By Atom MarkarianArmenia is among 16 developing countries of the world selected by the United States to share billions of dollars in additional U.S. government assistance in the coming years.
The aid, which will total $1 billion this year, is part of a new U.S. program to reward impoverished countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet Union for political and economic reforms. The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) was unveiled by President George W. Bush in 2002.
"These countries have met the high standard of this groundbreaking program by governing justly, investing in their people, and promoting economic freedom," the White House said in a
statement on Thursday. "The president congratulates them on their selection and looks forward to a genuine partnership ... as they prepare their country proposals."
The original list of prospective aid recipients included 75 nations that met a key eligibility requirement: a GDP per capita level of less than $1,425. They were also judged on 15 other "performance indicators," ranging from civil rights to spending on public health and education.
Only two former Soviet republics, Armenia and neighboring Georgia, were picked by the board administering the MCA. The other chosen states are Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu, Bolivia, Honduras and Nicaragua.
The Bush administration has asked Congress for an additional $2.5 billion from for the program in 2005 and hopes that the U.S. legislators will double the sum in 2006.
According to, Paul Applegarth, the programs' chief executive officer, a country’s share of the aid will depend on its own proposals on how much it would like to get and for what purpose. "The ball is in their hands now," Applegarth told Reuters.
Sources told RFE/RL that the Armenian government will request $40 million for the current U.S. fiscal year which ends on September 30. They said the government would like to spend the money on improving education standards, healthcare and water supplies.
Armenia has already been one of the world’s leading per-capita recipients of U.S. assistance which has exceeded $1.5 billion since its independence. The Bush administration has asked Congress to allocate $64 million in economic and military assistance to Yerevan for the fiscal year 2005. This is 18 percent less than was budgeted for this year.