MCA Proposal Sets Sights on Reconstruction of Rural Infrastructure

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on Wednesday the Armenian government will finalize by the end of next month its program proposal for funding under Washington’s Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program.

Markarian spoke after chairing the first meeting of an ad hoc commission of senior government officials tasked with assessing the country’s urgent needs–discussing possible ways of meeting them with MCA funding–and submitting a relevant plan to the US.

Under the terms of the MCA–Armenia and 15 other developing nations selected by the US government last spring–must specify the amount of funding they require for proposed programs. Top executives from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)–which runs the program–visited Yerevan late last month for the first discussions on the subject with Armenian officials.

They made it clear that the aid allocation to Armenia is not a forgone conclusion–but will depend on the quality of the proposals.

Speaking to journalists–Markarian said that the government would like to primarily spend the MCA funds on the reconstruction of the battered infrastructure of the country’s impoverished rural regions that have hardly benefited from recent years’ economic growth–specifying the rebuilding of schools–countryside roads–and irrigation networks. "All of these programs must be in line with our [12-year] poverty reduction strategy," he said.

Asked how much the Armenian side expects to get from the MCC–he said: "It is too early to talk about sums. According to our preliminary estimates–however–[the government will ask for] between $500 million and $600 million in the next five years."

Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian came up last week with an even more ambitious aid target: $700 million–of which $100 million should be made available as early as this year. But he was more cautious and vague in his commen’s on Wednesday. "Even [the MCC] doesn’t know what will happen," he said.

Khachatrian reiterated that request for proposals from Armenian non-governmental organizations are being sought–but that only two have been received.

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