Citing a more positive U.S. evaluation of its anti-corruption record, the Armenian government announced on Thursday plans to formally apply for additional economic assistance from the United States under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency handling the program, last week effectively declared Armenia eligible for renewed MCA funding. The MCC released its latest “scorecard” for the country listing 20 indicators of political and economic freedom grouped into 3 broad categories of government policy.
The authorities in Yerevan meet the minimum eligibility requirements in all of those categories. In particular, the MCC found an improvement in their stated efforts to tackle endemic corruption.
The MCC was until now dissatisfied with the effectiveness of those efforts. John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, said in June that the Armenian government should do more on the anti-corruption front if it is to qualify for the U.S. aid scheme designed to reward developing nations committed to reform.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian cited the MCC’s latest indicators at a weekly session of his cabinet. “Corruption risks were considered our weakest point, but now positive changes have been registered in that area as well,” he said.
Sarkisian went on to assign Finance Minister Davit Sargsian to submit a formal request for assistance to the MCC. He said nothing about the volume of financial aid sought by Yerevan.
The MCC’s governing board is due to meet in Washington next month to update the list of countries receiving its assistance. The corporation said in a November 6 statement that the board will “rely heavily on the scorecards” in choosing eligible nations. The latter will then have to propose concrete projects for U.S. funding.
Sarkisian cautioned on Thursday that the likelihood of renewed MCA assistance to Armenia is “not that high” because of a large number of countries seeking such aid. “But we must make use of that opportunity,” he said.
Armenia already qualified for the scheme shortly after Washington launched it in 2006, receiving$177 million for the rehabilitation of rural irrigation networks. The MCC also planned to allocate another $60 million for the reconstruction of the country’s rural roads. But it scrapped that allocation shortly after a disputed February 2008 presidential election followed by a harsh government crackdown on the Armenian opposition.