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I am honored to speak here today to the third graduating class of the MBA program of the Faculty of Economics, University of Tirana. This program is a unique cooperative venture between the University of Nebraska and the University of Tirana. As a diplomat, I am pleased to be here because you, the graduating class, represent the future leaders of Albania’s business community. I am proud that the United States has played a role in educating this class of well-trained specialists, managers and entrepreneurs. As a native Nebraskan, I am delighted that the flagship university of my home state has helped create and nurture this program.
I know that today, you, your family and friends are proud as well. You have successfully completed a rigorous course of study that required you to juggle professional and family responsibilities. I salute you on your achievement.
Albania has opted to liberalize its economy and compete globally. Albania is increasingly linked to the outside world. Last September, Albania joined the World Trade Organization. This June, Albania and its neighbors signed an agreement which represents the first step towards the creation of a Balkan Free Trade Area. During the last two years, foreign companies have taken strategic positions in the Albanian economy. Multinational corporations have bought AMC, the second GSM license, and the National Commercial Bank. Additional foreign companies are likely to enter Albania over the next two years as the government concludes the sale of the Savings Bank of Albania and INSIG.
On the one hand, this new openness and internationalism mean that you will have better job opportunities than your predecessors. These opportunities were unimaginable just 10 years ago. With the skills you have honed here during two years of intensive studies and your expertise in finance, marketing, and economics and your command of English, you are precisely the professionals and managers that this new international Albania needs. Your hard work, which culminates today in the award of your diploma, has given you the dual prospects of both material well being and a challenging and rewarding profession.
With Albania’s openness and interdependence, however, come challenges as well. The global economy is notorious fickle. Loyalty, so integral a part of Albanian culture, means nothing in the global economy where the drive to maximize profits is relentless. Capital and jobs are mobile and will go where the return is greatest. As managers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders it is up to you to create the conditions that will allow Albania to play a dignified and profitable role in this international economy.
Through your efforts, Albania can become more than an exporter of raw materials and a cheap and convenient place to assemble shoes and shirts. A stolid financial sector – banking, insurance, securities – awaits a shake-up by visionary creative thinkers. Rising incomes provide a potentially lucrative local market for the graduates among you who dream of producing consumer goods here. Innovative management and creative entrepreneurism can help revive the health care, tourism, and telecommunication sectors as well.
As future leaders of the business community, I urge you to take time from your professional obligations to work for the greater good. The government needs your expertise. Become engaged in the debate about taxes, customs rates, investment incentives, credit policies, and government investment plans. Join business associations to push for greater transparency in government tenders and procurement. Help fight corruption in government and business and work to adopt a standard of ethics for both government and the business community. You will be better for it and so will Albania.
Land grant universities in America, including the University of Nebraska, transformed the United States. They educated and trained generations of strivers and achievers, they provided the ideas that seeded business innovation and government reform, and transferred technology from the laboratory to the market place. The University of Tirana – University of Nebraska MBA Program -- through your efforts – can play a similar role here in Albania, now. It is an exciting prospect and a daunting challenge. I urge you to make the most of it. Congratulations and good luck.