Future Choices: Think-tank exercise gives Armenians a chance to steer the ship of state

On September 3, about 500 Yerevan residents stood before four doors inside the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Entertainment Complex, faced with choices that would symbolize their republic’s future. The doors were marked “Russia”, “Europe”, “Armenia” and “No Future” – the door of pessimism.

The exercise was part of the Armenia 2020 project, and its intention was to illustrate four scenarios created by the think-tank, represented in a booklet it published last year on projected paths for Armenia to follow in the coming 15 years: “Survival to Prosperity”, “From Russia with Love”, “Armenia and the European Union: Coming Home” and “Armenia – 30 years with Correspondence.”

Founded in 2001, the Armenia 2020 project works to develop models of development for Armenia and helps transform them into concrete scenarios. (Such programs have had good rsults in Russia, Portugal and Belgium.)

The project is funded by business persons of Armenian descent from Armenia, Russia, the USA and Europe. To date 2020 has spent about $2 million developing patterns that might be instructional for future policy.

“Our sponsors are those people with no profit expectations who do investments to find ways to make their homeland well off,” says Artashes Kazakhetyan, Director of the Armenia 2020 project. “The program has not received financial support from any government, international body or organization. This means that we are fully independent. And the superior aim of the project is to find the most acceptable models of possible ways for the development of Armenia by means of public discussions and voting.”

In Yerevan last weekend, nearly half – 210 – of participants in the 2020 exercise cast their votes in favor of the scenario that called for “Survival to Prosperity”.

The content of the scenario is the following: “growth of productivity by means of developing strategic plans of development and their implementation increasing the GDP per capita income by 2020 to $11,200. To achieve this, correct policies in macro and micro economic, political, legal and social spheres should be adopted.”

The development scenario is comprised of three stages: during the first stage (2004-2008) the priorities are productivity growth, activation of regional trade, as well as measures targeted at the attraction of foreign investments largely facilitated by the fight against corruption, decrease of the red tape and integration of e-governance system. The final stage (2013-2020) is the period of globalization. The trade borders extend to Europe and the USA.

Participants at the exercise were of various ages, and generational differences were reflected by which door they chose. The younger ones primarily picked scenarios that drew Armenia into more global relations, while the older participants leaned toward the “From Russia with Love” model.

“I think, the path Armenians have passed shows that our past has been closely tied up with Russia and we have only gained from that. Why not to continue strengthening our friendly, state, economic ties with that country,” asks pedagogue Marietta Sahakyan, 55.

Contrary to the representative of the previous generation, Hayk Galstyan, an economist of 25, thinks there should be no economic dependence on Russia.

“Although the age of colonization is over, it is obvious that great powers continue the colonial policies by means of putting smaller countries into economic dependence. I want to say that Armenia will appear in the same condition, if it becomes a Russian satellite again,” the young professional said.

Besides Yerevan, scenario discussions were organized also in other towns of Armenia – Gyumri, Vanadzor, Ijevan, Yeghegnadzor. In the coming days the Syunik marz will also be engaged.

“Up to this moment preference has been given to the ‘Survival to Prosperity’ scenario, which is to mainly emphasize the intrinsic potential of Armenia and try to understand what should be done to develop in more clear and organized way,” says Kazakhetyan. “From the results we have received we can derive clearly that people strongly wish Armenia develops as an independent, powerful state and are ready to actively participate in the process of constructing the country.”

From September 19th to 20th the Armenia 2020 project will summarize its 3 year activities in Yerevan. More than 300 public, political and cultural activists, and businessmen who wish to have their say in the creation of the prosperous future of Armenia will participate in the two-day summit.

“Armenia 2020 will publicize the results of all the discussions during the summit. Our future steps will be identified. And, most importantly, we will be able to send clear messages to our authorities on which way of development for the country the present day society of Armenia chooses,” says Kazakhetyan.