Armenia’s Economy Advances, Official Says

Armenia's Economy Advances, Official Says

February 19, 2005

By Vanessa Colón
The Fresno Bee

Armenia is on the move to a better economy, but more work needs to be done, said the U.S. ambassador to Armenia. Members of the Armenian community in Fresno took in the good news Friday, but some of them wondered whether the United States could do more to help the nation prosper.

John Evans, U.S. ambassador to the republic of Armenia, made an evening stop at the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church. The U.S. Embassy in Armenia and the offices of Armenian Technology Group Inc. in Fresno coordinated his visit.

“The main problem is persistent poverty…. [but] the rate of poverty is coming down,” Evans said. “First of all, we are trying to bring a measure of security and stability in that nation. Secondly, we are trying by every possible means to build up the economy.”

Many Armenians say they are thankful for the economic assistance the United States gives to Armenia, but some of them want more change. They say Armenia can’t prosper as much because of an economic blockade from neighboring nations. “The U.S. provides economic assistance to Armenia…. You do see good economic development, but in the countryside you do see poverty,” said Varoujan Der Simonian, executive director of the nonprofit group Armenian Technology Group Inc. in Fresno. “Overall, it’s in need of help,”

In fiscal 2004, an estimated $89.7 million was budgeted for assistance programs in Armenia. Der Simonian hopes the Bush administration doesn’t make cuts in financial help to Armenia.

The nation, which borders Turkey, was part of the former Soviet Union. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and a debilitating economy, many fled to Russia and others emigrated to the United States and Western Europe. Part of the financial strain includes an economic blockade by Azerbaijan and Turkey. The country was hit with an earthquake in 1988 that killed more than 25,000 people. “The sooner the blockade is lifted, the better,” Der Simonian said.

Some Armenians say part of the economic difficulty includes the Armenian diaspora. More than one million of Armenia’s roughly 3 million residents left the nation when it gained its independence in 1991. Many left their nation between 1915 and 1923 when the Ottoman Turks executed 1.5 million Armenians. The modern republic of Turkey evolved from the Ottoman Empire.

Several people at the church have taken trips to Armenia and have seen the changes. “It’s improved but has not improved as much as we wanted to,” said Hygo Ohannessian, chairwoman of the Armenian National Committee of Central California.

Ohannessian said: “It was one of the top-producing countries in the Soviet Union during the Soviet era.”

For more information about how you can help Armenia’s farmers, contact the ATG office at (559) 224-1000 or by e-mail ( Tax-deductible donations can be sent to ATG; 1300 E. Shaw, Suite 149; P.O.Box 5969; Fresno, CA 93755-5969.
You may also donate to ATG online.