WATERTOWN — On July 19, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan and Speaker of the Armenian Parliament Ararat Mirzoyan, accompanied by Armenian Ambassador to the US Varuzhan Nersesyan, appeared at a public event held at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC) in Watertown. Dr. Ara Nazarian served as master of ceremonies. This event was part of the visit of the high-level Armenian state officials to several cities in the United States.
Dr. George Bashirians, president of the ACEC, spoke words of welcome, and was followed by Amb. Nersesyan, who explained that Mirzoyan came from participating in Washington at the House Democracy Partnership Forum. This was the first time Armenia was invited to participate in this important conference, and met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell. Simultaneously, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan was in Washington to participate in meetings of foreign ministers organized by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on religious freedom. Meanwhile Avinyan participated in a UN conference and held various meetings. Nersesyan concluded that Armenia’s relations with the US this year have reached a new level of strategic dialogue, and that these meetings are one indication of this.
Mirzoyan, speaking in Armenian, exclaimed that just a few minutes ago he and the other politicians visited the Hairenik archives and the documents about the first Armenian republic and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation reminded him, a historian by training, of the lessons of the past. More immediately, he said, for 20 years, he and his colleagues were striving to create a truly democratic Armenia and last year finally through a mass movement a peaceful change of regime presented the opportunity to achieve this. Among the first concrete achievements of the new regime were increases in the wages of soldiers and teachers, and pensions of retirees. Some pensions were previously lower than the minimum sum necessary not to starve.
While he could not tell what will happen in the future, he said two things were certain. First, the political team in power today does all in its power to have a good Armenia. Secondly, possibility and hope exist now in Armenia.
Avinyan then spoke in English, declaring that after independence from the Soviet Union, Armenia mostly failed in building its new institutions, as the democratic framework was absent. In December 2018, Armenia became a democratic state, he stressed, after fair and democratic elections. Despite all the tensions of the revolution and several elections, the economy closed with 5.2 percent GDP growth, which he said was unprecedented. This year, Armenia with a 7.1 percent GDP growth is the champion of Europe. Probably, Avinyan said, by the end of the year Armenia will have double digit growth.
However, Avinyan said, the government of Armenia has other goals besides GDP. The most important is the well being of the citizens of the country. The most vulnerable groups are at the focus of the government’s attention. He said, “We have raised the salaries of the teachers, we have raised the salaries of the military.” Pensions will be raised next year. This approach of the government is called the inclusive growth mode, with a lot of input in human capital and infrastructure. Additional tax money obtained this year is mainly being spent on education, health care and infrastructure. In 284 schools we will be installing engineering labs this year. Next year they will be in all schools in Armenia. The best resource we have is human capital and that is why we place a lot of emphasis on its development.