I recently read in the news of new economic reforms being implemented in Armenia, which take into account proposals from multiple sources. However, Armenia’s economy will not progress while the average person does not trust the government and while those who have the means to leave Armenia do just that.
A friend’s son, well-educated and who served with distinction in the army, recently left for Russia with his new bride. He did not envision a future for himself in Armenia. In Russia, he says, there is no harassment from traffic police, no harassment or red tape from government officials, no speed cameras on the roads, no red-line-delimited parking spots, and prices for food and energy are low.
Another friend was given the runaround at Yerevan City Hall regarding a minor renovation to his home. The official probably wanted a bribe. He did not get one.
Rather than erecting obstacles, officials should help citizens circumvent difficulties. Meanwhile classic, historic buildings are deliberately allowed to disintegrate or are deliberately destroyed in order to build buildings which are making Yerevan superficially resemble New York or London. Take, for example, Aram Manoukian’s house on Aram Street, a historic monument which is deliberately being allowed to crumble.
Often, when entering an Armenian village, I’m treated with suspicion until the villagers understand that I’m not from the Armenian government. Then they can’t do enough for me. Outside of Yerevan, villagers express a sense of abandonment by the government. This must end.
While it is fine to disagree with the government, it must be universally demonstrated that the government and Armenia’s citizens are on the same side. I believe the major culprit responsible for such alienation is the government. Corruption and bribery must stop, not just at high levels, not just on the street, and not just in government offices, but everywhere. Obsolete, Soviet-era bureaucratic obstacles must be eliminated. Those in power, whether in the executive, legislative or judicial branches, must demonstrate that they work for the people. If not, they must resign or be fired. Government officials must respect the needs, concerns, and the severely neglected cultural heritage sites of Armenia’s villages.
Building trust will take years, maybe even a generation. Look around. How long do we think the situation can continue as is? There is no time to waste. Let us hope that this time reforms are not just on paper, but work for all of Armenia’s citizens.