Mysterious silence of 8 billion

Mysterious silence of 8 billion

What opinion does Karen Karapetyan’s administration have in relation with the announcements by the US Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia?

There is no lack of announcements by the authorities of the Republic of Armenia on the development of economy, long-term projects and investments, but surprisingly, when more certain messages are voiced, our authorities imitate as if they have not heard anything. In the mid of May, the US Embassy to Armenia had organized a conference on renewable energy development with the participation of American and Armenian companies. The US embassy announcement reads: “The future of energy is renewable. And it is a future that Armenia can take advantage of, for its pocketbook today and for future generations as well. That was the message of a day-long conference organized by the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, in partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the firm Contour Global. They brought together representatives from some of the top U.S. renewable energy companies to meet with 70 Armenian businesses to discuss how they can best partner. The session on May 17 allowed U.S. companies to detail their expertise and technology for clean energy and smart electric grid development.”

“Armenia and its energy sector have grown so much over the last 25 years. I am excited to think about what the next 25 years will bring, knowing that it will be developed through partnerships started here today,” said U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr.

The one-day conference was designed to strengthen the increasing commercial ties between the U.S. and Armenia by introducing leading U.S. companies to Armenian energy sector operators, allowing the American companies to showcase the latest technological advances in the field.

Clean, renewable energy is an increasing part of Armenia’s Clean, renewable energy is an increasing part of Armenia’s energy sector, which has grown over the past few years. From 2010 to 2015, Armenian production of electricity grew 20%, which Ambassador Mills noted was why the U.S. Embassy sees investment opportunities in Armenia for U.S. companies. “As many of you know, this year we are marking 25 years of U.S.-Armenian relations. Twenty-five years ago, I remember well working on the issues of the newly-independent Armenia at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Those of you old enough remember well that in those early years of independence, Armenia’s energy situation was shaky. Outages were the norm. Trees were clear-cut to provide heat. It was a time of true crisis,” he said. “But Armenia did not surrender to the darkness and scarcity. Instead, with the support of friends and partners like the U.S., Armenia developed into a nation that is able to meet its needs, and in fact able to export its excess electricity.”

He highlighted the valuable work done by the Armenian government to encourage energy diversification and clean energy production, including a Solar Cell Investor Conference it organized in January. And he mentioned how the U.S. has partnered with the Armenian government, describing an exchange trip organized last month for Armenian officials and private sector representatives to visit experts in the U.S. to gain best practices for solar power energy production.

Seven U.S. companies – Honeywell Building Solutions, Honeywell Smart Energy, MacLean Power Systems, First Solar Power Solutions, Caterpillar, General Electric and Contour Global – sent representatives to the conference to share their experiences and to learn about business opportunities in Armenia. The one-day program also featured presentations by International Finance Corporation (IFC), German Development Bank KfW, Ameria Bank, Switzerland-based Meeco Group, and Armenian government officials.

“The Armenian government has been leading the efforts in diversifying the nation’s energy sector into renewables and of boosting energy efficiency programs. They have put into place mechanisms and programs enabling the growth of Armenia’s renewable and solar cell energy sectors,” Ambassador Mills said.  “And as we have for the past 25 years, the U.S. government will continue to be a partner with Armenia.”

Furthermore, the Ambassador had told in the same conference that there is a perspective of a 8 billion investment in Armenia in the field of energy and had expressed his hope that the authorities of the RA would create equal investment conditions. In other words – to represent Armenia’s potential they had invited a set of representatives of large American companies. It is apparent that the event was a rather serious one and similarly serious were Ambassador Mills’ messages addressed to the RA authorities, and to understand that, one does not need to be an economist. And serious analyses, explanations and comments from the perspective of energetic diversification and the economic development of Armenia are needed, indeed, and it would be better to hear them from the authorities, even as initial observations so far. In the previous 7 months the US Ambassador to Armenia has had at least 4 meetings with Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan as judged from the press releases of the government.        

Hardly could the announcements of the US Ambassador made during the renewable energy development conference held a few weeks ago be a surprise to the government. By the way, days after that conference, on the 19th of May, Ambassador Richard Mills and Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan have had one more meeting. The press release by the government informs us: “The interlocutors have exchanged with the opinions, particularly on Armenian-American economic cooperation agenda and mutual projects. A series of issues relative to the cooperation towards the inclusion of investments, improvement of the business environment, reforms in the fields of tax, customs and judiciary and struggle against corruption have been discussed. Karen Karapetyan and Richard Mills have addressed to the perspective of deepening bilateral cooperation in the fields of energy, tourism, information technologies, mining industry and agriculture as well.”

What does the administration of Karen Karapetyan think about the announcements of the US Ambassador? The conversations on the perspective of the investment of 8 billion USD would not commence on the spot. 8 billion is not a number for our government not to be interested in, taking into consideration the circumstance that our authorities were ready to wait for hundreds of millions of USD loans from the North for years.

Let us put aside the political aspect of the issue for now, implying that the aforementioned announcement of the US Ambassador witnesses the interest by the US in relation with the development of Armenia. This is a certain idea the sole realization process of which is already an opportunity itself to create workplaces with the perspective of the creation of whole new fields and enterprises. And the fact that the energy system of Armenia is old, mildly said, not competitive and requires a modernization, has been much discussed. That is, in this case, the opportunity of modernization and technical development of an important field of Armenia has been spoken about. Besides, another thing is apparent: if such an idea comes into life, the issue of Armenia’s energetic dependence upon Russia will be solved. Let us mention that not merely an announcement of economic significance has been made by the US Ambassador to Armenia, but of a political and security significance alike. The silence of the authorities is simply incomprehensible if not bizarre. Are such investment projects not convenient to the incumbent government? Are they not relevant to the development projects Armenia has? Are they not in accord with the RA Law “On Foreign Investments”? Is there any other problem in place?

A very remarkable announcement has been made in the level of the ambassador of an influential country of the world, can it be neglected? Eventually, is any accurate explanation to be announced by the RA government, or not? Are observations on the energetic potential and the opportunities of the investments in the field of energy to be presented to the society in the context of the voiced announcement, or not? Or, does everything suffice the present government..? How long is the government of Armenia going to further feed the society with the continual conversations on the “attraction” of the market of the Eurasian Economic Union of 17 million, or go on living with the dream of “becoming a bridge between the EEU and EU”?

Emma GABRIELYAN

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