By Atom Markarian
Armenia will ask for at least $60 million worth of additional U.S. assistance this year under a special program to promote political and economic reform around the world formally launched by Washington this month, a senior official said on Monday.
Armenia is among 16 impoverished countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet Union selected for the scheme called the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). They are eligible for a total of $1 billion in U.S. economic aid in the current fiscal year alone. Their governments must now come up with written proposals as to how much money they would like to receive and for what specific purpose.
According to Deputy Finance Minister David Avetisian, the Armenian government will draw up and submit its aid plan to the U.S. within the next “two or three months.” He said the government would like to secure at least $60 million for poverty reduction programs targeting education, public health care and social services.
“These are going to be substantial sums for both the Armenian economy and programs which Armenia is to present,” Avetisian told RFE/RL. “If Armenia comes up with high-quality programs the sum will increase.”
The official spoke at the start of a semi-annual session of the U.S.-Armenian Task Force, an intergovernmental body charged with promoting bilateral cooperation. He said the MCA was high on the agenda of the meeting co-chaired by Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian and Ambassador Carlos Pascal, a State Department official coordinating American aid to Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Officials said the Task Force will also review the implementation of ongoing U.S. assistance programs in Armenia as well as discuss reform of the country’s taxation legislation and Yerevan’s efforts to curb illegal trafficking of Armenian nationals to third countries.
Armenia has already been one of the world’s leading per-capita recipients of U.S. assistance which has exceeded $1.5 billion since its independence. The administration of President George W. Bush wants Congress to cut the annual economic and military aid to Yerevan by 18 percent to $64 million next year.
(Photolur photo: The Task Force meeting in Yerevan.)