Vardges Amirjanyan wants the next President to
give him a job.
"Let them create working places, so that
people don't leave their family and children and
go to seek luck in strange lands," says Amirjanyan,
35, who had gone to Moscow to find work. "I
am choking with nostalgia, but I have no other
According to the employment service agency of
the Ministry of Social Security, last year some
154,071 people applied for finding work, from
which 8,473 got jobs.
The Ministry claims that the unemployment rate
for last year was nine percent -- a figure that
may at best represent a third of the real number.
"It became clear that up to now the information
has not been of an appropriate standard,"
says Anush Harutyunyan, press secretary of the
Ministry's employment service. "Many people
do not know that we have regional centers."
But the agency assures that whoever applies will
get either unemployment benefit (as for the beginning
of this year 6,010 people get unemployment benefit),
or other aid (7,371 people get other aid), or
take part in 'Allowance for work' or 'Provisions
for work' projects.
The agency's 31 of 51 regional centers have no
computers and only this month will be able to
get equipped, create a general information base
and act more effectively.
"The State register informs us about newly
registered enterprises, but employers themselves
must present the number of vacant working places,"
Harutyunyan says. "I can't force them."
She says that training will soon be organized
for 2,000 unemployed people, whereas last year
only 184 unemployed were trained. This year the
agency plans not only to compete, but also to
cooperate with employment non-governmental organizations
(only in Yerevan there are 21 such organizations).
But the agencies can only place workers, they
cannot create jobs.
Setoyan, head of Ashtarak's regional employment
center, says given the chance to advise the next
President: "I would demand that clothing
and knitting industry, institutions with scientific
potential be restored at least with 50 percent
of the former capacity.
"However, today our government is not able
to create enough working places by its own strength.
In order to solve that problem we need sound investments
from outside. Today pre-conditions for that have
already been created."
According to the 2003 Index of Economic Freedom,
a report published by the Heritage Foundation,
Armenia has the highest level of economic freedom
among Commonwealth of Independent States.
In the report the foundation studied participation
of 161 countries' governments in the economy,
their trade and financial policies, present tax
burden, banking systems, flow of capital, foreign
investments, ownership rights, salary and pricing
policies, as well as corruption and 'black market'.
During study of these factors it appeared that
Armenia ranks as 44th in the world and is among
'mostly free' countries. Besides, Armenia and
Lithuania rank as second for being countries that
since 1995 (the year of the 'classification' creation)
till now has had the greatest progress.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the World
Bank's activities in Armenia. According to Vigen
Sargsyan, head of the Foreign Affairs department
of the World Bank, 30 loan projects were approved
over the past decade, for a total of $697.2 million.
"As mission of the World Bank is reduction
of poverty, projects are mainly of a social character.
At this point it is difficult for me to mention
a project that has directly or indirectly impacted
the social field," says Sargsyan. The bank
has financed about 100 small and medium-size industrial
enterprises, and has directly helped in creating
of 2,800 jobs. Investments of the bank in agriculture
ensure work for 7,500 families and 715 kilometers
of Armenia's highways were reconstructed thanks
to projects funded by the World Bank.
"Within the framework of Lincy Foundation
we implement projects on construction, reconstruction
of the roads of general use, as well as reconstruction
of Yerevan's streets," says Eduard Bezoyan,
head of the road-building projects implementation
office. He says that thanks to those grants about
650 to 700 jobs were created in Yerevan, and 6,000
to 6,500 in regions.
Lincy Foundation also provided Armenia with $43.8
million grant aimed at restoration of the disaster
zone, and with $17.5 million grant aimed at reconstruction
of cultural centers, as well as with a loan of
$20 million for development of small and medium-size
businesses. The latter amount includes loans to
about 50 projects, as a result of which 3,000
jobs were created.
Still, surveys by international organizations
show that more than half of the population lives
below the poverty level.
According to the World Bank, an impressive growth
was registered in Armenia, but aspects of fair
distribution and stability lag.
And in the International Monetary Fund's report
of October 9, 2002 devoted to Armenia it is said:
"Corruption needs to be reduced to insure
that the fruits of rapid growth are distributed
more evenly among the population."
It is necessary to reduce the level of corruption
to ensure more equal distribution of products
of the rapid economic growth among the population."
The hopes of those represented in the reports
are simple, such as Marine, a 20-year old pharmacy
clerk who says: "When will people's salaries
be enough to satisfy at least minimal needs?"