Twenty years ago when Armenia declared itself independent from Soviet rule, it was not only claiming statehood, it was calling for a restoration of values. The Armenian people would be able to think and create freely in a fledgling democracy that was both naive and highly optimistic. Many people believed that prosperity was on the horizon, jobs would be created, and a bright future awaited them. Little did they know that both war and unchecked entrepreneurship would set them back several years. Some have never seen any kind of prosperity after independence, whether financial or spiritual.
Armenia today is ruled by a handful of wealthy families competing for prominence, similar to what you would find in a Hollywood film about the mafia, but without all the gory violence. The common people are subjects to the nepotistic society these leaders, or oligarchs, have created. Citizens who speak out against government decisions are cruelly suppressed by this system. Others are victims to bad policies and lose their livelihoods in the process. Civil society is weak, and initiatives to bring about change in the form of grassroots movements are often supported by outside special interest groups, mainly from the U.S. or Europe. Narcissism has long become a virtue of the nepotists, with their general disregard for law and order, and respect for neighborhood peace violated day and night. Society is increasingly polarized, with the dividing line between the haves and have-nots all the more obvious. The social equality of Armenia’s Soviet past is long gone.
Although the president is quite aware of the dire economic and societal issues that most Armenians face daily, he either plays them down or fails to address them. For instance, he recently discounted the somber fact that entire villages have been relocating to remote parts of Russia as part of a controversial resettlement program promoted by the Russian government. Judging from the headlines in the Armenian press, it is clear that the president is often out of sync with what is transpiring in the country he supposedly rules.
Below is a list of problems that the president needs to contend with to ensure Armenia’s democratic and economic progress in the years to come:
Create jobs. In the wake of independence, countless factories that were prosperous during the Soviet era closed either overnight or during the course of several years. Although some, like chemical plants and sugar processing facilities, have reopened in recent years, Armenia’s industrial output is nowhere near what it was just before the Soviet Union began to crumble. The permanent closure of key factories in rural areas, like Sisian in the southern Syunik region and Charentsavan to the north of the capital, not to mention scores of other towns throughout the country, have resulted in depopulation, with many people once living in small towns and villages flocking to Yerevan or leaving the country—most of them for Russia—in search of work. The president must create an environment whereby new factories can be built by wealthy Armenian citizens or foreign businessmen currently weary of doing business in Armenia. Eradicating corruption in the tax and customs departments and simplifying the business registration process would be an excellent start.
Promote small business. Yerevan Mayor Karen Karapetyan made himself a public enemy by sweeping traders off the streets (oddly only florists are allowed to sell roses from sidewalk stands) and destroying inconspicuous kiosks where cobblers, tailors, and cigarette sellers set up shop. Shopkeepers are harassed by taxmen and some are even forced to close for days on end while they scramble to clear up minute discrepancies found as a result of loopholes purposely left open by the tax authorities to extort bribes. Although Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has often talked about encouraging the growth of small businesses, he has been reluctant to disclose the details of policies his government plans to implement. Tax breaks coupled with guaranteed interest-free government loans would encourage small businesses to open and help nurture an environment of trust.
Encourage civil society. In flourishing, deep-rooted democracies, dissent and opposition to government policy are tolerated, and public advocacy is allowed to function. Initiatives to promote civil society must be implemented, mainly by immediately stopping police confrontations or crackdowns on peaceful demonstrators. Society cannot be built while oppression and fear loom overhead Armenian citizens.
Tax the wealthy and give tax breaks to the lower classes. Hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue can be generated if only oligarchs were taxed, the sums of which could be funneled to important social programs. By 2006 estimates, 26.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Free housing could be provided to impoverished citizens still living in shacks, temporary housing, or on the street. Also, pensioners could finally receive monthly stipends that are in line with the current standard of living, which is continually on the rise with food prices often skyrocketing, especially in the period leading up to the holiday season. The government should aim to eradicate poverty nationwide, and it can easily do so if and when taxes are properly collected.
