Kocharian Kerkorian Discuss Investment in Armenia

YEREVAN (Azg)–Despite vowing not to give an interview until 100 days after being elected as the President–Robert Kocharian held a press conference Tuesday after meeting with Armenian benefactor Kirk Kerkorian and reaching principal agreemen’s with him. Kocharian said they discussed four major prospective projects which may be beneficial for economic and political development of Armenia.

"I was amazed at how aware Kerkorian was of the situation in Armenia and how well he understands the prospects which Armenia may have with regional developmen’s. We understood each other without even speaking out the words," declared the President.

Kerkorian reiterated his commitment to the investment fund he had pledged to start last fall.

Of the four principal directions for collaboration–the first is Kerkorian’s $100 million investment for the development of small and medium-sized businesses in Armenia–which will be implemented soon.

An agreement will be signed defining the conditions based on which Armenian businessmen will be eligible to receive loans of up to $1 million. Kocharian stressed that earlier plans called to allocate loans from $100,000 to $1 million. During Kerkorian’s stay–the government explained that even bigger loans are required–noting that $1 million is too small for the development of a chemical industry or for the reforms in "Looys" company–among others.

In addition to the initial provisions of this generous and far-reaching program which is sure to encourage activity in the business sector–Kerkorian agreed that funds can also be made available to foreign investors looking for co-financing or guarantees for their business investmen’s in Armenia.

Kocharian stressed that the government will be responsible for the allocation of finances–however the formation of a corresponding commission has not yet been defined. One thing is clear–that the president will directly control the whole process of allocating loans.

"We reached principal agreemen’s–and corresponding structures and mechanisms will be created for their implementation," said Kocharian.

The first allocation of $10 million will arrive soon. It will be provided to the commercial banks for an annual 3 percent interest–which may then sell loans for up to an annual interest of 15 percent to businesses. The banks themselves will be responsible for the return of loans–hence the difference of interest rates.

"We should do our best to insure the development of this process–fast and without obstacles," said Kocharian. "Kirk Kerkorian should see that he has serious partners in the Armenian government."

The second collaboration is directed to the construction of roads in Armenia–in order for them to meet modern standards. According to Kocharian–Kerkorian is especially interested in building roads to connect Armenia with other countries in the region. $85 million is allocated to build a first class road between Yerevan and Tbilisi–and then to the Black Sea ports Poti and Batumi–creating transit communications with the countries of the Persian gulf. Of this amount $35 million will be used for the construction of a road–connecting the Gegharkounik and Zangezur counties of Armenia–whereas $50 million will be used for the construction of roads connecting Armenia to Georgia and Iran. Kerkorian will provide $50 million for the construction of a major northern road–connecting Yerevan and Tbilisi in the direction of Bagratashen. At the same time Armenia will negotiate with Georgia and various international organizations to find an additional $50 million to finance the building of a whole system of communications with European and Asian countries–as part of the TRACECA program. Kocharian assured that Armenia will find the required partners. He spoke with the Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on the phone yesterday and reached a preliminary agreement on the matter.

Kerkorian’s third investment will be a $15 million allocation for reconstruction of the area damaged by the earthquake. A committee for the implementation of the project will be formed in Armenia.

Finally–the fourth major project concerns the development of high technologies. Kerkorian agreed to invest funds for the development and construction of a high-tech industrial park to attract computer firms to relocate or establish in Armenia. Such a center will utilize Armenia’s great intellectual and technical resources as well as the region’s easy access to world markets to forge ahead in the high-tech development–thereby enabling Armenia to enhance its trade potential.

The Armenian president also said that the government plans to invest an additional $10 million for the continuation of oil and gas prospecting.

"The collected data are quite reliable–showing that there is a high probability that oil resources will be revealed in Armenia," Kocharian said.

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