WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) — A leading US congressman has called for multimillion-dollar US funding for public schools in Armenia which would ultimately benefit the country’s burgeoning information technology (IT) industry.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the US House Intelligence Committee, said the US government should allocate such assistance under its Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program designed to foster reforms in developing nations.
Armenia qualified for the aid scheme shortly after Washington launched it in 2006, receiving over $170 million for the rehabilitation of rural irrigation networks. The Armenian government tried in vain to secure more MCA funding after the irrigation upgrades were completed in 2011.
Last year, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) started lobbying the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government agency running the program, to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in Armenia with a grant worth at least $100 million. The advocacy group’s chairman, Raffi Hamparian, said the money would “add new energy” to the Armenian IT sector, reduce poverty and strengthen US-Armenian relations.
Schiff, whose California constituency is home to the largest population of ethnic Armenians in the United States, voiced support for the ANCA efforts on Thursday. “I believe the time is right for a new [MCC] compact, focusing on STEM education to help Armenia take the next step towards sustainable economic growth and a growing middle class,” an ANCA statement quoted him as saying.
Schiff said that in recent weeks he spoken with ANCA leaders as well as Armenian Embassy officials in Washington about “how to move forward on this important project.” “I look forward to continuing to work closely with all of the stakeholders to ensure Armenia receives every consideration,” he added.