By Anna Saghabalian
The Armenian government has postponed the submission of its proposals for additional U.S. assistance under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program and will have to lower its aid expectations, Finance Minister Vartan Khachatrian revealed on Tuesday.
Khachatrian said an Armenian delegation led by him unveiled no written proposals when it met in Washington last week with top executives from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency handling the multimillion-dollar scheme designed to promote economic and political reform around the world.
It was launched by President George W. Bush earlier this year. Armenia was included on the list of 16 developing nations eligible for the initial installment of $1 billion.
Officials said last month that the Armenian government will ask for as much as $900 million in MCA funds to be provided in the next three years. They said it would like to spend most of the money on reconstructing the country’s battered irrigation and drinking water infrastructure.
It remained unclear why Yerevan decided not to submit the proposals to the U.S. government contrary to the expectations. One of the reasons cited Khachatrian was that the amount of MCA funds earmarked for the new U.S. fiscal year has been cut by half to $1.5 billion.
Khachatrian also said the two sides agreed that the Armenian government will file its proposals “by the end of the year,” after a visit to Yerevan by a team of MCC officials. He indicated that the amount of extra U.S. aid sought by the government will have to be revised downwards.
The countries eligible for the scheme were chosen on the basis of 16 indicators of political and economic reforms. A senior U.S. State Department official dealing with relations with Armenia warned in May that Yerevan should improve its human rights record if it wants to secure the vital assistance. According to Khachatrian, U.S. officials were less critical of that record during the Washington talks.
(Photolur photo: Vartan Khachatrian.)