By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government disbursed on Thursday 2.5 billion drams ($4.3 million) in budgetary funds for the urgent repair and reconstruction of major highways across the country severely damaged by an unusually large amount of precipitation during last winter and spring.
Officials said about 10 percent of the money will go to restore road sections destroyed by recent heavy floods. The government will also use for that purpose $1 million from an infrastructure loan provided by the World Bank.
“This program encompasses the entire road network of the republic, all the way from the north to the south,” Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian said after a weekly cabinet meeting chaired by President Robert Kocharian. “We have to renovate them,” he added.
The government plan is modest in comparison with a similar multimillion-dollar project financed by the Lincy Foundation of U.S.-Armenian tycoon Kirk Kerkorian for the past few years. Local contractors hired Lincy are to refurbish 420 kilometers of highways and construct two major mountain tunnels by this November. Kerkorian’s fund has also been renovating major streets inside Yerevan.
Neither the government nor Lincy have so far covered hundreds of kilometers of smaller roads linking provincial villages and towns. Years of post-Soviet neglect, blamed by the authorities on a lack of funds, have left them in a deplorable conditions.
Manukian said the government intends to address that problem as well and is currently working on an ambitious $100 million project to get the provincial roads into shape within the next several years. He mentioned the World Bank as the main source of funding for the effort.
“I think that we will get the World Bank’s ‘yes’ and will be able to repair all provincial roads,” Manukian told reporters.
The bank, which has released hundreds of millions of dollars in low-interest infrastructure loans to Armenia since over the past decade, is unlikely to foot the entire bill, however.