ArmeniaNow.com - Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 August 8, 2003 


Clean-up: New center hopes to assist the fight against corruption


The center's director Arevik Saribekyan, left, with Republican party member Hovsep Avagyan, one of the center's first visitors.

A center has opened in Yerevan, intended to help fight Armenia's considerable corruption problem.

The Anti-Corruption Resource Center, supported by the Armenian branch of Center for Regional Development/ Transparency International (CRD/TI) was inaugurated last week.

Minister of Justice David Harutyunyan said during the opening ceremony that the "government is firm in its decision to crackdown on corruption, but its efforts would not be effective without broad public support."

It is hoped that the center will help lend such support by raising public awareness.

The CRD/TI was founded in Armenia last year to promote transparent and accountable governance, to prevent corrupt behavior of state authorities, investigate cases of corruption and publicize names of those who are benefiting at the expense of others.

"The center's rich library welcomes all those who want to get information about the subject, says Arevik Saribekyan, the Center's Director, adding that the center will conduct training courses for specialists and non-governmental organizations.

Hovsep Avagyan from the Republican party was one of the first visitors to the anti-corruption center.

"Corruption in the country has reached a peak, where not only ordinary people but also politicians do not know how to prevent it. I believe that the center will be especially useful for the young people and students," Avagyan says.

Armenian and international analysts say that corruption in Armenia hinders efforts to attract foreign investment and is the main reason Armenia is seen as a risky market for the international community.

According to a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit magazine: "Armenia attracted a paltry $19 million in foreign direct investment during the first quarter of 2002, down almost 50 percent, compared to the same period the previous year.

"Despite a favorable, market-oriented legislative framework foreign companies have remained reluctant to invest in Armenia because implementation and enforcement of the laws has been extremely weak."

The widespread opinion in Armenia is that under the current economic environment it is impossible to build a substantial fortune running a legal business, and that amassing wealth requires corruption of officials.

"Corruption is the first of all hindrance to small and medium business," says Vardkes Simonyan, the owner of one of a grocery store on Kievyan street. "Corruption is not when you give or take a bribe, but is when the interests of a small group of oligarchs prevail over the interests of the state and its economic development."

The Armenian Government announced that the fight against corruption is among its top priorities.

The Anti-corruption Commission was established to expedite the drafting of new legislation to eradicate bribery and cronyism and to implement a radical reorganization of the state apparatus to eliminate red tape.

A survey conducted last year by CRD/TI showed that 96 percent of respondents consider corruption as problematic in Armenia. The respondents said state officials are the main perpetrators of corruption. The survey also showed that 54 percent of the state officials said that the level of corruption has increased during the last five years.

According to Transparency International specialists, one of the most dangerous manifestations of their survey is that only a few respondents said they would report incidences of corruption to corresponding bodies.

The Yerevan Anti-Corruption Center has become the seventh such center in the post-Soviet republics.

The center will soon launch a series of video clips on prevention of corruption. Five branches of the center will be opened in Armenian marzes by 2004.



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