COMMITTEE CUTS BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S PROPOSED 45% REDUCTION IN HALF WASHINGTON–DC–A key House Appropriations Subcommittee voted July 10 to allocate at least $70 million in US assistance to Armenia for the fiscal year 2004 (FY2004) and $5 million for humanitarian aid projects in Mountainous Karabagh–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.) The proposed assistance level for Armenia–while $20 million more than the $49.5 million proposed by the Bush Administration–is $20 million less than Congress appropriated in FY2003.
"We remain troubled by the sharp reduction in aid to Armenia proposed by the Bush Administration and–while we very much appreciate the hard work of our friends on the foreign aid panel–are disappointed by the $20 million shortfall in the assistance approved by the House relative to last year’s appropriation," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "In the coming weeks we will continue to work with the House and Senate appropriators regarding the pressing needs in Armenia–the impact of the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades–and the specific programs that will be cut by this proposed reduction."
In addition to the $70 million earmarked for Armenia–the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations also voted to send $2.5 million in foreign military financing and $900,000 for International Military Education and Training (IMET). Azerbaijan is slated to receive an equal amount of military assistance. The reduction in US assistance to Armenia is part of an overall decrease in aid to former Soviet States–from $755 million to $576 million.
In testimony before the Subcommittee earlier this year–ANCA Chairman Kenneth Hachikian urged legislators to maintain the $90 million earmarked for Armenia. Hachikian specifically cited the devastating effects of the Azerbaijani and Turkish blockades on Armenia’s economy.
Quoting from the World Bank’s country assistance strategy report on Armenia for 2001-2004 (Section III.–Economic Reform–Successes and Risks: Gains from Re-Opened Borders)–Hachikian stated that: "The unresolved conflict over Mountainous Karabagh has closed most of Armenia’s land borders–cutting off rail links to the east and west. As a result–Armenia is heavily dependent on trans-shipment of goods though Georgia. This has significantly raised its trade costs–given the high costs of all modes of transport in Georgia. A recent report suggests that the re-opening of Armenia’s borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan could result in a reduction in transport costs of 30-50%–a doubling of exports–and an increase of 30-38% in GDP."
The foreign aid bill will next be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee–followed by a full House vote. The Senate version of the bill will follow a similar path.