YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The United States has again refused to resume multimillion-dollar economic assistance to Armenia under its Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program designed to foster reforms in developing nations.
Armenia is not on the newly updated list of eight countries, most of them in Africa, currently eligible for such aid. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency administering the scheme, released it following a meeting of its executive board in Washington this week.
An MCC statement on the board meeting announced and explained the exclusion of two other African states from the list. But it said nothing about the rejection of an aid application made by the Armenian government.
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan instructed the government to formally request renewed MCA funding on November 14. Sargsyan cited the MCC’s latest “scorecard” for Armenia listing 20 indicators of political and economic freedom grouped into 3 broad categories of government policy.
The authorities in Yerevan met the minimum eligibility requirements in all of those categories. In particular, the MCC found an improvement in their efforts to tackle endemic corruption. The U.S. agency was until then dissatisfied with the effectiveness of those efforts.
The issue was most probably on the agenda of a November 22 meeting in Washington of the U.S-Armenia Joint Economic Task Force (USATF), an intergovernmental body mainly dealing with broader American assistance to Armenia. Statements on that meeting made by the U.S. State Department and Armenian officials did not mention the MCA.
Finance Minister Davit Sargsian, who headed the Armenian delegation at the USATF meeting, confirmed on Thursday that Yerevan was not deemed eligible for the additional U.S. aid. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Sargsian said the U.S. rebuff “has nothing to do” with the MCC’s reform criteria. “There are countries in the world that are probably in greater need of assistance than Armenia,” he said.
The MCC said earlier in November that its board will “rely heavily on the scorecards” in choosing eligible nations.
Armenia qualified for the scheme shortly after Washington launched it in 2006, receiving $177 million for the rehabilitation of rural irrigation networks. The MCC planned at the time to allocate another $60 million for the reconstruction of the country’s rural roads. But it scrapped that allocation shortly after a disputed February 2008 presidential election that was followed by a harsh government crackdown on the Armenian opposition.