Institute for Development Research Riinvest

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I have been associated with Riinvest Institute since 1998 and visited them several times each year since then. I have worked with them on a variety of research projects, conferences and educational activities such as Summer Schools. I have seen them move from one place to another every few years and noticed new faces each time I visited them. I have seen them grow not only in numbers but more importantly in the quality of their work and maturity of their young staff. I have seen the leadership of the Institute transferred from the older generation, the founders, to the new generation who worked their way through the ranks, developing their knowledge, qualifications and skills on the way. While in earlier years, they relied very much on the help of foreign consultants for their projects, they gradually developed their own skills and became more capable and self-confident so that the bulk of their work is now done by themselves without any foreign consultants.

This has been a remarkable journey for Riinvest Institute, its founders, its past and present leaders and its staff. Over the years, the Institute has been a training ground for many young Kosovars who worked there for a few years and moved on to other institutions and companies where they made use of what they learnt at Riinvest. Riinvest Institute has been fantastic at investment in human capital and though it has not always benefited from its investment directly, it has made a significant contribution to raising the intellectual and academic level of several generation of researchers and academics in Kosovo.

Three factors have made Riinvest special for me. First, they have always worked with integrity and independence and never succumbed to political influences and pressures. They have not been dependent on the Government of the day and, therefore, have been able to pursue their project objectives without worrying about the reaction of the government or the funders to their investigations. They may have paid a price for their independence and integrity but it has been worth it.

Second, they have always been willing to support their young staff to improve their knowledge and raise their intellectual level and become better researchers. Even though many of them left the Institute after gaining higher qualifications, this did not stop the Institute supporting the next generation of their staff. On the contrary, they continued to offer opportunities for self-improvement to their staff irrespective of whether or not they will remain in the Institute. Not many institutions here in Kosovo or in Western countries are so generous with their staff. But then, not many institutions in Kosovo or in Western countries command such respect and affection by their present and former staff.

Third, Riinvest has also played the role of a serious civil society organisation, encouraging the involvement of citizens in debating issues which have had significant impact on the society and raising the public awareness of these issues – ranging from alternative methods of privatisation of socially owned companies in the early 2000s, corporate governance of banks and large POEs in late 2000s, and now the current debate on the Trepca Mining Complex. This is a service to the society which has not been offered by other organisations.

In the last 20 years, Riinvest Institute has gone from strength or strength, expanded the scope and quality of its work significantly and, most importantly and to its founders’ credit, the younger generation have taken over the running of the Institute. It has made a significant contribution to Kosovo’s human capital and economic development. I congratulate the founders, represented by Professor Muhamt Mustafa and the new generation of leaders, represented by Dr. Lumir Abdixhiku. May your good work continue for many years to come.

20 years ago when Muhamet Mustafa asked me for a favor, to write a supporting letter to CIPE (Center for International Private Entrepreneurship) in Washington I did not know exactly what is it that I had to support . It sounded like an enterprise name, RIINVEST, meaning a commercial activity that leads towards ri-investing. Back then, in 1995, entrepreneurship and every other aspect of life in Kosovo was suppressed under the Serbian occupation and the very idea that someone is starting a new initiative was both tedious (because of difficulties easily evident from the Serbian authorities) and challenging (because they still had the energy to start anything, even though the difficulties were known).

I had faith in Muhamet Mustafa when he explained that an institute that will be dealing with economy, that will analyze the economic situation and prepare a vision for the future is being planned. In the occupied Kosovo, we were all dreamers, we all lived and acted dreaming that the occupation will come to an end. Riinvest’s dream seemed like a well designed dream: one day, when we free ourselves, we will need people and ideas to lift the country's economy which occupation was deliberately sinking.

This belief in the dream of the founders of Riinvest made ​​me feel rewarded throughout the years of the life of Riinvest. During these years, while attending international conferences by institutes and other notable organizations in the world, Riinvests’ voice as participants whether in discussion or as analytical material for debate (quoted from the speakers, including me) established the level of seriousness that the arguments for and about Kosovo gave adequate reliability.

In 1999, when Kosovo’s delegations was leaving for Rambouillet,  I sought Muhamet Mustafa’s and other Riinvest experts’  help, so that, if necessary, the Kosovo delegation could rapidly consult about economic issues, on diverse issues such as regulation of tax relations between Kosovo and Serbia at the time when Kosovo should be under the protectorate or for the issue of succession ( including property and international debts).

At that time, I noticed a discrepancy between the adviser and the one being advised: Riinvest was the right path to create a consistent economic advice, but Kosovo ws not in the right way to create a leadership that would listen to it, consistent economic advice.

In this environment, more or less Riinvest’s activity developed after the liberation. In this environment, the institute may have not produced many tips that were heard by the powers, whether international or local powers in Kosovo, but with a  consistency it has created a new generation of researchers and practitioners who maintain their academic dignity as well as their independence from the submission and compliance to politics, pre-politics and its pressures.

