This summer, 13 HKS students have converged in Tirana, Albania, to work with Harvard’s Center for International Development (CID) on the Economic Growth in Albania project. CID is a university-wide center that works to advance the understanding of development challenges and offer viable solutions to problems of global poverty. CID is Harvard’s leading research hub focusing on resolving the dilemmas of public policy associated with generating stable, shared, and sustainable prosperity in developing countries.
In cooperation with the new Government of Albania and the Open Society Foundations, the Center for International Development launched a research project that aims at identifying Albania’s binding constraints and proposing policy solutions that can relax them. CID gathered a team of prominent researchers and experts in the fields of macroeconomics, energy policy, public finance, agriculture and labor markets, among other fields, for this mission.
“This project is unique in that it focuses on enabling the government to implement, rather than just providing consulting advice,” says Boban Paul, who is spending the summer working with the Ministry of Agriculture in Albania.
Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries, has recently embarked on what the government calls a “renaissance” – a concerted effort to revitalize the struggling economy, reduce public debt and unemployment and work toward integration with European markets. HKS students are spending the summer working in 6 different ministries on policy issues ranging from regional integration to establishing favorable conditions for industrial park development. They have been working with Ministers on the one hand, and CID faculty and research fellows on the other to build the government’s capability to implement economic growth strategies.
Through these internships, students have had the opportunity to directly apply their academic studies to real problems in Albania’s public sector. “At the beginning of my internship in Albania, a fellow student and I were sitting with Professor Ricardo Hausmann in the Minister of Energy’s office discussing the government’s plan to tackle theft in the electricity market,” says Francisco Mejia, who is working with Ozair Ali in the Ministry of Energy on issues relating to oil and electricity. “Four months ago we were analyzing a case study on the Albanian electricity sector in class and now we actually have the opportunity to tackle these problems directly with decision makers at the highest level. It is exciting to see the doors the MPA/ID program and the CID internship have opened for us.”
Many of the students are working with teams of experts in their ministries to develop policy solutions to some of the country’s most challenging economic constraints. “The most important thing that this internship taught me was the definition of a feasible and good policy,” says Hanieh Mohammadi, who is working in the Ministry of Trade, Economic Development and Entrepreneurship. “I am learning to apply my academic knowledge to the reality of this country’s context, while always remembering we can bring about real changes, even if it is through a small step of a simple policy.”
The internship program in Albania will culminate in a two day workshop where students will have the opportunity to present the results of their work and discuss policy proposals with Ministers, directors and other key government staff, as well as HKS professors who will travel to Albania to be part of the event.
“I think this internship is a great example of the unique opportunities that come with being part of the MPA/ID program at the Harvard Kennedy School,” says Boban Paul. “I’m not sure how other schools work but being a student at Harvard has made the ministries very receptive to me. The expectation to perform is high and people in the ministry actually push to make your project a success.”
Read more about the work of HKS interns on the Economic Growth in Albania project blog.