Saturday, November 27, 2004

Though I watched part of the Armenia Fund telethon, I didn’t pledge anything as I live here and see with my own eyes how the funds are spent.

For me it was interesting to watch, as there were many people I have not seen in years who participated in the telethon. Osheen has gotten so old.

An Armenian-American family who appeared to present their donation was touching for some I’m sure when their oldest son talked about how important the road was to little children who get sick and have to go to the hospital. What he neglected to mention, since he didn’t know was that for the poor little child that was rushed to the hospital on the road was that probably the little child’s parents don’t have money to pay a bribe to get the child treated.

When I saw Hovig Saliba from the ARF encouraging support, my blood pressure went up as all I could think about was my meeting with him 5 years ago and me asking about how we could use some of the millions of dollars that were collected for Artsakh, $500 of which I donated, that the ARF didn’t send to Artsakh since Levon had banned them from operating, to which I was told that the money had already been spent on organization expenses and from what I understood, non-Artsakh projects.

I turned off the television after the President started his con job on the viewers. What con job is this?

Well he mentioned the Anivian’s, who had privatized a milk factory in Stepanagert and who he just got off the phone with after they committed to the construction of a 7 kilometer Askeran-Stepanagert road.

The President went on like a good used car salesman to state that the Anivian’s have a successful milk factory and milk processing in Artsakh is a very lucrative business.

Of course I was not surprised that he spewed that lie since this is what he does best, but the reality is that dairy processing is only lucrative to those that have connections and/or are willing to give kickbacks to store workers, or government officials to get contracts to supply to the army, these couple things that the Anivian’s do not have or practice. As a result, they are always working in the red, putting out of their pockets thousands of dollars each month.

Of course their business would be better if they didn’t take advice from the present and past Prime Ministers, who misadvised them a number of times as to who would be good directors for their factory. Not knowing for sure how well their present director is working out (though I’ve heard some bad things about him), the ones from the past have all turned out to be crooks.

From what I gathered, much of the money pledged were large donations from wealthy individuals. The most considerable donations were made by such famous Armenian philanthropists of America as Louise-Simon Manoogian ($2 million), Gevorg Hovnanian, Hrair Hovnanian, Sargis Hakobian, who rendered $1 million each, Caroline Mugar ($500,000), Vahe Karapetian ($100,000), Gerard Cafesjian ($50,000). Eduardo Ernikian, a citizen of Argentina, donated $1.5 million. Russian philanthropist Ara Abrahamian allocated $250,000. A total of $1 million were recieved from the European countries. The sum of donations made $950,000 in Armenia, and in Nagorno Karabakh it made $160,000. If we take out the $1.12 million that supposedly was donated willingly by people from Armenia and Artsakk, the large donations from 9 persons and what was received from European countries, the donations from the richist population of the Diaspora where many Armenians who lived in Armenia and left for the most part due to economic and social suppression, donated a little over $1.5 millon, which is about twice as much as the $834k they gave last year.

What always gets me is the wealthy philanthropists who give millions knowing that most of their donation will be administered incorrectly, but don’t seem to care. It really should not bother me as I know in many cases it’s not about giving money to a good cause, but for the tax deduction, promoting their name and having the pleasure of hobnobbing with Armenian government officials. I was warned about this in 1999 by a rich friend of mine whose father use to be one of those supporters before he woke up to the reality, to which he e-mailed me the following golden rules of “leaders” and “philanthropists”.

Received July 29, 1999:

“Working with Diaspora Armenians is not easy. I have learnt some of the rules by which most of our "leaders" seem to follow:

- any project that is not yours, that does not come from your ideas, is not a good one, however good it is in reality.

- any project in which there is nothing for you, in terms of power, prestige, or even money, is not good, independently of the project's value.

These two "golden rules" create a wall that prevents the realization of new initiatives.”

Received August 5, 1999:

“This is a second set of golden rules. The first was related to "leaders" people at the head of various associations or parties. This one is related to parerars , wealthy philanthropists.

- we do not give money where it is most needed, but where it will increase our prestige and have our name most publicized. Forget that hundreds of thousands of people have been roofless for the past ten years because of earthquake or war, they will not get a penny. We will offer to build new churches, or to get the opera Arshak II played in San Francisco (Never mind that despite all the church buildings, sects keep growing).

- we do not really care about whether the money we have offered has been properly spent, as long as there is a big plate with our name on whatever project that has been built (even poorly), and our picture in the papers.

- we do not care whether the government of the country is good or bad for its citizens, as long as the president, prime minister, or other officials wine and dine us, send their limousines to the airport to greet us, have pictures taken with us (most important, to send to the papers). Who cares about one million Armenians leaving Armenia, as long as Levon invites me to a cocktail with a few selected others?

- we actually know that we are being cheated on a significant part of our donations, but we continue doing it. Why? Are we suckers? Only partly. The real reason we keep giving is that these donations are in reality the price to pay to be wined, dined, and photographed...

I hope I am not discouraging you, but I believe this is the way a lot of wealthy people in the Diaspora are. Vanity and ego can go a long way. When corruption in Armenia combines with moral corruption in the Diaspora (the two sets of golden rules), the cocktail is explosive.”

I’m happy that the money for the road has finally been collected, hope that now that we will have another major tool for economic stability, there will no longer be a need to beg to the Diaspora for money and such projects in the future will be ascertainable from properly collected and administered tax revenues.

No comments:

Post a Comment