The U.S. government is discussing with the new authorities in Yerevan the possibility of providing more economic assistance to Armenia under a special program designed to foster reforms in developing nations, U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills said on Thursday.
“We are very pleased to be fully engaged with the new government and have an opportunity to talk about how the U.S. government can help the new government,” Mills told reporters.
Armenia qualified for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program shortly after Washington launched it in 2006, receiving $177 million for the rehabilitation of rural irrigation networks.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency running the aid scheme, also planned to allocate $60 million for the reconstruction of the country’s rural roads. But it scrapped that allocation shortly after a disputed 2008 presidential election that was followed by a harsh government crackdown on the Armenian opposition.
The administration of former President Serzh Sarkisian tried unsuccessfully to restore Yerevan’s eligibility for the multimillion-dollar scheme in the following years. U.S. officials said, among other things, that it is not doing enough to combat widespread corruption.
The United States signaled its readiness to boost economic aid to Armenia following the recent democratic revolution there. Visiting Yerevan earlier this week, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, Bridget Brink, offered U.S. assistance to the new Armenian government’s ambitious anti-corruption agenda.
Mills said Brink discussed with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and other senior Armenian officials “possible options” for increasing U.S. aid. Those include renewed MCA funding, he said.
“We will continue those discussions,” added the U.S. ambassador.
Immediately after Pashinian took office on May 8, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), an influential lobbying group, renewed its calls for $140 million in fresh MCA funding to Armenia. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the ANCA chairman, Raffi Hamparian, said that would help to cement the country’s “democratic development.”
Pompeo replied to Hamparian on May 17, saying that he shares the ANCA’s “enthusiasm about the peaceful, constitutional political transition that transpired in Armenia.” “We hope to see the Armenian government make progress on MCC’s eligibility criteria (‘scorecard’) this year so that the MCC Board of Directors may consider Armenia for a compact during the annual selection process,” he wrote.
The ANCA wants the MCC to mostly spend the proposed sum on improving science, technology, engineering and math education in Armenia’s underfunded public schools. It says that would ultimately benefit the country’s burgeoning information technology (IT) industry.