Traveling through Albania, from Shkoder to Vlore, the rules of the road (or lack thereof) did not inspire a lot of confidence. Roundabouts appeared without notice. Donkeys, baby carriages, and old ladies wove in and out of fast moving cars. And a third, unmarked traffic lane mysteriously appeared in the centre of the highway. To combat the fear induced by this ‘organized chaos’, I fixed my gaze out the passenger window to the landscape. A curious pattern emerged: scattered unfinished buildings appeared every couple of hundred metres along the highway. A parade of cadaverous structures. Some of them were inhabited, others completely unused, and others still under construction.
A little research revealed the reasons for this unusual epidemic. Many of the concrete skeletons date from the 90s, when a series of nationwide pyramid schemes created a building boom that left many constructions incomplete. In the mid-1990s Albania was transitioning from a state-controlled economy to a capitalist market economy. The relative naiveté of Albanians in the face of large-scale financial investment led to a speculative mania, wherein many invested in what turned out to be pyramid schemes: companies without assets attracting investors by offering high returns.
After the fall of Communism in Albania in 1991, there was a lack of government regulation accompanying the introduction of private property: it became a kind of free-for-all. Based on their presumed riches, Albanians began constructing across the country. […]