By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian set up on Wednesday a special commission that will oversee the implementation of a government program aimed at tackling rampant corruption in Armenia.
The body, called the Council On Fighting Against Corruption, will be headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and comprise other high-ranking officials, including Justice Minister David Harutiunian, Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian and Central Bank Chairman Tigran Sarkisian. Kocharian’s office said it will coordinate the implementation of actions stemming from the government’s anti-corruption strategy unveiled last November.
The program was drawn up by a team of government experts after almost two years of work funded by the World Bank. It contains a long list of mostly legislative measures which the Armenian authorities are to take in the next three years. The authorities say those will complicate endemic bribery, nepotism and other corrupt practices.
But their critics dismiss the document as a public relations stunt meant to mislead Western donors. The latter have for years been pressing Yerevan to take serious action against graft, saying that it is one of the main obstacles to Armenia’s economic development.
Kocharian’s special anti-corruption adviser, Bagrat Yesayan, admitted last year that corruption in Armenia “has reached a point where it threatens our national security.” The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a governing party of which Yesayan is a member, had for months been pushing for the creation of an executive government body with sweeping powers to deal with the problem. The idea was opposed by Dashnaktsutyun’s two coalition partners and apparently Kocharian, however.