Armenia’s leaders ignored investor’s offer to build military vehicles before the war

Armenia’s current leaders blame previous leaders whenever something goes wrong in the country. After they lost the war, they blamed it on the previous presidents. They do not take any responsibility for their own shortcomings, even though they have been in power now for three years. While the previous rulers can be blamed for many wrongdoings, the current leaders have their own share of shortcomings.

Here is one of many examples of how the current leaders completely mishandled a critical national security project for which they are fully to blame. 

(Photo: Twitter/@ArmeniaMODTeam, June 16, 2020)

An Armenian businessman by the name of Artak Tovmasyan had the proper connections and the brilliant idea of building state-of-the-art armored military vehicles in Armenia and donating a portion of them to the Armenian government. One would think that Armenian officials would have welcomed such a valuable proposal and would have done everything possible to facilitate this important investment opportunity which has critical national security implications. This is the incredible story of incompetent and uncaring high-ranking Armenian government officials failing to capitalize on this unique offer.

Shortly after Nikol Pashinyan came to power as Prime Minister of Armenia in 2018, Tovmasyan met with him and proposed to invest in Armenia millions of dollars along with the Canadian Streit Group, a well-known manufacturer of armored military vehicles with 30 years of experience and factories in five countries, including Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, India and Pakistan. The sixth such facility would have been in Armenia. The total amount of the investment may have reached $20 million which would have included other military-related investors. The project would have also created hundreds of jobs.

PM Pashinyan expressed interest in the project in 2018 and told his aides to follow up. Regrettably, due to the incompetence and carelessness of Pashinyan’s cadre of officials, three years later, no progress has been made on this vital project, despite Tovmasyan’s several follow-up meetings with the PM. These armored military vehicles would have been very useful during last year’s war with Azerbaijan, saving the lives of countless Armenian soldiers. Unfortunately, Armenian officials have remained unresponsive to this project, both before, during and after the war.

Tovmasyan’s proposal consisted of offering to build gradually around 1,300 armored military vehicles over the next 10 years and donating 130 of them to the Armenian armed forces at no charge. With each vehicle worth $450,000 or more, the total value of the donated vehicles would have been over $60 million.

In return, Tovmasyan asked that the government of Armenia contribute the necessary land to set up this manufacturing venture on a free industrial zone. Coincidentally, he was made aware of a vacant piece of unused land on the outskirts of Yerevan belonging to the Ministry of Defense (MOD). If the project did not materialize, the investor would have been obligated to return the donated land back to the Armenian government.

I am in possession of over a dozen letters sent by Tovmasyan’s company, First Industrial Zone, to Armenian officials during the past three years, seeking approval for his proposed project. However, despite repeated requests for an answer, the Armenian government did not respond to Tovmasyan.

The Armenian government referred Tovmasyan’s proposal to the Interagency Committee which was tasked to review the project. The Interagency Committee included representatives from the Ministries of Economy, Finance, High Tech Industry, Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, Justice, State Revenue Committee, Urban Development Committee, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Union of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs of Armenia. Surprisingly, the Interagency Committee did not include anyone from the MOD to properly evaluate a military project. The Interagency Committee’s guidelines require that it review and refer to the government within 20 working days any submitted proposal. However, this deadline passed long ago, despite several reminders.

The most astounding part of this story is the unexpected Facebook post on March 6, 2021, by the recently-appointed Minister of Economy, Vahan Kerobyan, who had studied mathematics but is clueless about economics.

Minister Kerobyan arrogantly wrote: “In reality, I am the one who stopped this industrial zone project because it ridiculously despises the interests of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia.” Minister Kerobyan was in no position to stop this project for two reasons: 1) As a recently-appointed Minister, he was not even around when this project was presented to the Prime Minister and subsequently referred to the Interagency Committee. 2) The decision to approve or reject this project rested with the Interagency Committee and the Prime Minister.

Minister Kerobyan went on to make more outlandish claims. He wrote: Let Mr. Tovmasyan “submit his proposal to the government’s approval in the next two weeks, but if he wants to pick up the nine hectares of land in Yerevan by promising a negligible amount of investment, then I remain of the opinion that this is not an investment project but a robbery. We have also proposed to implement this business with their conditions and tax permits in a city other than Yerevan, but incomprehensibly, exactly the precious piece of land in Yerevan is necessary to them for this production zone.”

Minister Kerobyan is misleading the public. Even though the Armenian government has not responded to the proposal in several years, he is claiming that he will respond in two weeks. Why hasn’t he then reacted to the existing proposal since his appointment last November? The fact is that he has never made a counter-proposal and has never sat down with the investor to discuss the proposal. Incidentally, the MOD was the one that suggested the land located on the outskirts of Yerevan to Tovmasyan, not for free, but for purchase.

Finally, it is very unprofessional of Kerobyan to respond through a Facebook post to a serious proposal involving a multi-million dollar military production. Regrettably, that reflects the Minister’s lack of qualification for the job he holds.

In conclusion, Armenia lost the war for many reasons, but this type of behavior by an unqualified Minister and an incompetent government does not inspire any confidence that it will be able to attract investors and improve the country’s dismal economic situation anytime soon.