Prevent emigration and promote immigration. President Sarkisian desperately needs to draft a plan for slowing down the exodus from Armenia. That should include job creation through promoting foreign investment in the manufacturing and IT sectors, an increase in the minimum wage, and equal opportunity, particularly in government agencies. He also needs to address the relatively low birthrate, with 12 children born for every 1,000 people and on average 1 child born per household, according to 2011 figures. He must also ensure that infrastructure is modernized even in the most remote villages of the republic. Several areas of Artsakh along with the Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it must be populated, and that again can only come about with increased investment and the vital infrastructure in place. When Armenians worldwide feel confident that the Armenian government is able to provide the means and conditions for promoting growth throughout the regions, they will begin to immigrate.
These are only a handful of issues that loom over Armenia’s destiny. There are just as many if not more challenges related to Armenian foreign policy that must be addressed, the most important being the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict, which seems to be floating in an eternal stalemate.
In his Independence Day remarks, President Sarkisian hailed the new generation of the republic, recognizing its “concerns and demands” of a better society. He also stated that “… in the next 20 years we will be able to build a country that will come close to our ideals. I believe in that because I believe in our collective power.”
Now the pressure is on the president. He alone can muster the support of both an apathetic public and the oligarchic society backing him by making the right policy decisions that will benefit all, not just a select few. That is a difficult balancing act, but the means to accomplish such a feat simply need implementing and the vision to do so. Having said that, it is up to Armenian society as a collective whole to ensure he aspires to the same ideals to which he alludes—the same that all citizens expect to live by.
What a wasted and squandered opportunity for the Armenian race.
It is truly sad to see what a waste 20 years of independence has been. While it can still be argued that there has also been some victories, I can no longer pretend that things are somehow ok, it is not ok. The Armenian nation and the Armenian people do not have the luxury of mass resources to withstand failures and mistakes, the results will be catastrophic.
Simply, yes things are bad in Hayastan, but don’t just criticise, do something to improve it.
Yes, I and you who criticise the social and economic state of Hayastan.
Too many pessimists here. Armenia is doing just fine and it is growing every year. I see that the psy-ops is working well within the Armenian-American community.
It is the sacred responsibility of all self-respecting Armenians today to stop making excuses, to stop spreading poison and to start partaking in the nation-building process!
Christian, I CAN NOT AGREE WITH YOU MORE. Our leaders better wake up and see SMELL THE COFFEE. Everything that is happening in Armenia today is contrary to the principles of NATION BUILDING! If this trend continues, Armenia soon will join the ranks of failed states like Somalia. In the end, the destiny of this small nation rests in the hands of the people.
All the power to you fellow citizens!
Have you even been to Armenia? It is not going the way of some failed state in sub-Saharan Africa. Please be objective and not emotional with your commentary regarding the development of Armenia.
IT APPEARS THAT SOME OTHER METHODS MUST BE EMPLOYED>NO< I DO NOT MEAN BY GOVT.I have on another site dwelt upon -let me go one by one./
1. The Armenian Diaspora must be reorganized to become a superstructure,details below.
2.Once this is done Ra will take the Diaspora more seriously as LI IRAV -fully fledged partner, as such. But even so my modest but foolproof scheme is so that the Diaspora-we must ADMIT-is there to stay,at least the oldest one.Thence>/
3. The New Structures of the diaspora are based on Sovereignty as rgds its own activities ,plus acting as above said as equal partner.
4.The Structures encompass the Huge Collectivities of our more than a 100 thousand -future-members of the PCA’s , i.e. Professional colleageus associations.These will they carry on the other main Task of enhancing the”National Investment Trust Fund”.
Said Fund can only be brought to existence, by the 5/6 our magnates, each investing,note Investing not donating to form the NUCLEUS/working capital of same.In Geneva CH,a tax free area and neutral neither Moscow nor U.s. or Paris…the experts and their intll attorneys will nominate the Fund in a way to be excempt of natkional and inllt taxes.
the our millionaires will follow suit,all the way down-having been fully assured and convinced that this Fund is governed by the Board of the 5/6 ,magnates and their monetary experts-to thousand and one hundred dollars investos the 100,000……..
