WB Representative Praises Armenia

(Noyan Tapan)–World Bank Resident Representative in Armenia Owaise Saadat ended his 4-year activities at this post. He is leaving for Alma-Ata taking over the post of World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. On July 23–Saadat gave a press conference during which he expressed his opinion about the successes and difficulties of World Bank activities in Armenia.

Saadat said four prime ministers–four finance ministers–five energy ministers–five ministers of agriculture–three ministers of nature protection–and three ministers of transport changed in the Armenian government during the period. "I’ll reflect on all this in my memoirs," said Saadat–adding that he had to display a great deal of flexibility under such changes.

During Owaise Saadat’s four-year mission in Armenia the WB Board of Directors has approved 13 credit programs worth a total of $250 million–8 programs worth $245 million were completed–a WB Yerevan office was set up and currently employs 25 people–a WB Armenia assistance strategy was adopted–where programs aimed at improving the country’s investment climate–creating new jobs–developing the private sector–carrying out legislative reforms and developing human capital base are to be realized under this strategy. Saadat also paid special attention to the anti-corruption program of the Armenian government.

The WB representative pointed out that during the years of his mission in Armenia not only the government–but also the public–have become World Bank’s business partners. "We no longer tango with the government–we are dancing the Armenian kochari with everybody and in this dance everybody is equal going in a circle–holding each other by the hand," he added.

Saadat also attached special importance to the role of Armenian mass media–which–according to him–helped him and his mission to map out routine work.

The list of the Bank’s most successful programs is still topped by the program of the Armenian Social Investment Fund. This program has helped improve the living standards of about 662,000 people in 268 communities of Armenia.

Also among successful programs is the one targeting education: 112 various textbooks and 50 manuals have been published under this program.

According to Saadat–an irrigation network with a total length of 260 km has been restored at the expense of the irrigation program. The program of judicial reforms and some others were also mentioned.

According to Saadat–there are no unsuccessful programs in Armenia. The WB estimations of the Armenian programs are satisfactory and successful. However–Saadat paid attention to the fact that achievemen’s in creating a favorable business environment could have been more successful. He also pointed out that with the presence of economic growth in the country–the population still does not feel the results–because 55 percent of the population still remains in unfavorable socio-economic conditions.

The rich human resource of Armenia is at risk because of the factors of continuing migration and reduced level of education. The chief obstacle to investmen’s and business development is still the country’s blockade and limited domestic market.

The WB still focuses its attention on the issue of privatization of electricity distribution networks. Saadat said he would be watching the developmen’s related to this matter even while outside of Armenia.

The outgoing WB official announced that a special questionnaire has been compiled for an objective evaluation of WB activities in Armenia. The questionnaire will be sent out to 300 respondents at the government–parliament–public sector and mass media. "I see favorable Armenia-WB cooperation in the future when Armenia is at the wheel and the WB and IMF are helping it from passengers’ seats," Owaise Saadat concluded.

Roger Robinson will take over as World Bank Resident Representative in Armenia’starting on August 1

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