Senior government officials toured Armenia’s northwestern Shirak province on Monday, encouraging local officials to propose development programs for their cash-strapped rural communities, instead of waiting for funding from Yerevan.
Deputy Minister for Territorial Administration Varazdat Karapetian said that many infrastructure projects funded by the central government and its international donors have had a limited short-term impact on local communities.
“There is a lot of money in Armenia -- in the financial system, the state budget and international organizations -- but it is not spent in a coordinated manner,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If someone comes up with a project and implements it, it will have a short-term impact … and the community in question will return to the previous situation. That is, the results of the project will not be significant.”
The government, Karapetian went on, wants to switch to a different model that will put the onus on local governments to assess their key needs and submit corresponding funding requests. This is why the government is now trying to teach small town and village mayors how to write grant proposals, he said.
Karapetian admitted that the communities are currently “not prepared” for the new model. The government hopes, he said, that the ongoing controversial mergers of hundreds of Armenian villages will result in larger communities with more competent administrations.
Artyom Grigorian, a representative of the government’s Regional Development Fund accompanyi ng the vice-minister, spoke of an “abyss” between local administrations and the authorities in Yerevan. “Our challenge is to put these two sides on the same plane so that one side’s offer matches the other’s demand,” he said.
Local officials from Amasia, a small town in Shirak, and surrounding villages, who met with the visiting officials on Monday, responded to the government initiative with caution. “It will be good for the villagers if their communities develop, but they [the authorities] must really do something, and not just talk and go away,” one of them said. “If they care about our communities, if they do something for our communities, we will only be happy.”