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

6 Comments

  1. Here’s a suggestion, however many faults this govt has, it has been the only govt to show signs of a functioning state (which is saying something in the current crisis), so instead of hobbling the govt further, why don’t you use the resources of the anca in America, and help build the cadre and human resources in our state structures.

    Either you are playing dumb or you take the readers for idiots, knowing full well how bureaucrats have been dragging their feet to destabilise the leadership. Let’s use all our resources in and outside our country to replace these bureaucrats with those who actually care about the country, not just their pockets.

    • Bobby, Not sure what “functioning state” you are talking about. Armenia is in complete disarray as we speak. While the Azeri’s are setting up infrastructure on Armenia proper, the loser of all Armenians, Nikol Pashinyan pretends its not his fault? IT IS HIS FAULT. Yes the old criminal thief regimes like Kocharyan and Sargysyan needed to be removed and a new democratic state system put in place. However Pashinyna has proven over and over to be the MOST INCOMPETENT leader ever. He lost ancient Armenian lands and sent 4k young men to their deaths by being obtusely unprepared, by making major mistake after major mistake which continue till this day. He has shown to be ultra weak on the enemy but tough on his fellow Armenians. Just recently he sent his goons to beat people that criticized him. He is unqualified to run Armenia. Its that simple. As for this article, it once again makes clear that every time a diaspora Armenian wants to set up a business, set up infrastructure that benefits Armenia directly, some loser unqualified inept install “decides” its not a good a thing and thwarts it. So how do we combine all our resources with this mentality? By bringing it to light as this article did. This sort of practice needs to end once and for all. Armenia needs the 10 million strong diaspora and its direct involvement. Its the only answer. Armenia needs unification with QUALIFIED, moral, intelligent savvy leaders that WELCOMES THE DIASPORA and doesn’t turn it away.. Pashinyan is clearly not that leader. He is a loser and sinking Armenia into an ever deeper hole. No one takes him seriously. He needs to be rid at all cost. Unfortunately the only other option it seems is the old king thief Kocharyan. Don’t blame the article.

  2. Armenia’s problem has always been its terrible leadership. One steals without shame and the other is just incompetent. As important as this project was however what Armenia truly needs is ground to air deterrents (not Soviet era), a mixed fleet of UAVs, electronic warfare and intelligence assests. Did the small fleet of Sukhoi aircraft purchased from Russia recently even fly during the war? What a waste of money. Money which could of been spent purchasing drones from Israel. Maybe even a technology transfer deal to build at home? Your battlefield is rather small so airborne fighters launching cruise missiles could cause major damage and they don’t have to depart Armenian airspace. But a modern, well equipped air force is very expensive. Buying a few expensive fighters and nothing else was rather dumb of Nikol P. Terrible management of priorities especially when Azerbaycan was buying all those drones from us and Israel. Interesting article, thank you. I just wanted to add my own 2 cents as well. Yeah so create jobs, advance own defense industry, provide better protection for troops, free bloody vehicles for gods sake. But yeah na reject the project actually worse then that just keep dragging your feet to discourage others. Maybe the useless empty lot had some good flora that they didn’t want to destroy. Who knows.

  3. What is their purpose? To protect Artsakh and Yerevan? Did they ask themselves how they could do this effectively? Did they even seriously ask and discuss these questions? It seems like Pashinyan and his cronies did not. They only seemed to be interested in carrying out vendettas against certain individuals (like Kocharian). Nikol’s is the most useless incompetent leadership Armenia has had. They mismanaged development of Armenia’s defense, alienated those who wanted to help, alienated Russia who preserved the status quo, and they could not save Armenia and Artsakh from almost total destruction. I hope they are removed from power on the 20th.

  4. I am sure that Mr Sassounian has heard the correct “stories” from this preplanned fake war. For example, at the beginning of the “war” things were going a little to well for the Armenian side, and thus, all new recruits were being turned away and the ones on the front lines were being ordered to retreat.

    That for 30 years Armenia’s leaders were engaged in thievery and turning away any new ideas and investments is old news.

    What is now important is for all these traitors who are infesting Armenia as “leaders” to pay for their crime of misleading the Armenian public and making deals with Putin/Erdogan/Aliyev to hand Artsakh away, and causing the mass destruction of 30 years of diaspora work and the senseless death of thousands of Armenians who thought they were in a real war.

    In order to move forward, heads in Armenia need to roll first. Many heads. Until that happens, no “problem” in Armenia can ever be solved.

  5. Even if they had moved forward with this extremely ambitious project, it would’ve taken 5-7 years before even a prototype was produced. It would in no way would have helped during this last war.

    I’m not Armenian or Azeri and have no sides in this conflict. I have read alot about it and have followed all the news over the last few years. To blame the leadership is appropriate for their gross missteps. But one must also look at average Armenian citizen who places the votes. The recent conflict should have been settled long ago and could have been easily done if Azeris got some land back. But most Armenians were against that, the leaders they elected reflected their opinions. In the end, almost all was lost.

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