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Turkey is a Real Country Now, and Gets It (Pt. 2)

October 14, 2010

It’s not just the Uyghurs who are getting shrugged off. Other, old, Neo-Ottoman ideals are getting dropped up Balkanwards. The Sons of Conquerors are getting the pure joy of being conquered again.

Albanians are/were never Turks, and despite ruling Egypt for some time in one of the weirder stories of empire, really kind of do their own thing. Having a couple of the more, say, exceptional leaders (Zog the First, in particular, is known for being the only monarch to shoot a potential assassin) in history may have something to do with this.

So my curiosity was piqued when I saw this Forbes piece promising oil off the Albanian shore, I responded with a big, “huh?” And a cursory internet search led to a single 2008 blog post and a small blurb on Manas’ site. So not much.

The whole “Albania as a source of wealth!” meme is interesting, not least because of the unsaid “…for foreigners and not for Albanians.” at the end of it. A lot of the money thrown into places like Albania is actually thrown at foreign companies within places like Albania. It’s fun to watch.

That skinny girl in your freshman dorm may have had a point, there.

Turkey’s made great inroads in Albania since the 1990’s, not least of which through the success of Fethullahci schools in-country. And steel and infrastructure companies are now following through with these Turkophones that now live in-country. BKT Bank is probably the most successful bank in Albania and, you guessed it, its run by Turks (full disclosure: I’ve done some work for BKT in the past).

So needless to say, there’s lots of Lira flowing into Albania. But the Forbes article gets creepy-crawly when it says what should be done with it. They have a list of 10 reasons of “why you should invest” and absolutely zero of them involve helping Albania. It’s all about getting your money in the right place so that you can take it out with a bonus. And it won’t do any good to anyone besides your kids’ education.

It’s not like your common Turkish businessman OWES anything to Albania. But it just isn’t development. It’s work. Work is fine, work is great. Work puts food on tables. But its nothing more holy than that, either. And I’m not sure who benefits from these tax breaks that are going on in Albania (and are really nothing new; Turkey has only recently eschewed them, and Georgia just threw down some fantastic on them). But I’d like to see some real proof that this benefits Albanians – all Albanians, not just the suit-wearing English-speaking ones.

Hopefully I’m wrong here, and hopefully there is some sort of development going on here. But I’ll be following this one to see where it goes (and how it gets reported in presses both foreign and Turkish).


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