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Analysis of the Interviews

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Seemingly, the majority of experts link the development of Armenia primarily to the prospect of resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict and, more generally, to the restoration of the friendly neighboring relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey. In this area, based on the opinion of experts, one could highlight two equally important factors: the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict and the issue of the recognition of the Genocide of Armenians in 1915. These factors are to a certain extent interdependent. As for future activities, we consider the priority to be the determination of whether this factor could be considered an uncertainty, i.e. whether there could be any development scenario that could be projected with a high degree of certainty, or whether it depends on too many factors and/or some information is simply inaccessible. Based on this assessment, one would need either to consider this the main uncertainty that will decisively affect the whole prospect of development of Armenian society, and respectively, introduce this as the main factor, or to carry out additional research. Possible topics for research: readiness of Turkish society and, specifically, political forces, to recognize the Genocide of 1915, preferably from the side of Turkish researchers; willingness of Turkish, Azeri, and Armenian societies (and separately, those living in the border areas, businesses, and those who most suffered the conflict (i.e. the refugees)) to opt for economic cooperation without any changes in foreign politics; drawing a parallel between the Genocide and the Karabagh conflict, both being looked upon as obstacles to normalization of relations.

The second factor is the Diaspora. There are different assessments as to the role of the Diaspora. One could highlight two main roles of the Diaspora: the image of the Diaspora as romantically inclined nostalgic "symbolic" Armenians, who have a very poor idea of the situation in Armenia; the second image is one that does not contradict the first one: an image of reasonable businessmen, who are often successful overseas, but do not see a business interest in making investment into the Armenian economy. In the second event, they are capable of emerging as powerful economic growth engines, due to the attraction of not only capital, but also technology and culture. The majority have mentioned the negative role of the aggressive inclination of the Diaspora in relation to foreign political issues, such as Karabagh, the Genocide, relations with Turkey, and Javakhk. Analogy was found between Armenians and the Irish (T. Jones), because in Ireland, the Diaspora did not play a significant role in economic development, partially due to reaching compromise agreements with England.

Church is the third factor. There are different views on the role of the Church. First of all, the role of the Church in the process of creating and strengthening labor ethics, honesty, creation of statehood, advancing tolerance, and faith in the human quality regardless of his/her national or religious background (O. Saadat), conflict resolution, weakening of religious and ethnic intolerance. Furthermore, the role of the Church as a consultative body, possibly with the Parliament or with the Government (R. Papyan). In relating Christian values with economic development, the common opinion is that they are not directly opposed to one another, and synthesis is feasible.

The fourth factor is emigration, especially that of the youth. H. Kharatyan believes that emigration has led to "natural selection" of Armenian society. In broad terms, those remaining are the passive, non-adaptable members of society. A main causes of emigration is not the economic situation, but rather the lack of a vision for the future and the lack of capacity to play a role in the establishment of the future.

Some experts have mentioned social polarization as one of the factors, but not as a rather important one. Sometimes, this has implied the closed nature of elites and their firmly fixed frames, which disallow substitution of human resources within the elites (H. Kharatyan). Polarization between Yerevan and the regions, or between cities and villages, has virtually not been mentioned; this is primarily due to the perception of this factor as an insignificant one, and its non-presence amongst basic political concerns, since acute inequality is objectively apparent.

The human capital has been assessed in different ways. Some experts (such as T. Jones, O. Saadat and others) assess the human potential, skills, and capacity as rather high, while others (Ch. Gregory) find the same to be very low. Possibly, the differences in the combination systems have an impact on this, and it depends on whether the comparison is drawn with Western countries, on the one hand, or Eastern countries or countries in transition, on the other.

The reform priorities have not been assessed in accord. Some consider that the priority should fall on economic reform, development of conditions for a free market, and the inflow of investments, which should then only be followed by democratic processes (China is the example mentioned in this context). Other experts believe that economic development without spiritual content shall be meaningless and remain only auxiliary.

The possible development scenario: a regional center, similar to Dubai (the UAE). The vision: gate, service center. This could be considered one of the basic components of an optimistic scenario. Some experts have assessed the likelihood of this scenario as very low (O. Saadat , Ch. Gregory), considering it practically unrealistic. Ch. Gregory believes this would require major capital investment, which could be afforded only by Sheik Mohammed in the UAE , but not anyone here; the only way to generate such investment would be through a special entity having strong capacity and a desire to invest in the country. O. Saadat believes that this could become feasible only in the context of a well-thought and strategically-oriented economic policy. He further considers that Dubai has a number of valuable advantages, such as sea access and a conducive business atmosphere: besides, a number of decisive measures are necessary. The stability center should primarily focus on political stability and abstinence from conflicts. Regional instability and the poor image of the whole region could become obstacles on this path. Ch. Gregory considers this opportunity highly unlikely and insignificant, even if a positive scenario were envisaged. The domestic political system per se, including representation in the authorities, the level of public participation in decision-making, political activity, and civic participation, is in a poor condition.

Local stakeholders. First of all, the business and political elites, including the monopolists (oligarchs?). This is primarily the group that hinders development; seemingly, several dozen individuals, who control the majority of business activity in Armenia, and are either inside government, or have very strong political connections. Their interest in the stagnated situation in the conflict area conceals the realistic ways of conflict resolution. Segregation has already taken place or is taking place within the authorities, and the elite is emerging as a closed group. Some have assessed that the structure of authorities is strongly personified, and the struggle for government is not one aimed at voters, but rather, one that uses other techniques.

The majority of experts consider there to be two types of images of Armenia, which could be presented overseas: (i) a poor country that needs humanitarian aid; and (ii) an actively developing country, which needs investment. There are different opinions as to whether these two images contradict: some of the experts believe that these two types of images are directly opposed to one another. Some other mentioned that aid programs in Armenia not only are unhelpful in terms of economic development, but also are direct obstacles thereto. In addition to the images of Armenia abroad, the self-recognition of Armenia as either recipients of aid or independent actors capable of bringing the country out of the crisis, who also need not aid per se.

The image of a hero seems to be one of the key factors to building a successfully developing country. Apparently, due to instability in all areas in Armenia, experts find it necessary that an individual come about, who will be capable of guaranteeing stability. Ch. Gregory envisages this man to be a successful businessman, who would be capable of setting up the functioning of the state similar to that of a business project.

Currently, strategic sectors for development, according to the experts, are tourism, the IT sector, and agriculture (mostly fruit).

Practically all the experts have highly assessed the potential of the IT sector. Many of them find it necessary to exercise more targeted efforts to develop the IT sector in Armenia. Some other sectors are in a relatively favorable condition due to apparent advantages (they do not require transportation or large investment in hardware, and only human resources are necessary, of which there seems to be enough).

Tourism in Armenia could potentially find a niche in the international tourism market. Some assessments show that a certain part of the people are able and willing to have "an intellectual vacation", rather than "rest on the beach". One of the main pre-requisites for the development of tourism is regional cooperation in this sector, including the visa regime, the perception of the region as a single dimension for tourism, and so on. Tourism is also important to present the country in the international markets, in order to help mobilize investment. However, the existing poor image of Armenia overseas could become a negative factor.

Virtually all of the experts have mentioned another key factor that can realistically affect the processes; it is the situation in the region. First of all, this includes the political and social instability in Georgia, and the isolated nature of Iran in the international arena. The role of the image of the region is brought up as one supporting or distracting increased investment in Armenia. Respectively, the unresolved nature of the ethnic conflicts (Karabagh, Abkhazia) and the potential "sources" of tension (Kurdistan, Osetia, Ajaria, Eastern Azerbaijan, and Javakhk).


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