albanian youth skills. Now this perfect economic understanding should be transformed into a more determinant and ambitious political plan and this is Albania’s challenge,” says Ambassador Cutillo.

“I hope and I am ready to contribute that Albania and Italy consolidate their economic cooperation to make use of these other aspects. In order to do this, important reforms are needed, and I am citing only one, vocational education training,” he adds.

Albania’s youth unemployment currently stands at about 30 percent while only one out of five students picks vocational education training, something which has resulted in huge labour market skill mismatch with thousands of newly graduates often ending up doing call center jobs.

“It is important that the Albanian labour market relies on youngsters so that they should not only be motivated and skilled at learning foreign languages which is a very important advantage, but also trained to handle important technical activities such as IT technicians, in addition to other professions such as cooks, carpenters,” says Cutillo.

“There are a series of occupations demanding technological skills and they account for the major part of European labour market. For this reason, even Albania has to compensate its delay and considering the young and very active population this country has, it has all the opportunities to become a strong point of the Albanian economy. In this respect, I think the economic relations between Albania and Italy can enter a new development stage,” says the Italian ambassador.

The Ambassador says IT skills are already becoming a necessity even for common professions.

“I think that in general the society in Europe and all around the world is becoming more and more dependent on informatics. These are elements that are involving every profession. Even a carpenter will have to have internet access to find customers. It is important that this so-called digital sector also become in Albania a sector that orients growth. Investment is needed on this, and in the beginning it might be even considerable, and should begin with public investment,” says Cutillo.

Commenting on Italy’s position as third largest foreign investor in Albania, the Ambassador says Italian companies dominate the number of foreign companies in Albania but are mainly small and medium-sized ones and mainly family-run.

“Italy has had for a long time a dominant role in Albania’s economic reality. For years, Italy has been the main trading partner with a level of exchanges which in 2016 exceeded 2 billion euros with a 3 percent increase compared to 2015. The main fields seeking attention from Italy have historically been (1) services, (II) textile and shoes; (III) machinery and equipment; (IV) agricultural and food products; (V) energy and minerals (VI) chemical and plastic products; (VII) construction materials and metals,” says the ambassador.

“In recent years, there has been a rising interest by Italian companies on the tourism sector, energy efficiency and sustainable environment development, especially regarding waste collection and management,” he adds.

Asked about the Trieste Western Balkans Summit, the ambassador says this week’s Business Forum will offer an opportunity for concrete exchanges of knowledge and experience among institutions and economic operators as well as promote economic cooperation between Italian companies and the six EU aspirant Western Balkan countries.

The stock of Italian investment in Albania at the end of 2016 was estimated at Euro 561 million, with key investment in the banking, energy and industry and services sectors.

Italy has been a strategic partner for Albania and one of the main supporters in the country’s Euro-Atlantic road.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 11, 2017 13:43