By Atom Markarian
The volume of external humanitarian assistance to Armenia continued to decrease last year, totaling almost 15 billion drams ($33 million), officials said on Thursday.
This represents a nearly 20 percent drop from the same figure reported by the Armenian government for 2004. It in turn was 35 percent down from the 2003 level of relief aid shipped from abroad.
Simon Ter-Simonian, head of a government commission dealing with humanitarian assistance, said the downward trend reflects the improving economic situation in Armenia and foreign donors’ growing emphasis “development programs.”
Humanitarian supplies such as food, drugs and medical equipment made up the bulk of external assistance to Armenia in the early 1990s. Their share began to drop by 1996 parallel to the restoration of macroeconomic stability in the country.
According to Ter-Simonian, Armenian-American charities remain a key source of such aid. He said that last year also saw 26 billion drams worth of construction and other work financed by 145 foreign and domestic charities.
Goods imported to Armenia by foreign charities are exempt from a 20 percent value-added tax. Ter-Simonian’s commission meets regularly to approve such exemptions on a case-by-case basis.