It so happened that my interview with Ruben Vardanyan coincided with another wave of speculations the essence of which is that Armenia is “forced to make a choice” between entering the [CIS] Customs Union or continuing rapprochement with the European Union.
Being well aware of what a big work has been carried out to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, I doubt that the authorities are ready to throw it down the drain. EU officials have frequently stated that the accession to the Customs Union will make impossible Armenia’s participation in the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which is an integral part of the Association Agreement.
But it’s not about that today. The basic principle of the “model of prosperity”, Ruben Vardanyan has been speaking about, is the reliance on personal power and resources. This, of course, does not rule out the possibility of integration with the EU or within CIS, but envisages a big accent on the personal potential. In this regard I would like to recall a very interesting experiment I witnessed several years ago.
In September 2005, the arena of Yerevan Sport and Concert Complex was full of people. These were not sportsmen or musicians, these were about 500 ordinary people, who have gathered there to take part in a discussion and express their attitude towards one of the possible ways of country’s development.
The experiment was realized thanks to “Armenia 2020” project initiated by Ruben Vardanyan and his friends.
4 scenarios of Armenia’s future development have been prepared within the framework of “Armenia 2020” project: Sentenced to Thirty Years with Correspondence [preservation of the current situation], Coming Home: Armenia and EU [full integration into European structures], From Russia with Love [preservation of the close alliance with Russia] and Dare to Excel [the so-called Singapore model].
The discussion was organized by the International Center for Human Development, and each table had its leader and a secretary. An anonymous voting was held following the discussion, the results of which were as follows:
Dare to Excel [the so-called Singapore model] - 210 votes;
From Russia with Love [preservation of the close alliance with Russia] – 136 votes;
Coming Home: Armenia and EU [full integration into European structures] - 120 votes;
Sentenced to Thirty Years with Correspondence [preservation of the current situation] – 8 votes.
As we can see, even 8 years ago the majority of those who participated in the discussion preferred to go “their own way” instead of sticking to “pro-Russian” or “pro-European” orientation.
Of course, the opinions of these 500 people cannot be considered as a public opinion barometer of Armenia, especially if we take into consideration the fact that they were expressed almost a decade ago. But, first of all, I trust these opinions more than many of the professional polls conducted in Armenia today. Secondly, I think the technological progress, the spread of Internet and social networks should have only reinforced the opinion of the supporters of “From survival to prosperity” model in its viability. Although it cannot be excluded that many of 210 people who had voted for this model have left Armenia over the last 8 years…
Well, what was the scenario of “From survival to prosperity” model, which was very popular among ordinary Armenians 8 years ago, about? Its basic postulates are: provision of the rule of law with the possible restriction of some political freedoms; sharp growth of productivity through the elaboration and implementation of strategic programs; introduction of an e-governance system; fight against corruption. The essence of the scenario certainly was to reach $11 200 GDP level per capita by 2020.
As the director of “Armenia 2020” project Artashes Kazakhetsyan said back then, much time has already been lost and even if we assume that the authorities will strictly follow the scenario “From survival to prosperity”, then in 2020 Armenia will reach only the development level that Estonia has had in 2008…
Ara Tadevosyan is the Director of Mediamax.