WASHINGTON (Armenpress) – Following are excerpts from statemen’s by Thomas Dine– Assistant Administrator of the US Agency for International Development on behalf of the Newly Independent States.
Despite a necessary preoccupation with meeting humanitarian needs resulting from the region’s conflict–Armenia has made progress in developing a market economy. It has moved into real economic growth–first in the former Soviet Union to do so; taken initial steps in privatizing agriculture and industry; and begun the legal–regulatory and policy framework needed for competition and growth.
Armenia was the first of the former Soviet republics to adopt a real property law which defines basic private property interests and rights. Housing stock is being privatized and a real estate market is developing.
The Central Bank of Armenia has greatly strengthened its primary functions with US technical assistance; bank examiners are enforcing bank laws and regulations–and installing an electronic accounting and paymen’s system.
Efforts are well under way in Armenia to de-monopolize the electricity sector–rationalize energy pricing–and improve tariff collection. Armenergo–the power utility previously responsible for all electricity generation–transmission–and distribution–has been effectively "unbundled" into three generation companies– one transmission and dispatching company–and approximately 52 distribution companies.
Georgia has made progress in macro-economic stabilization–reducing inflation–liberalizing prices and stabilizing its currency.
Restructuring in Georgia’s energy sector has resulted in the sale of a number of hydro power plants to private investors–and creation of a national regulatory body for the power sector. Georgia is participating in an agreement with the Azerbaijan International Operating Company and the Government of Azerbaijan on oil transit issues.
Armenia has made strides and had setbacks in its democratic transition in the past year. It held parliamentary elections and approved a new constitution in 1995. In late 1996–presidential and local elections were held but international observers described them as flawed.
An objective–professional and independent journalistic cadre is a necessary component of democracy–and its development is a major USAID focus. USAID helped to organize Armenia’s independent television stations into a network with a capacity for objective–professional journalism.
Progress in democratic political processes is further along in Georgia than elsewhere in the Caucasus. The parliament is one of the most progressive in the former Soviet Union. There is a perceptible strong will in the political leadership–in the media and among civic groups to advance and protect the new democracy–to establish a transparent system of public administration and the rule of law. Georgia is drafting a new Civil Code. USAID support has led to the creation of 50 new Georgian NGO’s participating in democratic and market reform.
An independent television network was created in Georgia with 11 individual stations.
US assistance to the Caucasus has been predominantly humanitarian–given the severe hardships engendered by regional conflict for all the peoples of this area. Food shipmen’s have fed needy citizens– refugees and displaced persons; fuel shipmen’s have increased electric power; winter warmth programs have provided heat for houses and schools. School attendance in Armenia rose significantly as a direct result of this heating program. Pharmaceuticals have met medical needs and large segmen’s of the vulnerable populations have received vaccines against infectious disease.