By Atom Markarian
The U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, John Ordway, called for a major government crackdown on corruption in Armenia on Friday as he agreed with Armenian officials the terms of continued U.S. economic assistance to the struggling country.
Ordway warned that the authorities will have trouble attracting large-scale foreign investments without tackling widespread corrupt practices in earnest. “The Armenian government has to address the corruption problem in a serious and sustained fashion if it hopes to attract foreign investment,” he said, urging Yerevan to draw up and implement a comprehensive anti-graft program.
Linking economic development to good governance, Ordway added: “Armenian and foreign investors need a fair and predictable climate in which to conduct their business.”
The remarks came after Ordway and Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian signed an agreement on the use of America’s annual economic aid to Armenia which has totaled $1.4 billion over the past decade. It was finalized at a September meeting in Washington of the intergovernmental U.S.-Armenian Task Force. Under that agreement, the Armenian government is to continue structural reforms and improve the rule of law in return for further American assistance.
Khachatrian assured that the authorities are committed to combating corruption, and have already managed to improve the country’s overall business environment. He claimed that the magnitude of the problem has been reduced over the past two years.
In an interview with RFE/RL last May, Ordway complained that the Armenian government has yet to come up with a “an effective plan as to how to begin to go about reducing corruption,” despite its “general acceptance that something has to be done about it.” The government has promised to unveil such a plan by the end of this year.