Thursday, June 17, 2004

This one should be titled “Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian once again elects a band-aid solution to a problem he and his cabinet perpetuates”

After you are done reading this article in full, read my comments that follow.

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 06/16/2004

Armenian Proposals For Extra U.S. To Be Ready 'Next Month'

By Gevorg Stamboltsian

Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on Wednesday the Armenian government will finalize by the end of next month its proposals for the use of additional U.S. government assistance which it will likely receive under Washington's Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program.

Markarian spoke after chairing the first meeting of an ad hoc commission of senior government officials which is tasked with assessing the country's urgent needs, discussing possible ways of meeting them with the promised extra U.S. aid and submitting a relevant plan to the American side.

Under the terms of the MCA, Armenia and 15 other developing nations selected by the U.S. government last spring must themselves specify how much money they need and how they would use it. Top executives from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) which runs the scheme visited Yerevan late last month for the first discussions on the subject with Armenian officials.

They made it clear that the aid allocation to Armenia is not a forgone conclusion and will depend on the quality of the proposals. According to senior U.S. diplomats, it will also be contingent on the improvement of Yerevan's "poor" human rights record.

Speaking to journalists, Markarian said that the government would like to primarily spend the MCA funds on the reconstruction of the battered infrastructure of the country's impoverished rural regions that have hardly benefited from recent years' economic growth. He said that would mean rebuilding schools, countryside roads and irrigation networks. "All of these programs must be in line with our [12-year] poverty reduction strategy," he said.

Asked how much the Armenian side expects to get from the MCC, he said: "It is too early to talk about sums [of money]. But according to our preliminary estimates, [the government will ask for] between $500 million and $600 million in the next five years."

Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian came up last week with an even more ambitious aid target: $700 million, of which $100 million should be made available as early as this year. But he was more cautious and vague in his comments on Wednesday. "Even [the MCC] don't know what will happen," he said.

Khachatrian reiterated that the government commission in charge of the MCA is open to proposals from Armenian non-governmental organizations. He complained that it has received only two aid projects so far.

Armenia has already received over $1.5 billion in regular U.S. assistance since independence. It will get at least $78.4 million worth of further assistance in the course of this year.


Now that you got this far, go one step further and visit and read the documents they have so you can understand that Prime Minister Markarian and his ad hoc commission of senior government officials, missed the point of MCC is suppose to be helping.

“What types of activities will the MCC fund?

The MCC's mission is to achieve economic growth and reduce poverty. Examples of areas that are directly tied to a country's productivity and economic growth include agricultural development, education, enterprise and private sector development, governance, health, and trade capacity building. However, these categories are meant to be illustrative, not exclusive. Because country ownership is a hallmark of the MCA, decisions on specific MCA investments will be made on a country-by-country basis and will fit within each country's overall growth and poverty reduction strategy.”

So here is a program that could in fact help to kick-start real economic growth, but instead the PM and his ad hoc commission think that it would be best that we concentrate over $500 million on “rebuilding schools, countryside roads and irrigation networks,” instead of helping with enterprise and private sector development, as rebuilding of schools, roads and irrigation systems are a sure way that the PM and the people who are by his side can skim off so they can get richer and more powerful.

If you ask me, until Armenia gets control of corruption, it really should pass on applying for any more "loans" that will further bog down development. In addition to this, check out who the board of directors are. MCC sounds to me like a bad idea and just another IMF or World Bank type of Amreican run operation to further harness control of developing nations. What will MCC and the US government expect from us in the future for “helping us out” and making us more dependent?

BTW, MCC can not force Armenia to enter into it's program. It has only approved Armenia for this aid and only if Armenia is interested in it can it apply. On the other hand, a begger never passes up a hand-out and knowing the PM and those in power, they will take anything they can now, since in the future, they will not be the ones paying the price that comes with MCC and other aid that they build their personal economic growth with.

I hope that someone from the MFA reads this post and passes it on to the PM and his ad hoc commission, as if they do move forward with their plan to ask for $500+ million for what they say they will, you can be sure someone will embarrass the hell out of them for this very big mistake ;)

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