August 23, 2014

Decoding Russia’s Food Ban and Its Impacts on Armenia

Diego Benning Wang

The somewhat unanticipated ban on the import of agricultural products from EU and NATO countries announced by the Russian Government in a tit-for-tat retaliation to sanctions placed on Russia by EU and NATO countries is hailed by many countries in Russia’s immediate surroundings. Shortly after the embargo came into effect, the Russian government started seeking alternative sources of import of grocery product that was previously supplied by EU countries. A number of Latin American and Middle Eastern Countries have responded to Russia’s trading interests with enthusiasm. China has started constructing a duty-free trading hub on its border with Russia. On Aug 11, the head of Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture announced that the prospective countries to supply fruits and vegetables to Russia would include Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. In response to such announcement, Azerbaijan’s Minister of the Committee for Economic Policy Ali Masimli remarked: “The conflict between Russia and the West has opened a huge market for Azerbaijan’s fruit and vegetable market. Azerbaijan needs to achieve the maximum from this situation”.

However, Armenia may not be in a position to let such optimism prevail. In the fiscal year of 2012, Armenian export to the country’s largest trading partner Russia grossed 314 million USD, which accounted for one fifth of Armenia’s total export; whereas import from Russia toppled slightly short of 1 billion USD (907 million USD), making up nearly one quarter of Armenia’s import, and suggests that Armenia’s trading deficit against Russia is almost 300%.

There are several reasons why Armenia might not yet be set to substitute the import gap of Russia’s grocery market:

1. Lack of substitutability: Some of the banned EU-manufactured agricultural products that are most in demand in Russia include dairy products, meat products, apples, mushrooms, seafood, etc. Armenia is yet to have the capacity to supply any such products on a significant scale to the much larger Russian market. As in the time of writing, Kazakhstan, a member of the Customs Union, has by far backed off from complying with request of implementing the embargo by fellow members Russia and Belarus, which adds to the speculation that the trading embargo might fail to hurt the economy of some EU states due to the eventual acquisition of their products by the Russian market. Even if this scenario is prevented from taking place, the high cost of transportation will set obstacles for Armenia to assume the role of such transit zone tacitly vied by Kazakhstan, particularly prior to Armenia’s official entry into the Russian-led Customs Union predicted to be brokered this fall.
 2. Lack of competitiveness. The main EU food imports to Russia prior to the sanction can be placed into two categories based on their utility: high-quality luxury grocery products catered to Russia’s upper-class consumers, and cheap agricultural products with a significant edge over their Russian-made counterparts in terms of both price and quality. Despite the potential abolition of tariffs on Armenian imports to Russia that is to ensue following Armenia’s official entry to the Customs Union, the relatively high price levels of Armenian-made foodstuffs would still deter the Russian market. The cost of transportation would also add to the disadvantage of imports from Armenia—a landlocked country that neither shares borders with Russia nor has indirect trading links by land to Russia due to the blockade by Azerbaijan and the standoff between Russia and Georgia. As of the time of writing, the only land corridor connecting Armenia and Russia—the Georgian Military Highway—is closed due to a landslide in the Daryal Valley near the Russian-Georgian border. The export of Armenian fruits to Russia that had very recently been augmented was brought to a sudden halt due to the road closure. Such unforeseeable externalities also pose potential threats to the Russia-bound outflow of Armenian export.
3. The Russian customers’ anticipation of the lift of the ban. Unlike the previous Russian bans on the import of Georgian and Moldovan wine, Ukrainian chocolates, Georgian mineral water, and Moldovan fruits that were issued under the pretense of health concerns, the ban on food imports from the EU, US, Canada, Australia, and Norway is unpretentiously politically motivated. With the Russian leader Putin enjoying unprecedentedly high approval ratings over much the first half of the year, patriotism is pumped high in Russia’s anti-Western standoff over the crisis in Ukraine. In other words, the ban is likely to be supported by Russian consumers despite a price hike in foodstuffs that is soon to follow suit. The ban on food import is also likely to further contribute to the competitiveness of Russian-made food products, and give an impetus to Russia’s long-deserved intensification of import substitution industrialization in the food sector. According to the official announcement by the Russian government, the ban is set to be effective for one year. Nevertheless, some high-level Russian officials including Putin himself have projected that the ban’s shelf life would not exceed a handful of months. It is likely, therefore, that the import of foodstuffs from alternative countries including Armenia will be kept at a low or moderate scale based on such projection.
4. Possible repercussions on expatriate remittances. With a sizable number of Armenian emigrants working in Russia, Armenia is still somewhat vulnerable to impacts on remittances from Russia. In other words, any potential downturn in the Russian economy resulted from the food ban could deal a blow to the Armenian economy.
5. Warnings from the West. Shortly after the expression of euphemism by some major Armenian companies regarding the prospect of trading with Russia, the US Embassy in Armenia published a list of companies whose commercial ties with the US and the EU might be alienated should they forge closer links to the Russian economy. Although state-level sanctions are not likely to be levered on Armenia by the EU, the country’s economy is doomed to be marred by the West’s retaliation to the Armenian government and businesses’ pro-Kremlin orientation.

Many European food products currently sold in the Armenian market are imported indirectly via Russia. The severing of the transit route through Russia will possibly result in notable price hikes on EU-made foodstuffs in the Armenian market. Besides, Yerevan’s gourmet-savvy upper class might also encounter similar difficulty as their Russian counterpart in obtaining EU-made luxury grocery items. Should new trade routes not be put in place in time, Armenia’s upper-class consumers might also be deprived of access to some of these products. Moreover, an outflow of Armenian food products to Russia will undoubtedly give rise to an increase in foodstuffs in Armenia, which will subsequently inflict financial difficulties upon the average Armenian consumer.

