Kocharian Hopeful of New Joint Economic Program

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–"The Andre Group of Switzerland has made sure that it has reliable partners in Armenia; the Armenian government and the Swiss company are currently negotiating ways of further cooperation," President Robert Kocharian said Tuesday when he visited the Map OJSC in Armavir where a new automatic packer was put into operation under the Cannery Rehabilitation Program. New production lines went into operation at four Armenian canneries on August 31 under this program implemented in cooperation with the Andre Group.

The government of Armenia is currently conducting negotiations with Andre Group of Switzerland for the implementation of joint projects in the field of energy–agriculture and transport. The program–according to Kocharian–is a bright example of what can be achieved through combined efforts.

"This program is a joint effort of the Armenian government–private enterprises–a renowned company capable of ensuring sales markets [Andre Group]–a financial institution [World Bank]–the US Department of Agriculture and the Diaspora [Lincy Foundation]". Kocharian said.

The president expressed confidence that the Swiss and Armenian parties will be ready to pass on to the execution of new joint programs. "Andre Group is a serious partner. The question is how to select the right joint programs," the president added.

"Similar successful projects are quite feasible in any sphere of Armenia’s economy. One simply need to be guided by such categories as business–profitability–efficiency and by ‘political categories’–which will not be appreciated by any of our foreign partners–including such a financial institution as the Lincy Foundation," Kocharian emphasized.

In a Noyan Tapan interview–first Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Movses Dzavarian said that a number of Swiss companies–including the Andre Group–are showing interest in the energy sector of Turkey where privatization of energy facilities will start on January 1–2000. According to Dzavarian–the issue of distributing Armenian electricity (300 Megawatts) to Turkey was discussed with the Andre Group.

Another major project being discussed with the Andre Group concerns the establishment of an agroservice system in Armenia to make it possible to render a complex of all necessary services to the agricultural sector. Dzavarian said that the consortium of European companies–of which Andre Group is a member–is ready to make investmen’s and render technical assistance in implementing this project.

In Dzavarian’s opinion–like previous projects carried out jointly with the Andre Group–this one should be a private one too. The government should be responsible for coordination and assistance in the project implementation as well as for attracting funds. According to Dzavarian–the fact that Armenia’s agriculture has no serious future without a similar system of agroservice is quite obvious today.

The Swiss firm’s activities in Armenia are part of a program to revive the country’s food processing industry. Also involved are the Armenian government–US Department of Agriculture–World Bank and the Lincy Foundation of Armenian-American billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.

The new technological lines are currently used for the production of tomato paste which Andre & CIF is to sell abroad. Officials say this has provided 3000 farmers in the area with a wholesale buyer of their produce.

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