5 . The fund -earning some 5/6% per annum through ionvestments in sec ure Glovt. Bonds will pay all investors half ,mrest to be added to capital and also L O A N S , then extended to small and medium size entgrepreneurs and farmers etc., in RA/Artsakh-Javakhk. However, as URGENT>/
6 Loan to be extended to thousands of families who decide to settle in RA-/Artsakh on above terms for 10/15 yeasrs,
As rgds the Govt. doing or not doing what we wish them to do ore our brethren and RA. That is their business, i.e. the Govt. -whoever they may be. Fact is if you wish to know near all Govt., of the west lately have been dloing what is being done in RA and that most probably led ours to follow suit.You want examples, .e, then now Portugal , even Italy eetc., and why go far. the mighty USA in 600 billion dollar Gvot debts…
So do let us at least think of doing something ourselves in Diaspora above wise.
Any comments …i do welcome Negatives ones especially…………….
Armenia has been too Russified,the government of Armenia is the replica of the Russian government with their maffia system of government.Also the Armenian government must realize that Russia is depopulating Armenia.And who gave away Karabagh to the Azeris? the Russians.Divide and conquer ,that s the policy of Russia.AS long as the 3 caucasians republics hate each other and have problems with each other ,Russia will win in the caucasus.
Russians didn t send troops in Armenia for us but for their own interests.Armenians are still politicly ignorent.
AmerikaHays are a bunch of self-hating people and genocide obsessed people. Hell will freeze over before the proud AmerikaHay takes part in true nation-building.
“When Armenians worldwide feel confident that the Armenian government is able to provide the means and conditions for promoting growth throughout the regions, they will begin to immigrate.” -Yes, I agree but I’m afraid locals will ask diaspora where were you when we needed you most? “Citizens who speak out against government decisions are cruelly suppressed by this system.” -NOT TRUE. The is freedom of speech there. I would point to that great achievement. I agree with the list of problems you want the government to tackle. However, I beleive before anything there should be 3 simple things done. Separation of power, executive and legislative from business. Government officials and parliamentarians shouldn’t be involved in business. Second, ensure free and fair elections without fraud and third curb the CORRUPTION. Once these basic conditions are met the rest will fall in its place.
I was in Armenia this summer and everywhere we went I was so impressed with the young generation.. educated, with new ideas and full of energy. The key for Armenia in the next ten years is whether this generation will begin to take charge and thereby begin the value realignment. Today’s infrastructure is run by individual trained in the Soviet culture. The post Soviet world is full of opportunists who reaped the benefit of the slow transition from a planned to a market economy. Armenia is no exception.
But I have hope. We are in a unique position. The problem is recognized and the diaspora and citizens of Armenia will not tolerate failure. Solutions will be found because the price of failure is too great. Those of us in the diaspora must come to the realization that a love of Armenia and advocating significant societal change is patriotic.
I beg to differ with some of those posts above.
1.Gary’s outlouk as to RA future will bde catastrophic is very exagerrated/
2.AR is corerct too many pessimists here,like Gabe, comparing Armenia to Somali, perhaps he has to go and see the progress ,albeit not to what many would expect but it is there. Factories are being opened up, farming is improving tremendously.
