International aid to Kosovo and Albania has had mixed results when it comes to promoting development, says Politics PhD student Luca J. Uberti.
“Aid is a geopolitical affair,” says Uberti. “Kosovo and Albania receive a disproportionate amount considering their status as lower-middle-income countries.
“This has created an economy and culture of external dependence, which has shifted resources away from productive enterprise and towards rent-seeking activities.”
Uberti's thesis focuses on the economic effects of the free-market and good-governance reforms promoted by the donor community in the two countries, which have a mixed record of economic performance, he says.
“Firstly, growth rates have been quite erratic. Secondly, they are heavily dependent on aid and rely on remittance payments from migrant workers to plug a gaping trade deficit.”
Uberti has spent three years in Kosovo and Albania and will return for further fieldwork this year.
“A key tenet of the mainstream development paradigm is that the state should not intervene directly in the economy – the market will take care of itself. But it is simply utopian to think that the large-scale investments needed for development will ensue naturally in countries with undeveloped capital markets and weak institutions.
Uberti's thesis also focuses on questions of corruption and clientelism.
“Clientelism is a corrupt type of relationship where those in power hand out resources to people lower down the social hierarchy who provide or mobilise political support in return. The evidence I have gathered suggests that good-governance reforms have actually failed to mitigate the problem of clientelism in either Kosovo or Albania.”