By Emil Danielyan
The total amount of external humanitarian assistance to Armenia plummeted by almost 35 percent to 18.42 billion drams ($41 million) last year, continuing a nearly decade-long trend, officials said on Thursday.
Simon Ter-Simonian, head of a government commission dealing with humanitarian aid, said at a cabinet meeting chaired by President Robert Kocharian that the bulk of the assistance, just over 70 percent, was delivered from the United States, the rest of it coming from 28 other nations.
An umbrella structure uniting leading U.S.-Armenian charities was singled out as the single largest relief supplier. It airlifted about 170 tons of humanitarian cargo worth $13.7 million in the course of 2004, according to the official source.
Goods imported to Armenia by foreign charities are exempt from the 20 percent value-added tax. Ter-Simonian’s commission meets regularly to approve such exemptions on a case-by-case basis.
The official told ministers that just over half of the humanitarian supplies last year were drugs and medical equipment. Armenia’s cash-strapped healthcare sector remains dependent on such aid.
A government statement also quoted Ter-Simonian as saying that the steep drop in relief aid reflects the country’s changing needs and its donors’ growing emphasis on “development programs” that mainly involve consulting services and investments in education and public infrastructure.
The official figure for 2004 is a far cry from the early 1990s when humanitarian supplies made up the bulk of external assistance to Armenia. Their share began to drop by 1996 with the stabilization of the macroeconomic situation in the country.