By Karine Kalantarian
The Armenian government, facing mounting pressure from Western lending institutions, will adopt a long-awaited strategy of combating corruption within the next three months, a senior lawmaker said on Tuesday.
“I think that it will be possible to finalize that program in two or three months’ time,” Tigran Torosian, the deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, told RFE/RL.
Torosian said the anti-corruption plan will be made public this year despite a decision by the three parties making up the ruling coalition to intervene in the ongoing work of government experts who were tasked with drawing it up more than two years ago.
Torosian’s Republican Party (HHK), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Orinats Yerkir Party have set up recently a joint task force that will put together their ideas of how to tackle graft and have them incorporated into the promised program. The three-party group held its first meeting on Monday and is expected to submit its proposals by the end of this month.
“I think that apart from submitting proposals, the three parties must also shoulder political responsibility for the program’s implementation,” Torosian said.
The program’s adoption, repeatedly delayed over the past year, is now one of the main conditions for the release of more loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Both institutions consider rampant bribery, nepotism and other corrupt practices a serious obstacle to Armenia’s economic development. The work of the government experts is funded by a $340,000 grant provided by the World Bank in late 2001.
Fighting corruption has been one of the main stated goals of successive Armenian governments. The current prime minister, Andranik Markarian, pledged to do so in a “merciless” fashion when he took over in May 2000. Similar pledges were given by President Robert Kocharian during his reelection campaign earlier this year.
However, the situation has hardly improved in recent years, a fact which is acknowledged even by some pro-government politicians. Critics say many top government officials are themselves mired in corruption and are therefore not interested in addressing the problem in earnest.