By Atom Markarian
Preparations are underway in Armenia for a new large U.S. assistance program targeting the country’s rural economy.
The Armenian government will get an opportunity to spend $235.5 million on projects of upgrading rural infrastructure and irrigation networks in the next five years after signing a framework compact with the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation next week.
The compact, already agreed by the two governments, will be signed in Washington on March 27, nearly two years after Armenia was included on the list of 16 developing nations that are eligible for the scheme designed to spur political and economic reforms around the world. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency handling it, approved the Armenian government’s Millennium Challenge Account application late last year.
The National Program Coordinator, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy David Avetisian told RFE/RL on Monday that the process of the formation of the Program’s management board and executive structure is in its final stages, with about 15 NGOs engaged in solving rural problems also participating in it.
“It is planned to form a board of beneficiaries, which will be 13 people, already nominated by NGOs. Five members of the management board will be elected, who together with six representatives of the government will govern it and will have participation in this high-level body with exclusive powers,” Avetisian revealed.
According to Avetisian, the board will be headed by the Armenian Prime Minister.
The deputy minister said a competition has been announced for a vacancy of the head of the program’s executive structure, the Foundation, and gave assurances that the whole election process will be transparent.
The election of the MCC-Armenia Foundation’s Executive Director will be held in several stages, he said, adding that the opinion of the American side will be decisive.
Most of the assistance, $146 million, will be spent on rebuilding and expanding Armenia’s disused irrigation networks. Another $67 million will go to pay for capital repairs on about 1,000 kilometers of rural roads that have fallen into disrepair since the Soviet collapse.