Throughout the years, Riinvest’s vast participation in the civil society tables has been a necessity in terms of the depth of the debate and even as evidence that creative and analytical thinking is evident in Kosovo, even though it is not heard in state institutions.

Today, in its 20th anniversary, Riinvest is prepared for a different time, when we will be liberated from the primitivism in leading elites, when in this country the discrepancy between the capacity to give advice and lack of capacity to accept them is diminished.

Relationship and cooperation with Kosovo, part of the Albanian nation, has been a long-standing dream. Due to conditioned circumstances by political regimes in Albania, Kosovo, and because of the events that made ​​history in the late 20th century for the Albanian nation, the possibility of cooperation was severely restricted and the dream remained a dream...

Nonetheless not infinite. The events that followed the war of 1999 opened a brand new site for Kosovo, which was finalized with the Declaration of Independence on 17 February 2008. It was a coronation, where we somehow felt like contributors. That's because in 2007 I began cooperation with Rinvest.

Cooperation with Riinvest started with fire and desire of knowing the other part of Albanians, so near and so far. With greatest pleasure, I accepted the invitation for cooperation and also with the excitement of doing a new thing. Responsibility of contribution, participation in academic life in Kosovo and the education of the new post-war generation were covered by special sensation. Because I wasn’t very aware of the situation, I remember that there were times that a numerous questions would invade me. Starting from the language, the vocabulary to be used, the rate of speaking ... and so on. Of course these may sound childish now but today, eight years later; these questions have seen an unprecedented development. As in many other areas, these assumptions no longer exist. Nevertheless, for me they remain beautiful, as they are from the start.

Cooperation with Rinvest included teaching in master programs and research studies, where Riinvest definitely has a merit as a leader institution in Kosovo, with studies that include not only Kosovo, but also the region.

I was proud that together with Riinvest faculty and staff, we have worked closely to create the first specialized programs at Master level courses in the field of modern banks, banking development strategy, international finance, banking risk management and economy development. With the aim of attracting a significant number of students who come not only from the school banks, as the normal process of the study, but also with direct experience in the field of finance and banking, people wish to advance their knowledge, to increase competitiveness in the market and to enhance their skills and knowledge. An admirable interest from those seeking knowledge, seeking to capture the lost time, an unprecedented willingness of those who did not stop their studies even in difficult conditions before the war. We were with them not only in teacher - student relationship, but also as friends, as brothers. Their curiosity to know more about Albania, just like mine to know more about Kosovo, was a separate school. And for this, I have to thank Riinvest for the given opportunity to have more friends of friends on this side of the border.

The relationship with students was one side. But as special and exciting was the relationship with the academic staff at Riinvest. A dedicated staff to ensure first element in attracting students -academic quality. Developed and revised programs each year were the basis of the teaching success. The needs of the Kosovo’s new economy were the foundations of scientific research. In this particular field many students were included through the topics of the course or degree work. While as an academic staff I was engaged in many activities of national and international character. I was impressed by their abilities, especially in analytical work, advanced scientific research methods, high level of knowledge in statistics and IT, connections with many public and private institutions in Kosovo and beyond. Along the routes of development, we have often discussed about macroeconomics, finance and banks. These are areas that I love very much and do not hesitate to share my experience and knowledge with anyone. Open to colleagues who brought experience and original perspectives, especially regarding the features representing Kosovo's economy. A dialogue and cooperation that even now that I am a Minister of Finance, I have not underestimated and whenever I find time, I try to be present. This is because in one way or another, whether I want or not, I am part of this honorable institution. For me, Riinvest is a strong connection point with Kosovo. Therefore I appreciate it; I honor it and continue to do so. Thank you for this irreplaceable experience Riinvest!

At a time when everyone ran to make politics, at Riinvest, they were making an institution. This kind of intellectual engagement in the postwar period was hardly explainable. But it remained limitedly understood even today, when everybody wants overnight fame and money.

Riinvest is one of the rare institutions that rejected the postwar model where the main motto has been the overthrow of everything that has an origin of having knowledge as a concept. Riinvest refused the postwar motto: “Times have changed, people have changed, and values have changed​- now we are the decision makers?!

Riinvest has changed the trend by ameliorating primitive patriotism and has set criteria being clear with patriotism; that patriotism is relative.

Riinvest was clear that patriotism and love for the country is not only the capture of the gun: because they clearly knew that for someone else patriotism, presents a concrete commitment, financial or material; for the third, the symbolism of the flag is the beginning and the end; for the fourth, patriotism is the provision of a book, a film and the Riinvest group have established a knowledge institute.

