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Dritan Prifti (MPA 2000) does not have an easy road ahead of him. Although elected in July to the Albanian Parliament with a huge percent of popular support - nearly 75 percent - his additional post as state minister for energy will mean making some tough decisions. The country, one of the poorest in Europe, struggles with an ongoing energy crisis that has at times left Albanians without power for up to 10 hours every day.
Prifti is not new to the demands he is now experiencing as an elected official - a four-year post that he secretly coveted while a student and Kokkalis Fellow at the Kennedy School. He recalls being asked being asked about his aspirations by the director of MPA Programs. "When Sue Williamson asked us in at exercise what we wanted to be in 10 years, I wrote, 'a member of Parliament.' I became one only a year later."
Prior to the election, he was general director of the Albanian Elector-Energy Corporation, the largest public corporation in the country. Before that, he worked as chief of staff to the ministers of finance and labor as the country attempted to make the difficult transition from Communism to an open-market economy.
Today, he is part of a new wave of young reformers in Albania pushing for change under the direction of Ilir Meta, the nation's 33-year-old prime minister. At the top of his list is drafting an energy strategy plan for the next 15 years that addresses some of the root causes of the crisis. These include the poor condition of the nation's electrical power grid, which loses up to 55 percent of the electricity in the transmission process, and a reliance on hydroelectric dams that produce little when the country is faced with drought conditions.
With his American MBA and master's degree, Prifti could easily have stayed in the United States and made more money with less stress. But he wanted to come back, in part because of the people who elected him - the same poor, rural constituents whom his father once represented as a mayor and senior government official.
"The prime minister of Albania participated in one of my election rallies. He spoke of me as a Harvard graduate who returned to Albania out of love for Albania. He said that my chances of employment in the United State were high, but I still returned," Prifti says. "He was right. I still can't find a better reason. I felt fine in the United States, but I never felt home. My stay would have not helped the United States much. But my return to Albania will, I hope, help Albania."