AGBUTalks: Panel discusses challenges of building the Armenian State

The challenges of building the Armenian State are various and along with the need to change almost all systems they require responsibility and participation of every Armenian, said speakers at another panel organized by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) in Yerevan as part of its 88th General Assembly.

And even though speaking at the Thursday event Chief of Staff of the President of Armenia Vigen Sargsyan said that 25 years of Armenia’s independence are too short a period on the way of building a sustainable state after a seven-century absence of statehood, Armenia’s former Ombudsman Armen Harutyunyan, Regional Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Central Asia, found that this period of time is sufficient to have significant results, which, however, in his opinion, have not been registered.

“We need to change our mentality. We need to change the political system,” said Harutyunyan, citing the example of China, where, he said, every 10 years the political elite changes without discussions of any reasons.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Daron Acemoglu also concluded that a change of the political system is needed. He said that Armenia is trapped because the oligarchy and monopolies create convenient conditions for the middle class and the elite, government representatives, but prevent the development of the country.

“There is a way to coming out of it. And the big part of this important step is to recognize that there is a problem, is to recognize that it a serious problem that a country like Armenia, for example, has and that it is not just about geography, it is not just a silly cultural one. It is really a political one, it is really about cleaning up the political system, creating a better capacity of state and providing better public services and equal opportunities,” he said.

Acknowledging that the economy needs strengthening anti-monopoly institutions and there is a problem of fighting against monopolies, Vigen Sargsyan, the chief of presidential staff, did not agree with the other arguments of Acemoglu and Harutyunyan.

“There are issues of economic freedom in various spheres. We should not forget that we are talking about a country that by a number of international assessments is the leader in the Commonwealth of Independent States territory. Of course, we have not yet reached the level of advanced European countries, but on the way of development we are not the last country,” Sargsyan said.

According to Director of American University of Armenia Extension Arpi Balian, Armenia is in a unique status. “We are in a very unique situation in Armenia. No model that worked elsewhere would work in Armenia,” said Balian, placing importance on all institutions in the country – judicial, legislative and executive bodies, and others.

“It would be praiseworthy if each of us contributes to this process as much as is needed, taking ownership of what should be done,” she said.

Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, head of the Creation of Social Doctrine Department of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, agreed with this premise.

“We need to develop a culture of accountability, putting emphasis on education. Every citizen should realize that he bears responsibility for the country, for the one next to him and his family.”