3.Armen yan is right too, there is freedom of not only speech but also local newspapers, go ONLINE please, ARAVOT.com , Haykakan zhamanag, A1Plus etc., all openly criticise and write what they see is wong. So easy …I am not in conformity with quite a few things ,mentioned by again armen yan,but I also know something that Stepan does not know.Armenia and rest 14 ex soviet republics did not go through slow transition.He errs. I am from Spain and I know that Spain a totaliotarian country-I lived 13 yrs Franco’s regime to a democracy took 12 yeasrs when the country was ruled by the Socialist Internacional pres.,sorry vice pres. -pres. was Willy Brandt, slowly went through that TRANSITIONAL PERIOD TO a free market economy.During Felipe Gonzalez -Socialist regime, aas an example there was only one petsroleum company and that plus toher staple goods under control with ceiling prices, untill from a totalitaarian regime it gradually went into the present one,Same happened in portugal and Greece.Latter ,though recently went too far over spending and …
Therefore Armenia , unfortunately overnight from one totalitarian to a Wild free marekt economy landed where it is now…
Bygones are bygones this cannot be turned back unless a Swedish styele socialist system-more or less, with hugh taxes for the very rich are levied, monopolies done with etc.,
As to Mr. Richard Baronian, little does he know of the meddling of the British in that area, Caucauses. Please get prof. Richard G.Hovanissian 4 tome books Republic of Armenia and you will see with photos of the British troops in Baki, sorry Baku with you guessed it to take over the black substance.They did not succeed then as the REd army enterred forcefully,they had to leave. however back now as Oil producing companies repeaing the benefits they could not then and all the Nakhijevn NK adjudications sere started by them , completed byt eh bolshevkis/communists thinking like Lenin Stalin that they could even turn great Turkey into yet another S.Socialist Republic adn g ave the kemalists all the gold and armament to push into armenian border . History is there for him to study, the Brits have been there long b efore the Russians.And also for those who are not familiar with the Oil first being exploited in Baku…there were some four Armenian Families like the lazarians, mantashian, Lianazoff-Armenian and later Gulbenkian who started the industry there. Turco tatars have later taken over through bolshevik entry as ab ove.But rest is as said above now the BP and American oil companies….
Russians whether we like it or not are the only other-besides Irabn that have some leverage in that area and will not let the pan turanists enter and annihilate us.
Why on earth are the turco azeris so much against us…they wish to connect through Nakhijevan to Azerbaijan and North East to UYGHURLAND…..-within China proper, but China will not admit that I suppose….eeither. the competition will continue unabated unfortunately.WE have to think of ourselves and reply mainly oN OUR REORGANIZED POWER BOTH HUMAN RESOURCES WISE PCA,s-see my previous ppost- and NATIONAL INVESTMENT TRUST FUND…that is where our pOWERHOUSE IS>
ALL DUE RESPECT TO OUR POLITICAL PARTIES < BENEVOLENT AND COMPATRIOTIC ETC>< UNIONS BUT WE NEED MORE MUCH MORE> THAT RESIDES WITH THE above .
Avetis I think your comment above is filled with hate and prejudice toward ‘AmerikaHays.’ We are the children of survivors of the genocide who were forced to grow up with a fractured relationship with our nation, never allowed the chance to fully mourn our loss and left to witness the Turkification of everything that was left behind. Of course we are genocide-obsessed in the face of growing denial and distortion of the reality that put us in the place we find ourselves. But that does not mean we don’t work for and support our precious Hayastan. If your goal is to get more involvement and support for nation building from the American Armenian diaspora, you are not going to get it by driving a wedge between groups of Armenians. How about some nation building in the form of communion building. We are all one, the fruit of Hayk, from the valleys of Arax to the shores of Sevan to the Isle of Aghtamar to the heights of Ararat or Aragats and beyond. Don’t we have enough enemies without creating division amongst our own? A strong Armenia is what we all strive for. What good is genocide recognition without an Armenian nation to carry on with a flourishing Armenian culture?
Can your contribute a positive suggestion to those you consider genocide-obsessed? Can you help develop a method or avenue of positive involvement for those who you see as a hinderance? Can you give up angry criticism for constructive options or invitations to join nation building efforts? Use your energy for good.
Agreed! Division is bad, unity is good. However, let’s remember who lives in comfort and who has to defend the country. It’s not only the US Spurk though – these folks risk to become irrelevant… They don’t represent the most numerous and most wealthy diaspora anymore.
Unity is the answer – posting comments while sipping Starbucks in NOHO is the worst, serving in the tranches on the Western borders of Artsakh is the best, everything in-between has to be very responsible and humble . Watch for special operations against our community, don’t buy in.
Are not the articles of Garbis and the comments here that support his one sided view not divisive as well? It’s easy to pick on the person who is going against the tide, whether he is right or wrong, but not so when the cliche refrain of corruption, etc etc is repeated. All this negative talk as a psychological element to it as well and it is not good for any people to constantly harp on the negative, especially when there is good taking place too!