In our country, now, in most cases, they achieved success and don’t have even the slightest connection with intellectual, with knowledge, institutes, and conjectural successes; they are inversely proportional to intellectual impact.

After the war, Kosovo has refused to have an opinion on institutional knowledge and has been in crisis being with no chances in front of the mediocrity rush. Riinvest, unlike many others, has rejected all the trends found on their path and by working quietly with continued impact; it has become the leader of transformation of social and political reality in Kosovo.

How this will be assessed in the future, it has nothing to do with the Institute, but with consciousness and morality of those for whom the sacrifice was made.

In societies where there is lack of rule, the people of knowledge are promoters of social debate and have an impact on conceptual analysis of key processes.

Becoming an intellectual of an independent institute, of a small and underdeveloped nation is always a weighted decision.

Adversity of countries such as Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia is that the evaluation of the public intellectuals’ role is closely linked to the political changes in election and party. That has not happened with Riinvest.

Essays readers of Riinvest group, then the political, economic, sociological, philosophical analysis, for religion, power, globalization, identity, geostrategic changes, and other would have created a sense of pride for having a public Albanian institute that contributed locally to global debates without being influenced by politics.

It is a sin that they have not received proper size of seriousness in Kosovo because of the victory of mediocrity, and unfortunately they remained only within Kosovo.

Under normal circumstances, each time period creates its own generation of important public intellectuals. Then, with gradualism it is amended with subsequent generation.

In Kosovo, the distortions in social developments did not allow maximum victory of Riinvest, but this Institute has created individuals who bear the economic and social analysis for all.

Therefore, it is painful we wasted time by not accepting Riinvest to be our guide for economic and political programs of the Kosovo institutions.

Riinvest Institute is not only an institute for the people who created it; it is knowledge and culture, at the same time.

News is of no value, if not based on facts. In fact, news without facts is not news! But, what one learns very quickly as a journalist is that getting to the facts is not at an easy job. On the contrary! The discovery of the facts, interpreting them correctly, and finally their presentation before the reader in a credible way, reliable, is what makes a newspaper item to be reliable.

Of course, this applies to any type of reporting, but particularly it weighs more when reporting about economic affairs, where specialized knowledge is often necessary to interpret a fact, to identify a trend, to properly convey a development, or to foresee the consequences for Kosovo and its citizens, even when we talk about global developments that to many they have appeared too remote to affect us such as the economic and financial crisis in the past few years in Europe and the US.

Riinvest Institute with their analysis, reports, conferences and meetings organized all the time has been a central factor in informing about economic and development issues. It has been a source of facts to see where we went wrong in the past, how to work today and what awaits us in the future. It was a main interpreter of policies that plunged Kosovo each time deeper into economic stagnation, but also a proper provider of how we should come out of it. It has been active in advocating valuable issues for the society, as part of a small piece of Kosovo’s active civil society. It raised its voice against the harmful policies, regardless of who invented them, who has sponsored them, and who has supported them. It has been, and remains an institution that works in the service of citizens, and not to the interests of a narrow political, economic or social group, like many others.

For this reason, and for many other things, since its establishment 20 years ago until today, Riinvest has been irreplaceable, for journalists and the public. Especially Koha Ditore has benefited from Riinvest Institute expertise, whose analysis has served us in our mission for accurate information, fair and timely for the Kosovar public for events and economic prospects. While the columns of Institute’s director, Lumir Abdixhiku have become synonymous with accurate economic analysis of the developments that have occurred, and early warning for those to come.

Currently, as everyone may say what they think, even when wrong, the value of words based on facts, and their objective interpretation, has multiplied. However, when it comes to economy, the word spoken by Riinvest, weighs more than any other.

And not only the economy...

1995 marks very important steps taken at the time by civil society. One of the main steps with high influence to the country's economic development is the founding of the Riinvest Institute. Riinvest Institute in pre-war conditions brought additional information for everyone in Kosovo, especially during the period of 1995 -2000, and from these years forward, Riinvest brought a new spirit of thinking and a different view on economic developments in Kosovo and the region.

Riinvest Institute served as a reference point for RTV21 on matters of economic development while consulting them and their expert opinions who have contributed in this institution for many years.

Many major domestic economic crisis, many issues that were treated as taboo, have been treated in our TV debates, not only through our journalists’ consultations with experts of the Institute, but also with experts’ participation in such debates.

Riinvest has made ​​its contribution through numerous publications on the modern economic development of Kosovo, it has published research on policies for the advancement of business and creation of necessary conditions for businesses especially for small and medium ones, and as such it also created public opinion on how to create these conditions and what is the direction for sustainable economic development in Kosovo.

Riinvest parameters related to economic development are mentioned in RTV21 television debates not only by Institute experts, but also by a number of other local and foreign economic development experts.

