Shekulli: Have you visited other cities [outside of Tirana] in order to discover this country in your own way?
Kseniya Lvovsky: By now, I have visited virtually every part of the country – cities, villages, the coast, and the mountains. Albania’s natural beauty is spectacular, and the people are wonderful. And I am proud that in any place I go, I can see the impact of over 20 years of World Bank support to the country’s development. Anywhere you go, there is something we have helped to build or improve - whether it is a school, a hospital, a social center, a road, a water pump, an irrigation pond, a market, a street, a public office, or a combination of some of those.
Shekulli: How did you arrive at your current position? Do you have a “recipe for success” you can share with us?
Kseniya Lvovsky: I worked at the World Bank for many years before taking this position. The recipe is to love what you do and do the best you can.
Shekulli: What is a normal working day as a World Bank Country Manager?
Kseniya Lvovsky: Country Manager is considered the best job at the World Bank, because it is interesting and challenging every day. Each day is different but the common features of a normal day are meeting and learning something new from talented people around you, and having achieved something good by the end of the day.
Shekulli: Is it difficult to be the Country Manager all day long, to dress like a Country Manager, to talk like a Country Manager, to have less time to be just Kseniya and not Ms. Lvovsky?
Kseniya Lvovsky: My management style is to be myself and treat all others with respect and friendship, as long as they are doing their job. I am very fortunate to mostly work with very committed and excellent professionals - inside and outside the World Bank.
Shekulli: What do you think of the Albanian women? The life they choose to live, the relationships they create with men or even the effort to “wake up?”
Kseniya Lvovsky: I am continuously impressed by so many Albanian women I have met - talented, sharp, inspiring, beautiful, open, innovative, excellent at work, and very committed to their families. I am humbled by their willingness to usually stay behind in a supportive, number 2 role - even when they outshine their formal male leaders in everything. Once I visited a community project in northern Albania where only men were waiting to discuss the project with Bank officials, but when I approached a woman working in the field, she was very outspoken and bright, with an admirable combination of dignity, humility, confidence, and that incredible inner light that only people with the utmost integrity have.
Shekulli: Do you think Albania faces gender inequalities? Do you think Albanian women are offered the right opportunities for professional advancement and economic independence?
Kseniya Lvovsky: I find that Albania is moving in the right direction, it is not there yet but it will be. The key priority is addressing domestic violence against women; the numbers are very alarming.
Shekulli: It seems that to you the discussions on reducing the public debt are not so important because you consider the needs of cities like Burrel and Peshkopi more urgent - their need for health centers, water supply, youth centers etc… My question is: has the development gap between the center and these other areas widened? How can we overcome it if it has?
Kseniya Lvovsky: My view, expressed in a December 2012 editorial, is different: I find reducing public debt the most important thing, because without this the urgent needs of municipalities and the people cannot be met, and the development gap cannot be closed. To overcome this, the health of public finances needs to be restored, the transparency and efficiency of public spending should be increased, the responsibilities between the center and local government should be refined, and the business environment should be further improved.
Shekulli: The reality is no matter which government comes to power in 2013, this government will not be able to afford a tax reduction. That government will have to work on reorganizing the tax procedures, identifying new sources of income, and protecting the poorest through better targeted social assistance programs. This is more or less part of your declaration. Do you think that 2013 will be a worse year, economically, than last year?
Kseniya Lvovsky: 2013 will still be challenging but it can and must be better, even though people will likely feel a positive impact only toward the end of the year.
Shekulli: One of the problems often mentioned in the media is the non-declaration of assets by politicians. That is only one side of the problem. The other side is that there is an increasing polarization of society, with some people getting richer and richer and others getting poorer and poorer. What is the impression of Ms. Lvovsky on the relationship of elites with money and the impact of [unbalanced distribution of wealth] among the society in general?
Kseniya Lvovsky: I do not find Albania to be an outlier vis-a-vis other countries in terms of a relationship of elite with money. I also share Mahatma Ghandi’s view that change in the world, and change within a country, starts with oneself. When most Albanians start accurately paying taxes and bills, declaring assets and using the formal sector for obtaining services, politicians will have no choice but to change. It is within the power of all Albanians to build a country they want to live in.
Shekulli: Does the World Bank Country Manager know what is it to live without money in your wallet? Have you ever experienced that feeling?
Kseniya Lvovsky: Sure - just as everyone who lived under the communist regime did. There was a time in the 1980s in Russia when my husband and I routinely ran out of money a week before the next paycheck - as most other young families around us did. I also know firsthand what it is like to live without electricity, phone, TV, and running water. One message that I carry from that time is: people who have money are no better than those who do not; they simply happen to be in better circumstances at that point in life. This is actually what the work at the World Bank is about - helping all people on our planet receive the opportunity to benefit from better circumstances. That is why I love my job so much.