It happens that writing an article takes several months. Sometimes you must leave the topic to live in your head, to “boil” well and only then hand to reader’s judgment. On November 10, 2020 I decided to write a column and analyze the reasons of our defeat. But when pain, anger and bitterness are mixed, it is difficult to write cold-heartedly. So, it took me ten months to be able to formulate my thoughts. Over time, I realized that it would be difficult to fit everything in one text and decided to write a series of articles consisting of three parts.
It is not about “former” or “incumbent.” On one hand, probably everything I will write about will fully be realized only after Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan leaves. On the other, I am convinced that not only the incumbent and former authorities are responsible for 2020 defeat but we all. As we will often be used in the series, so let me clarify – I mean all smart and active people who were silent for different reasons, believed in myths or participated in creating them. Regardless of when and how Nikol Pashinyan leaves, we must start reflecting and acting right now. I will try to present some ideas that can be discussed and debated.
I will present two indexes:
1. In 2020 Turkey exported $2 billion 600 million worth of carpets.
2. In 2020 goods worth of $2 billion 544 million were exported from Armenia.
You probably understand that the carpet is not the chief component of Turkish export, but even in that case, Turkey received more money from the export of carpets in one year than the total volume of our country’s export is.
A few more numbers:
In January-July 2021 Azerbaijan exported $7,6 billion worth of oil and $1,7 billion worth of gas. The Global Gas Outlook report published in 2017 said that by 2040 the gas export from Azerbaijan will grow by 9% annually.
Ten months after the end of the war, Azerbaijan has almost completed the construction of “Victory Road” from Fizuli to Shushi and is building three airports in the territories that passed under its control.
What are we doing? We continue fundraising to buy tents and thermoses for soldiers serving in unfurnished military positions.
The Turkish military-industrial complex is currently implementing 750 projects worth total of $60 billion. Turkey’s military export has increased by 30% over the past five years.
What are we doing? We are raising $115,000 for the construction of “UAV Airport” in Enrapt community.
One of our biggest illusions was that without having money we would be able to resist Azerbaijan and Turkey. It is clear, that due to a number of factors (geographical location, population number, natural resources, etc.) Azerbaijan and Turkey would be economically stronger in any case. But the difference should not have been so catastrophic.
In people’s language, we are calling $50 million “candy” while for our enemies $1 billion is a common thing.
Now looking back, it is really difficult to understand how we, mature and experienced people, were unable to correctly assess the reality. For years, Azerbaijan has been addressing huge means for acquiring weapons and ammunition and upgrading its army, while we were confident that we would be able to counter it with a fighting spirit and an unwavering desire to defend the homeland.
I’ve read different testimonies after the war, and many soldiers say almost the same: “They fired 100 missiles, we responded with one or two.” In this case, the important thing is not the absolute numbers, but the fact that even the soldier with the highest fighting spirit is depressed seeing such inequality.
We really believed that Armenia can fully develop with its borders closed, that serious investments can come to a country the domestic consumption market of which is extremely small and export routes are problematic. We thought that the small volume of investments was just a result of corruption.
The former authorities allowed themselves extravagance to impede the exploitation of Amuser due to having corruption expectations. The incumbent authorities allowed themselves extravagance to impede the exploitation of Amuser because they were “unsure” that the mine owners hadn’t satisfied the corruption expectations of the former. Both the former and the incumbent authorities justified their actions with concerns for the fate of Jermuk and Lake Sevan. As a result, Armenia lost $400 million investment and after the war Jermuk and some territories near Lake Sevan have almost become the front line, and the future of Armenia’s water resources is difficult to predict.
VEON, which operated under Beeline brand, has recently left the Armenian telecommunications market. When asked about the reason of leaving, the leaders of the company said the annual income is comparable with the one ensured in an average Russian city but the headache is incomparably more.
How many world brands are represented in Armenia? Coca-Cola, Pepsi, HSBC, Pernod Ricard (owner of Yerevan Brandy Company). I may have forgotten a few, but in any case the list is small and not impressive.
Having strong and flexible economy should become our only ideology. We must understand that if we don’t go that way we have no chance. If you have boxing gloves and sometimes wear them in front of a mirror, it does not mean you can fight with a professional boxer.
We must reject mediocrity and the culture of “spitting and pasting.” We must provide exceptional quality and additional value: we have such examples in different sectors of the economy. We must stop thinking that we will “feed the country” with IT. IT is important in advancing in a number of key sectors but it will not solve the unemployment issue. Before expecting “expensive tourists” (quote from the interview of the minister of economy) it is necessary to build network of normal toilets at least on the roads where tourists travel.
A number of important issues have not been resolved since 1994. In 2021 we all are eagerly waiting for the large batch of large-capacity buses to reach Armenia. Since 1994 we have subjected our citizens to daily humiliation on the minibuses and you are amazed when “line owner” former officials sincerely wonder why those humiliated people took to the streets in April 2018.
During these decades we failed to build at least one modern waste processing plant, continuing to sacrifice our precious lands to waste. Such projects could and should have ensured breakthroughs both economically and psychologically.
During the nationwide fundraising initiated by Armenia Fund during the war, we managed to raise only $170 million and most of the donations were provided by ordinary people living in Armenia and the Diaspora who often transferred the last money they had. $170 million – this is the number that defines our real potential today.
Economy is not an abstract concept. Economy is being created by people and it works well when the creators understand what they are exerting efforts for (of course, besides ensuring own welfare). About the lack of it, or about it not having been formulated I will write in the second part of the series.
Ara Tadevosyan is Director of Mediamax.