US Armenian Task Force Agreement Established

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–With the regular 5th session of the intergovernmental US-Armenian Task Force wrapping up recently in Washington–the Armenian minister of finance and economy Vartan Khachatrian and US ambassador to Armenia John Ordway signed an agreement to ensure continued structural reforms and improvement of the rule of law in return for further American assistance. America’s annual economic aid to Armenia has totaled $1.4 billion over the past decade

The US ambassador stated that both sides face similar top priority tasks; the commission’s format he said "helps to coordinate concrete programs with the Armenian government’s actions. The program ensures that both sides will take steps to successfully implement the program."

He revealed that discussions focused on Armenia’s macro-economic policy–business environment–the energy sector–environmental protection–as well as the fight against terrorism and human trafficking.

Ordway said that the session agreed that–pending approval by Armenian government–the program on poverty reduction must become the main focus of Armenia’s future development–and it must coordinate these efforts with US aid programs.

The session also discussed tax and customs issues. "Both Armenian and foreign investors demand fair and predictable conditions for their activity," stressed Ordway.

TOUGH STANCE ON CORRUPTION

During these talks–Ordway called for a major government crackdown on corruption in Armenia

Ordway warned that authorities will have trouble attracting large-scale foreign investmen’s without tackling widespread corrupt practices in earnest. "The Armenian government has to address the corruption problem in a serious and sustained fashion if it hopes to attract foreign investment," he said–urging Yerevan to draw up and implement a comprehensive anti-graft program.

Linking economic development to good governance–Ordway added: "Armenian and foreign investors need a fair and predictable climate in which to conduct their business."

Khachatrian assured that the authorities are committed to combating corruption–and have already managed to improve the country’s overall business environment. He claimed that the magnitude of the problem has been reduced over the past two years.

In an interview with RFE/RL last May–Ordway complained that the Armenian government has yet to come up with a "an effective plan as to how to begin to go about reducing corruption," despite its "general acceptance that something has to be done about it." The government has promised to unveil such a plan by the end of this year.

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