Some of the main issues that economic experts have considered and evaluated always referring to Riinvest’s researches were mainly related to the labor market and unemployment reduction, Kosovo’s economic sustainability, Institute’s research associated with foreign direct investment in Kosovo and other issues vital for the economy.

20th anniversary, finds the Institute in an environment where more work is still needed and where this Institute will have its own role in critical thinking related to the sustainable economic development in Kosovo always based on research and overall professional work that this institute does in this field.

In different times and circumstances, everything you see, read and understand you do it differently. Fourteen years ago, I was only 19 years old, when I started working as a journalist. A new journey for me full of challenges and uncertainties. Economy was the last sector I thought about covering for more than ten years during my career. I had no knowledge on economic issues, and less on reading the budget lines, or analyzing political interests through numbers.

But I found a door that was always open for me, and a group of experts that without hesitation would sit at the table to clarify  what I needed to know, those that actually define essential problems of state building. At first I read them just as texts and statistics, I saw reports about conferences without realizing that this door mobilizes public opinion through the media on major economic issues.

Riinvest Institute for Development Research was not just an Institute for the publication of reports, analysis and research. It challenged the authorities with facts and arguments. Difficult circumstances of the transition period at the times when politics dominated the economy were constant challenges, but Riinvest - diligently continued its mission towards development policy advocacy, while staying with a magnifying glass, to anyone that came, fell, and returned to power again.

Dealing with degradation was not new for Riinvest because this institution had begun its activity in the worst possible time, that of Milosevic’s regime. Established in 1995, working for two decades, with dedication and professionalism, in partnership with international organizations, Riinvest has gradually become one of the most influential factors of economic issues in Kosovo’s public opinion.

In each period, for the past 20 years, Riinvest has never been submissive to the politics, but in contrary criticizing it by introducing findings before the public, whilst offering solutions through economic development strategies.

This institute was the instigator of debates on the investment environment in Kosovo, the degraded privatization process of social and public enterprises and so on. Riinvest, also brought a new spirit, unknown to the civil society in Kosovo, another model of providing solutions, followed by its weight and importance, by offering not only findings but also expertise in the various economic fields and alternative policies.

This institute gained its credibility with professionalism, testifying about country’s degradation with facts on the table, while meantime offering solutions to economic sustainability. For many years, Riinvest has led with initiatives, through public forums, conferences, debates, publication analysis. Its influence has grown along with experts that have developed within this institute. The first “think tank” institute of such nature in Kosovo opened its doors to a new generation, which grew and developed within it. “Riinvest”-has managed to present the most influential experts on economic issues in the country, the promoters of the new spirit of public discourse.

This institute remains the most credible address and plays a key role in opening debates on the country's economic challenges. Often times, Riinvest has changed the flow of economic events by opening public debates with impact on the most important events in Kosovo economic sectors.

Today, 20 years since its creation and 14 years since I have closely followed their work, I see, read and consider it as the most credible institution in the country. Riinvest  has managed to install the highest standard of modern economic mentality in place!

FES has been partner of Riinvest since 1997. During the period between 1999 and 2005 I had the pleasure to be responsible on the side of FES for the cooperation between both institutions. My first contact with Prof. Mustafa and his colleagues has been in spring 1999. As an observer from outside, I remember well those days of the war in Kosova, the terrible news coming from there, and the dramatic pictures and the preoccupying news in the media during these days. Coming from Sofia, where we had our regional office, I arrived in Tetovo where many people from Kosova had escaped the war and had found shelter. The small city was full of people and cars, one could hardly find a free seat in one of the many cafes which were at the same time the meeting point for everybody, including the many internationals who were present as part of international aid programs or as correspondents from media outlets all over the world.

Riinvest had established a small office in the center of town. Not knowing when the war would end, we started in those days a program of studies and proposals for the (re-) construction of Kosova after the war. We knew that many experts from Kosova were in Tetovo, waiting for better days to come, in the cafes of the town. While waiting in Tetovo, we wanted to offer them the opportunity to make use of their intellectual and visionary capacities to contribute to “the days after” and the enormous challenges which were to be addressed once war was over and the people of Kosovo would return to their country.

As a result, Riinvest and FES organized the first international conference after the end of the war, in the early days of July 1999 (it would be good, to include, here, the title of the conference). The venue was the sport-palace (??), which had suffered from bombardments during the war. Windows were broken, and during that rainy day the water was coming into the conference room through a variety of wholes and broken windows. It was a challenge to provide technical equipment, but the conference brought together a relieved and enthusiastic community of people who wanted to contribute to the (re-) building of a new country and a new state.

I imagine that some of the papers presented and many of the proposals made found their way into the reconstruction process which has continued since then, up to today. The heart-warming experience of our cooperation and the contact and the communication between our teams and in particular with Prof. Mustafa remain very prominently in my memories.

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