• Short Summary

    Albania -- once regarded as the poorest backwater of Europe -- is now showing signs of rapid economic progress.

  • Description

    Albania -- once regarded as the poorest backwater of Europe -- is now showing signs of rapid economic progress.

    Two million people live in Albania -- and for the past ten years their government has been the staunchest European ally of Mao Tse-tung.

    Much of the economic progress made in Albania has been with the help of Chinese money and expertise.

    At present the People's Republic of China is contributing to more than thirty projects underway in Albania.

    And the showpiece of Sino-Albanian cooperation is the Mao Tse-tung textile factor at Berate, south of the capital Tirana.

    SYNOPSIS: The capital of Albania, Tirana -- the political and economic centre of a country once regarded as the poorest backwater of Europe. And even today, Tirana remains on of the least-known of world capitals.

    Statues of Stalin and Lenin dominate the main squares and parks in Tirana.

    And the two main boulevards are noted for the large buildings housing offices of the Communist Party.

    The people of Albania dress simply -- and live simply. To a city-dweller from almost any other capital, in the world, Tirana is a pedestrians paradise. There are almost no cars.

    But Albania is a changing country -- and it's outside the cities where change is most evident. Once a barren, unproductive countryside -- Albania now produces enough food for its two million people. Much if the country is mountainous -- but almost every square inch of arable land is being cultivated.

    Twenty-five year ago, the people of Albania had never seen a train. Now major towns are being connected by a network of railways and modern roads. Students on holiday help with the work.

    As Albania tries to industrialise -- oil derricks are springing up.

    Common to town and country are the party slogans -- and pictures of the man who heads the party, Enver Hoxha. He is credited with bringing this backward country into the twentieth century. This national museum features a bust of Hoxha, whose party has for the past ten years been the staunchest European ally of Mao Tse-tung. This alliance has resulted in Chinese theatrical and musical groups visiting Albania, performing before large and enthusiastic audiences.

    More important, the alliance has bought economic and technical aid for Albania. Showcase of this aid -- the Mao Tse-tung textile plant at Berate, south of he capital. It's the largest single industrial enterprise in Albania and employs six-and-a-half thousand people. It supplied all of Albania's textile needs -- and exports goods to countries in Eastern Europe as well.

    All the equipment in the factory -- right down to fuseboxes and lightbulbs was imported from China.

    Large dam projects are supervised by Chinese engineers. They bring electricity to every town and village in Albania.

    And modern Chinese agricultural equipment is rapidly replacing traditional farm tools.

    New government-built apartments offer a new standard of living. Rent is a little over GBP2 a month. Food is simple -- but fresh, cheap and plentiful.

    Albanian families often spend their annual holidays in state-run recreation centres -- like this one on Lake Pogdarec. Salaries range from GBP25 to GBP80 a month, and every worker has two weeks holidays a year.

    Albanians, however, have no access to this stretch of beach. It's reserved for the few hundred tourists who come to Albania from the West every summer. American and Soviet visitors are still banned -- but the government is making special efforts to attract more tourists to this rapidly changing country.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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