MCC Armenia rep.: $20 million disbursed in two years
Says scope of program shrunk because of dram appreciation
by Emil Sanamyan
WASHINGTON – In public remarks at the headquarters of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on October 1, Alex Russin, the corporation’s resident country director for Armenia, outlined the program’s goals, while sharing his concerns about Armenia’s continued eligibility under the good-governance criteria.
Mr. Russin said that only about $20 million has been spent in nearly two years since the $235 million, five-year program was launched. Another $4.7 million request for funds is now pending.
The work so far has included the completion of one canal system, the repair of 24 kilometers of mountainous rural roads just south of Gyumri, and the training of about 15,000 farmers, with a total of 60,000 farmers to be trained. Mr. Russin said that the tempo of the program will ramp up in the next three years.
Significantly, because of the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, coupled with Armenia’s strong economic growth, which has strengthened Armenia’s currency, the MCA Armenia has been forced to scale back the scope of work, with 350 kilometers of roads now planned for renovation instead of the original goal of 900 kilometers.
Mr. Russin has also expressed concern that the political situation in Armenia hangs like a “cloud” over the program. When asked what steps from the government he is anticipating that would keep Armenia eligible for MCC aid, Mr. Russin generally pointed to the need for reforms that would satisfy local civil-society groups as well as an effective fight against corruption pledged by the government.
Previously, during a visit with the Armenian community in Detroit on August 5, MCC Chief Executive Officer Ambassador John Danilovich told the Armenian Reporter that the Armenia program was “moving ahead in all respects.” He also sounded optimistic about the Armenian government’s ability to implement needed democratic reforms.
In his September 3 speech to the Armenian diplomatic corps, President Serge Sargsian underscored MCC’s importance for Armenia, while also noting “certain foot-dragging with regard to the program’s” implementation. Mr. Sargsian expressed hope that the “efforts of the Armenian authorities so far will be understood correctly, and the opportunity will be given to continue the project jointly agreed to.”
The MCC Board of Directors held its quarterly meeting on September 17. No new decisions on Armenia were announced. The meeting focused on provision of a possible $100 million in additional aid to Georgia.
On September 29, the MCC welcomed legislation that would make it possible to extend compact implementation from five to up to ten years and would also authorize conclusion of concurrent and additional compacts. MCC also praised efforts of members of the House of Representatives to keep the corporation’s total funding at about $1.54 billion in Fiscal Year 2009. connect: www.mcc.gov