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Albania: IMF Offers Help Over Savings Scandal

Tirana, 28 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - An International Monetary Fund official says the IMF has offered to help the Albanian government overcome a financial crisis sparked by the collapse of popular pyramid investment schemes.

A wave of violent unrest has swept Albania in recent days following the failure of leading private savings schemes which have left many people facing economic ruin. Economists estimate that more than $1 billion may have been plunged into a myriad of high-yielding pyramid funds.

John King, the IMF's resident representative in Albania, told Reuters that the IMF will do everything "it can to assist the government in resolving the crisis." The IMF has provided two loan facilities to Albania since 1992 and is currently negotiating a third lending program.

Earlier today, Albanian President Sali Berisha pledged government compensation for Albanians who lost their savings in the pyramid schemes. AFP quoted Berisha as making the remarks on joining a pro-government rally in Tirana. The agency quoted Berisha as saying the government will "work to repay the money that was stolen" from citizens. He promised the issue will be resolved quickly and fairly.

However, Reuters says Berisha was rushed from the scene shortly after arrival by bodyguards who were concerned about his security. The opposition has accused the government of collusion with the investment schemes and says it should resign.