A senior official from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defended on Friday its decision to finance a set of anti-corruption measures that have been promised by the Armenian government.
The USAID allocated earlier this month $750,000 to support the implementation of a three-year plan of actions which a new anti-corruption council formed by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian approved at its first meeting held in July.
Karen Hilliard, the USAID’s mission director for Armenia, insisted that the government realizes negative consequences of bribery, nepotism and other corrupt practices. Armenian leaders are also aware that a stronger rule of law is essential for attracting more U.S. investments in the Armenian economy, she said.
“In order to increase that investment, they must make progress on corruption,” Hilliard told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“I think the government here values our assistance and our relationship very much,” she said. “But since they have publicly said that they are ready to fight against corruption, the price of failure for the Armenian government could be higher than U.S.-Armenian relations. The real price is the relationship with the Armenian public.”
Successive Armenian governments have pledged to crack down on graft in the past. There has been little evidence, however, of radical improvements in the situation with the rule of law in the country. Hence, widespread skepticism among Armenian civic groups about the seriousness of the current cabinet’s stated intentions.
Hilliard said that the government’s latest anti-graft campaign will primarily target “administrative corruption” encountered by ordinary Armenians during their contacts with various state bodies. Separating business from government, the other major source of corruption in the country, will not be its main focus, she explained.
Armenia ranked 95th out of 168 countries evaluated in Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released late last month. It was 94th in the 2014 CPI that covered 174 countries and territories.