By Armen Zakarian
Armenia’s aggregate debt to various international organizations continued to grow last year and currently stands at about $17 million, Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Markarian said on Thursday.
Markarian said the figure increased further because the foreign ministry actually received only 80 percent of budgetary funds earmarked for the annual payment of the country’s membership fees. He said failure to pay them on time has already resulted in the suspension of Yerevan’s voting rights at the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO).
The official, who among other things oversees Armenia’s ties with leading international bodies, was speaking at parliament hearings on the implementation of last year’s budget. The parliament’s economic committee has been scrutinizing the use of public funds by various government agencies. Under Armenian law, it is due to submit a report at a plenary session of the entire National Assembly.
According to Markarian, the foreign ministry is currently negotiating with several international organizations on the possible re-scheduling of the membership debt. He said the ministry’s top priority is to avoid the loss of voting rights at what it regards as the most important structures for Armenia: the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe.
The 2001 budget allocated 3 billion drams ($5.4 million) to about three dozen Armenian diplomatic missions abroad, ten times more than was set aside for the foreign ministry’s Yerevan headquarters. The huge difference reflects substantially higher operational and personnel costs abroad.
Markarian said the ministry, for its part, contributed 1.5 billion drams to the state budget last year, mainly from visa charges paid by foreign nationals traveling to Armenia.
Armenia’s overall external debt was $905 million as of last December, official figures show.