New Leader Promises Albanians Improved Life

Associated Press

Albania’s new leader, Ramiz Alia, is promising economic improvements and higher living standards for his Communist nation, but he has given no sign of giving up the independence that has been the country’s hallmark since World War II.

Since the death April 11 of Enver Hoxha, who ruled for four decades, the small Balkan nation continues to reject any ties with either the Soviet Union or the United States. One-time ally China is regarded as an ideological heretic.

Foreign credits from anyone are forbidden by law, and experts who have visited the country say Albania’s antiquated industrial plants badly need upgrading.

“Albania is in danger of becoming an open-air museum,” said Paul Lendvai, chief editor for South and East Europe of Austria’s national broadcast organization ORF. Lendvai, who has written several books on Albania and the Balkans, is one of the few foreign journalists allowed to travel in Albania.

Lendvai described a land having ample natural resources--including enough petroleum, chrome ore and nickel to export--but desperately lacking in technology.


“They have whole plants turning out spare parts for equipment that is obsolete,” Lendvai said. “You might see a truck with a Czech chassis, a Russian gearbox, a Chinese engine.”

He added that Alia’s first major policy speech “seems to signal a new, rational, even adventurous approach--by Albanian standards, of course, not by normal standards.”

In the address, Alia spoke of a new five-year plan that calls greater investment to produce more and better goods from all sectors of industry and for higher agricultural output.

Visitors to the mountain country of 2.6 million say its people have plenty of food and clothing. Once destitute and backward, it now boasts electricity in every home. Still, variety and quality of goods are well below European standards.

And Lendvai pointed out that a new postwar generation has emerged. The average age is 27, and Albanians young and old can get a glimpse of the better life via television programs from Yugoslavia and Italy, Albania’s two largest trading partners, as well as Greece.