Unlocking Economic Potential in Orhei: Lessons for Moldova

Unlocking Economic Potential in Orhei: Lessons for Moldova
Photo: Unsplash.com

Not all successful businessmen enjoy being placed in the limelight. Some of the world’s most successful people in business prefer operating from the sidelines, keeping their business interests and personal lives to themselves. Although Mr Ilan Shor is one such business executive, given his successful and illustrious business career, he is nevertheless a household name in his native Moldova. The lessons of his career can and should inform development in the rest of the country and beyond.

Moldova is a country still in its developing economic stages, with economic development marked by a mixed landscape. The country faces significant challenges stemming from political instability and, on the development front, a lack of investment in infrastructure and education, hindering its ability to compete globally. The government has proven incapable of improving the business environment, with progress slow and significant work left to be done to strengthen governance mechanisms, attract foreign investment, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in order to unlock the country’s full economic potential and improve the well-being of citizens. This has underscored the central role of private sector actors and local leadership structures in moving the country’s economy forward, with Mr. Ilan Shor and his experience in both of these being a very telling example of the positive impact business leaders with political finesse can exact.

Born in 1987, Shor is quite young to have already had such a successful career. Mr. Shor’s experience is well-rounded and spans several industries, including the financial sector, banking, retail, travel and real estate. He is best known for growing Moldova’s largest retailer of duty-free goods, Dufremol, into what it is today. Dufremol sells a variety of goods to travelers, including perfume, alcohol and tobacco, and is a company that would be familiar to anyone who has passed through the Chișinău International Airport. Although Mr. Shor himself did not found the company (Dufremol was founded by his late father, Miron Shor, in 1994), he was responsible for taking it to great heights and making it into one of the country’s most successful enterprises.

Mr. Shor’s father, who passed away in 2005, was reportedly a strong inspiration for his son. In a 2010 interview with Moldova’s VIP Magazine, Mr. Shor stated, “My dad was with me throughout childhood. All my so-called problems until 2005 had the same result. I talked with my father, and we found the solution together”.

Mr. Miron Shor was well known as a businessman and benefactor to Jewish causes in Moldova. The family’s Jewish identity played an important role in Mr. Shor’s upbringing, and it was his father who brought the family to Moldova from Israel, a place he would find his way back to in his later years.

Among the Jewish humanitarian causes in Moldova that Mr Shor’s father, Miron, was a known supporter of was the ORT network of Jewish institutions, which promotes education and vocational training. Mr Shor was undoubtedly positively influenced by the environment in which he was raised, naming one of his many philanthropic foundations after his father, the “Miron Shor” Charity Foundation.

With such a strong positive philanthropy-oriented influence, Mr. Shor himself has taken an interest in giving back to the community from the sidelines, alongside pursuing his successes in the business world. These have included initiatives to improve local schools, hospitals, and infrastructure in Orhei, where he was elected Mayor in June 2015. His work included initiatives to enrich both the cultural and social life of the city, as well as to make Orhei a city in which quality of life is more accessible for residents

Interestingly, during his tenure as Mayor, Mr. Shor leveraged his private sector experience to improve the quality of life of the city’s citizens. From increasing access to affordable housing to ensuring that citizens’ basic needs were met, such as access to adequate healthcare, Mr. Shor’s efforts left an indelible mark on the city. His “maternity capital” program was most famous and inspirational, which provided much-needed funding for young couples interested in starting a family.

The beautification and modernization of the city were also goals that Mr. Shor set for himself as Mayor, as well as building parks, developing commercial zones, and expanding urban areas, all with a range of unique programs. According to Mr. Shor, “Placing the well-being of citizens above all else is what drove me during my time in Orhei. Just as entrepreneurs are guided by what they believe will bring them the highest return on investment, in my public service career, the greatest return on investment was the well-being of our residents”.

With many entrepreneurs finding their way into the public sector, much can be learned from Mr. Shor’s personal and professional experience. As Moldova finds its footing in the international economic community, more impact-driven and development-oriented investing in the country will be required. Business leaders such as Mr. Shor will undoubtedly have an important role to play in shaping this future.

Published by: Martin De Juan

(Ambassador)

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