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In Armenia, a blink of hope spurred by popular demand

Vigen Sargsyan's picture
 
Armenia protests 2018
Photo: Photolure News Agency
Armenia experienced strong annual GDP growth in the period before the fall of the government this year. Throughout April and May, the country’s “velvet revolution” saw the people call for a leader’s resignation, and get a new election – all under the gaze of worldwide attention. But what, you may ask, was the connection between economic growth and mass protests?
 
Let me suggest two words: relativity and stagnation. Relativity could describe the large gap between the impressive economic statistics and the reality of everyday life here. Stagnation could describe an Armenian’s lifelong experience watching things remain the same, without ever seeing real progress.
 
But there were other reasons for the abrupt loss of public patience. Corruption has been characterized by the intertwining of power and capital and the use of one for the sake of the other, and vice versa. Ultimately, corruption has deprived Armenians of the right to good governance. And caused an erosion of public trust and confidence in the state and its institutions.
 
When the initial protest march left Armenia's second city, Gyumri, it consisted of only a few dozen people, most of them journalists. But by the time the march reached the capital Yerevan in mid-April, thousands more people had joined the movement. Within a few days, streets across Yerevan and the entire country were flooded with young people, most of whom were born and brought up in the “dark” years of the 1990s (i.e. without electricity).
Armenia protests 2018
Photo: Photolure News Agency
Momentous events were unfolding now, it appeared. Personally-speaking, it was hard not to become highly impassioned, mentally and emotionally. It felt like something remarkable was evolving, providing a blink of hope, even if one tried to remain cautious and not over-expect.
 
A new generation was marching peacefully and with self-confidence, spreading the message that they are not indifferent anymore – on the contrary, they are fully invested in their future! There was a new sense of ownership and responsibility now for the country’s development.
 
In Armenia, one political era is over, and another just beginning. The burden of victory is heavy – fundamental change beckons. As does institutional change. I am quietly confident. It will take some time for the new leadership to adapt, certainly, but they are surely cognizant of the need to act with the people’s best interests in mind. Expectations are, understandably, high.
 
Now back to the economics, briefly. In 2017, Armenia’s GDP growth of 7.5% outperformed expectations, recording the highest rate of growth in the past decade. The economic recovery is expected to have supported a further reduction in poverty rates, which have been on a declining trend since the global economic crisis. Ultimately, the benefits of growth should reach everybody – this is what we call “shared prosperity”.
 
And the economic outlook remains positive. This suggests a window of opportunity now to tackle and accelerate the challenging reforms that Armenia needs in order to unleash a new growth model – one that is both inclusive and sustainable going forward. The upcoming World Bank Country Partnership Framework for 2018–22 will support Armenia on this important journey.
 
I am optimistic that the momentum will continue, and that this blink of hope will eventually lead to a brighter future for Armenians. Now is not the time to remain apathetic – it is the time to move forward.

Comments

Submitted by Sergei Shatalov on

Great blog with a clear and balanced perspective. I worked in Armenia in the "dark 90s", and followed it ever since. There is enormous amount of talent. With wisdom and openness, the country can progress rapidly. Best of luck to everyone working for Armenian prosperity!

Submitted by Naira Melkumyan on

Dear Vigen, thank you for the excellent blog.

Indeed, this is a new reality and an unprecedented momentum for the new Armenia to start growing at its full potential.

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