At an event on Monday timed to coincide with the 29th anniversary of Armenia’s Declaration of Independence, PM Nikol Pashinyan unveiled his government’s long-promised development strategy. The roadmap entitled Armenia Transformation Strategy 2050 lays out the Armenian State’s long-term socio-economic, educational and human development objectives for the next 30-year period.
At an intimate TED-style conference attended by key government officials, members of the press and prominent civil society figures, Pashinyan laid out a vision for the country designed to tackle poverty, raise real wages, encourage repatriation and establish a green, knowledge-based sustainable economy.
Here are some of the key takeaways from Monday’s unveiling:
Establishing development targets
The transformation strategy essentially functions as a whitepaper laying out a vision for Armenia’s future development over the next 30 years. These development targets act as guidelines but do commit future governments to developing policies designed to meet them. These targets can be adjusted over time to ensure that attaining them remains a realistic proposition.
On the eve of three decades since Armenia secured independence from the Soviet Union, Pashinyan lamented the oversight by the country’s founders in developing a 30-year vision of their own, which, he surmises, left the country with an unclear vision and even fewer resources on how to achieve it.
The most elaborate development strategy proposed at the time, dubbed Armenia 2020, came not from government policy-makers, but from the private think-tank IDeA Foundation, helmed by philanthropists Nubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan. Their proposed strategic initiative focused on developing the country’s business environment, institutions and policies, financial market and availability of capital, infrastructure and human capital. It was later updated as Armenia 2030.
The current government’s Transformation Strategy shares several commonalities with the previously-proposed initiative, though Pashinyan insists that sustainable development could only be achieved through a three-pronged strategy engaging government reform, investments into the knowledge economy and inclusive social participation. These three pillars form a foundation upon which, Pashinyan hopes, a long-term transformation strategy would be developed which addresses national identity, national objectives, social need and comprehensive change.
Thus, the overall objective as stated in this latest transformation strategy can be summarized as follows: the advancement of an Armenian society which provides its citizens with security, equality, freedom, dignity and progress.
Changing the narrative on Armenia
In the 29 years since regaining independence, Armenia has continued to struggle with the legacies of chronic mismanagement, corruption, sustained brain drain and a sluggish de-industrializing economy. Despite some success, roughly a quarter of the population continues to live under the poverty line; average life expectancy remains below 75 years while others continue to look abroad for opportunity.
Yet Armenia has an obligation to the Armenian people around the world to provide them with the protections of a sovereign state, an inviting place to live, fulfilling working culture along with a clean and sustainable environment.
In order to fulfill this promise to the Armenian people, Armenia Transformation Strategy 2050 commits the State to tackle poverty through job creation, raising real wages for the working poor and investing into a knowledge-based innovative economy which prioritizes market-oriented education reform. “Learning must become a national lifestyle,” read the Prime Minister’s slide. Armenia would also encourage the development of a green digital economy powered by renewable energy.
Acknowledging the underutilized potential of women in a traditionally patriarchal society, the strategy envisages the structural rehabilitation of institutional mechanisms to encourage the involvement of women in every aspect of Armenian professional life from governance to defense and business.
16 paths to a better Armenia by 2050
In order to provide a guideline for policy-making in the future, the strategy identifies 16 development objectives which cover most aspects of life in the country. In order to be considered successful by 2050, government policies should produce:
- Educated and opinionated citizens
- Well-defended borders
- Effective and accountable governance
- Healthy and safe citizens
- Large and prosperous families
- Rule of law
- Export-oriented manufacturing base
- Clean and green environment
- Sustainable regional development
- Productive and responsible agriculture
- Large-scale repatriation and integration
- Globally connected
- Renewable and accessible energy
- Attractive for industry
- Knowledge-based economy
- Recognized, respected and welcoming
Setting the bar too high?
If the 16 development goals are meant to offer a sense of direction for future policymakers, the government’s strategy also includes some peculiarly specific milestones. Here are some of the more ambitious targets listed in the strategy:
By 2050, Armenia should be home to a population of five million with an average life expectancy exceeding 90, whose youth would be educated at three of the world’s top 200 universities. Their graduates would be among the 10-thousand employees of at least five technology companies with an individual market cap exceeding $10 billion. The addition of nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next three decades and a seven-fold increase in median real wages over the same period would greatly reduce chronic poverty in the country.
Other milestones scheduled for the next 30 years include winning at least one UEFA or FIFA cup, collecting 25 Olympic medals and welcoming some 15-million tourists annually.
Some of these stated objectives are not new. Pashinyan had been criticized in the past for setting what some considered to be impractical and far-fetched growth targets rather than focusing on incremental and more achievable goals. It’s also unclear whether some of these are meant to be tongue-in-cheek statements meant to encourage discussion on the topics. However, Pashinyan has defended these milestones as representing a more long-term development vision and an example to follow rather than concrete objectives.
Armenia Transformation Strategy 2050 is also meant to be flexible and adaptable to the changing realities that the country will likely face in the coming years. However, with the global COVID-19 pandemic abruptly cutting years of robust economic growth, sound policy making, activist investment, sustainable energy production and far-reaching education reform might be more crucial than ever for future-proofing Armenia’s development strategy.