|About Operation Kosovo||
Daily Trip Report - July 12, 2003
We started out with a meeting/tour of Energoinvest - an industrial fuse/transformer manufacturer on the privatization list. It was kind of a depressing visit actually because the physical plant is crumbling. You can quickly tell that the enterprise is on its last legs financially. The machinery in the factory is all extremely old - 1970s to late 1980s equipment. Not only that, but it's literally covered with cobwebs. There were very few people working because there's barely any business. It's only customer right now is the Kosovo electricity company, KEK. The factory was also dim, dark, and would definitely not meet OSHA standards - for example, we observed people smoking in the factory near gasoline storage drums. The people who met with us were very generous with their time and were extremely accomodating. At one point, it seemed that there may be a future for the business because Kosovo MUST upgrade its electrical system at some point. The Energoinvest people seem to think that day is very far away and that the value in the business would be realized as an exporter. There are a couple of problems with that: first - it's tough to export from Kosovo because the roads are poor, and it has no ports; second - Energoinvest has not had foreign customers for about 10 years. Basically, I fail to see why someone would buy the business because you're not buying it for production (the machines have to be replaced), you're not buying it for customer accounts, and you're not buying it for work force because you'd lay off most of the workers anyway. The only potential value is in the land, which is questionable.
Following the tour, we met with KIPRED. They were very receptive to the business center proposal. They seem well qualified, but are heavily biased toward primarily involving academics instead of business people like the impressive guys we met at IPKO and the Victory Hotel. Regardless, they suggested we involve Atdhe Veliu, who is well-credentialed in business and academia. Hopefully, Atdhe will agree to head the center.
We met with Atdhe in a beer garden of the hotel. That's the first time I tried Peje beer, which is brewed in Peje, Kosovo. It tastes pretty good and has an alcohol content >10%. We joked that it would probably sell well in the States & talked about utilizing the image of a war-torn, rugged nation to sell it.
Dinner at Atdhe's place was excellent. Tim and I then went out & had a pretty interesting night. We met a number of Kosovars & Tim introduced himself to the owners of every place we went to. We may meet with a couple of them to discuss their business experiences.
At one place, I met a customs officer who used to be a KLA soldier. He told a good joke that illustrates Kosovars' feelings toward UNMIK: "Three survivors of a plane crash washed up on a small remote island that was only inhabited by primative cannibals. One survivor was German, one American, and one Kosovar. The cannibals captured and bound the survivors, and brought them before their chief. The chief explained that they each had to state where they are from and what their country has to offer. The chief would then decide whether each survivor would be eaten or set free. The first to speak was the American. He said 'I come from America. We have lots of money and freedom that we can offer.' The chief ordered him eaten. The German then said 'I come from Germany. We produce the world's best cars and we also have lots of money.' The chief ordered him eaten. The Kosovar then spoke 'I come from Kosovo. We are very poor and have nothing to offer.' The chief then told the Kosovar that he was letting him go and that he would not be eaten. Astonished, the Kosovar asked the chief why he had been spared. The chief replied 'because my brother is a top UNMIK official.'"
We also met
a group of three Kosovar men in their mid 40's or so. Each had spent significant
time overseas, and one still lives in Switzerland and works as a surgeon.
Another owns the country's only Thai restaurant. We went to Route 66,
which is a fairly authentic American-style diner. Over the course of the
meal, we debated whether Kosovars could ever come to resent America if
the country does not develop further, a la Afghanistan, France, and several
other places. They all assured me that because of all we have done for
them so far, Kosovars would never feel resentment or anger toward America.
Hopefully, this will be a moot issue.
Energoinvest which is an SOE that is up for privatization. Toured the
plant and met with owners. Then, had lunch w/ Luan of EDA. Then, had lunch
with Leon and Wolzome (not sure on spelling) of KIPRED to discuss Business/leadership
clinic. Then played basketball with two young Kosovars. Then had another
meeting with Leon of KIPRED and Atdhe who works for ESI (thinktank) to
further discuss business/leadership clinic. Then had dinner at Atdhe's
house. Excellent cook.
The coolest thing about today was that I had to meet Luan at the US office. Since Kosovo isn't a recognized country, it doesn't have an embassy - it has a US OFFICE. I'd never been there before, but it is in Dragodan. That's the neighborhood where I'm staying and where ABA/CEELI is located. It is a compound of houses & office space that the US rents from locals. Luan said he wished that he owned one of the houses so he could get $5K/month from the US to lease it. Americans live there and work there. Of course, the little compound comes equipped w/ a cafe so that you don't even have to leave the gates to enjoy a macchiato.
Then, to Energoinvest - Carson described it well enough [see Carson Block above].
Lunch w/Luan at Rings - another brand new, lots-of-$-invested-in restaurant. We estimated that the TV in the restaurant alone must have cost between $3K and $8K----odd!
At 1:15, KIPRED meeting - well covered by the others [see above]. Beer w/ Adthe, then dinner at his house. I love getting to know the Albanians!
around 11-ish and went out with her. So good to see Valza. Went home late,
but not as late as Carson & Tim!
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