Meeting with the Australian Armenian Community on the economic development of Armenia. Session 1 (Goal 8)
Discussion date and time
July 7, 2021
The business potential the Armenian people have worldwide is amazing. Considering all that potentialArmenia should be able to build a strong economy. An important element of the economy is energy independence. Much effort needs to be put into the renewable energy sector to decrease and eventually bring to zero the dependence on fossil fuels/gas.
Energy security for Armenia is equally a matter of state security. Armenia can go 100% renewable with its electricity use.
When we stabilize the economy as a next step, we need to reform the Armenian economy. And to reform the economy, we need the communities, the people to work together. Reforms in the banking system and the tax system are vital in order to enable young people and young families to buy houses and launch businesses.
Numerous international organizations, including IMF, EBRD, even governments, like the Australian government, are ready to finance renewable energy or the real estate sector if we prove that the houses will be built on renewable energy only. So, here the close collaboration between the initiative, the communities, the foreign investors and the government is necessary.
There have to be significant changes in the psychology of the Armenian government, in the way it looks and sees the Diaspora. The activities directed to cultural exchange between the Diaspora and Armenia before were somewhat successful. However, if we are going to develop Armenia and if the Diaspora is going to be effective in that, to start with, the Armenian government must stop looking at itself as the head of a small country, rather as a head of a colonial power, and at the Diasporan communities – as potential colonial centers which can become a part of the organic functioning of the country.
This initiative, with Ruben Vardanyan and the rest of the co-founders, represents a perfect contact point for the interaction between the government and the Diaspora. One of the interactions has to be through cultural life: Armenia should provide its Diaspora with enough cultural “food” to be able to actually build a holistic colonial power. Otherwise the Diaspora is losing the Armenian-ness.
In terms of political support, the Diaspora needs to be organized in such a way that its political potential can be utilized by the Armenian government. And the third aspect, is of course, the economic development of the country. There is a huge potential and willingness in the Diaspora to help Armenia. However, without proper responsiveness from the government, without connectivity, things will all be done on a personal level, and the overall condition will remain the same.
Armenia’s GDP according to IMF is $12 billion. And in terms of economic growth, a global shift has to be done, to achieve what we are aiming for. The question is “How you build a relevant sustainable economy?”. It’s a vibrant business environment with opportunities for jobs. So, where do we start? The economic growth in Armenia cannot be Diaspora-centric only. It has to involve foreign capital, foreign technology, foreign investments.
We need to define what are the main economic pillars for Armenia. Number one pillar is tourism and culture. If we look at that area it hasa vast potential. The second pillar is the Technology and IT area. In this field we have lots of huge competitors and we need to excel in many ways to be able to compete and offer more than our competitors. The third one, is the defense and the military sector of the economy. We want it or not, Armenia has to make vast expenses in this area if we want to live in Armenia with secure borders. The fourth pillar can be the mining industry. There are some steps done here, but very sporadically, that again, if we aim for country growth we need to organize them.
The government is not expected to do everything. It needs to set the proper policies in cooperation with the initiative. Armenians outside Armenia and inside Armenia are quite different in their entrepreneurial approach. Interestingly, Armenians outside Armenia are known for their hunch for entrepreneurship. We need to find ways to bring in the business knowledge to Armenia.
The government needs to provide the means for the forign investment to come to Armenia in globally acceptable ways. The sovereign fund discussed within this initiative should be located somewhere outside Armenia. This fund will be the place we will be collecting the investment money. This will not happen overnight, but we are very optimistic.
The security issue in the country should be the primary objective to bring people and investments into the country.
The energy creation has to be decentralized in the country and much emphasis should be put on the renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. Solar panel batteries have become so affordable that it would make a good sense for private investors to invest in solar energy generation in Armenia. But for this the country needs to also provide physical security.
To answer the question of what we need to make Armenia go 100% renewable, we can hold an event and invite all big-scale renewable energy producers worldwide and consult with them. This can be the start of a grand process that will open jobs and inspire, bring in more people and more knowledge. Education is the other key element here. We need to make sure Armenia’s education is capable of handling the demand of the high scale specialists this transformation will create.