Overall speaking, Russia’s food ban is yet another sounding of alarming calls on Yerevan’s economic reliance on Moscow. As the dependency theory suggests, unless Armenia achieves a balanced trading sheet with both Russia and the EU, the country’s economy is prone to suffer from Russia’s unpredictable political weather.

July 30, 2014

CRRC-Armenia Summer School: The First Time Does Count!

By Valeria Sargsyan

Recognizing the need and demand in Armenia for high quality social science research applying quantitative methodology, CRRC-Armenia organized its first ever Summer School on Research Design and Methodology on July 21-25, in Tsaghkadzor. Timed to the Yerevan State University (YSU) 95-th anniversary, the Summer School covered variety of topics including survey design, sampling, questionnaire development, fieldwork implementation, and data analysis. Aimed at developing participants’ theoretical knowledge and practical skills on different stages of quantitative cycle from hypothesis development to quantitative analysis, it was purposely tailored for YSU post-graduate students, junior researchers and faculty specializing in quantitative research methodology.

The Summer School was warmly hosted by the YSU recreation site stretched on the foot of Tsaghkunyants mount and surrounded by ancient mountains and green hills that make one admire and just enjoy the view. The event brought together a group of interested social science researchers and professionals, so that they could not only obtain knowledge and skills, but also have an opportunity to gain new research connections, to have interesting conversations and discussions, which  would ultimately bring about higher quality research. The participants enjoyed the excellent residential, dining, academic, and social facilities of the hotel. All aspects of the program provided opportunity for knowledge development and research experience through peer support, creative problem-solving and practice.

CRRC-Armenia CEO Heghine Manasyan mentioned in her opening speech that it was both an honor and a privilege to stand before the Summer School participants that day and welcomed them to that challenging initiative she hoped would be successful and continuous. “Probably, you are sitting there feeling different emotions and asking yourself whether you did the right choice and whether this worth the sacrifices you have made to get there. Don’t doubt that, it is. In fact, I can assure each and every one of you that you passed through the strong selection process and you are here because you deserve to be and because you can bring something fresh and innovating to the Armenian research and academic community”, she said. Later on, CRRC-Armenia Research Director Artak Ayunts, in his turn, warmly greeted the participants and continued with the lecture on Introduction to the Research Design, enriched and elaborated further by Dr. Manasyan on Developing Research Methodology.

The week-long summer school integrated separate sessions focusing on the theoretical, empirical and case-based solutions. During the succeeding week, the participants were lectured by the group of experienced and acknowledged academicians and professionals, such as Dr. Artur Mkrtchyan, YSU Sociology Faculty Dean, who talked about Hypothesis Development, Gayane Ghukasyan, and Dr. Maria Zasvavskaya – both YSU professors (Sampling Design/Database Quality Control). Later on, independent expert Arpine Porsughyan presented main theoretical and practical propositions of survey questionnaire design, while а sociology coryphaeus, director of the “Sociometer” sociological center Aharon Adibekyan concentrated on organizational moments of survey fieldwork. Finally, last day was wholly dedicated to data analysis with SPSS program, including cluster and factor analysis brilliantly elaborated by CRRC-Armenia’s devoted friend and bright professional Dr. Vahe Mosvisyan.

Based on the feedback of attendees, the whole course  was valuable and informative on its every stage. The participants admitted that “…this summer school provided a week to remember for everyone” (Gayane), and “… the program was so intense we were not able to walk around, and we didn't know whether to complain or to be glad about that” (Arpine); however, they were very excited and “… looking forward to implement the invaluable knowledge and skills received during the summer school” (Sona).

All in all, this Summer School tried to spread on approaches that better reflect the research practice, using a combination of theory and case study analysis, to clarify issues regarding applied research, and to explore strengths and limitations of current research methods, making sure that the outcomes are relevant in and for practice. With hope for continuation, it combined an interest in describing and explaining and practicing using knowledge as a means, working with practitioners and researchers to expand and promote traditional and new ways of social science research.

July 9, 2014

Extending the borders: CRRC-Armenia junior fellow presenting at the International Conference on “Religious Diversification Worldwide and in Central and Eastern Europe”

By Marianna Fidanyan, CRRC Junior Fellow
CRRC-Armenia 2013 Junior Fellow Marianna Fidanyan participated in the conference with the paper about the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC). She gave her speech during the session on diversification of church and state relations, and talked about the historical role of the AAC, the current situation, and perceptions of the church in the Republic of Armenia (RА) and in Diaspora. Marianna’s participation was kindly supported by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of the Republic of Armenia.
The Conference was organized by the International Study of Religion in Eastern and Central Europe Association (ISORECEA) in cooperation with Vytautas Magnus University and Lithuanian Society for theStudy of Religions. It took place on 24-27 April in Kaunas, Lithuania, and gathered over 90 participants.
The main purpose of the conference was to reveal the patterns of religious diversification within the Central and Eastern European (CEE) societies, with the focus on differences in approaches, adaption processes and attitudes of the states towards the changing situation. The conference had an objective of bringing together scholars from different disciplines in order to share experience and knowledge on the most foreground issues concerning the religious freedom vis-à-vis the emerging diversification processes in the region. The conference program also included the issues of religious tolerance, church and state relations, religious minorities, human rights, etc. During 18 parallel sessions, about 80 papers were presented by the scholars from 26 countries of the world.

Irena Borowik, professor of religious studies at the Jagiellonian University and co-founder of the ISORECEA, gave the first plenary speech. She mainly talked about processes transforming religious field in CEE during the last decades with focus on the changes taking place inside the religious systems and around them. The session was followed by the speech of Eileen Barker, professor emeritus of the sociology of religion at London School of Economics, devoted to the diversification among New Religious Movements, paying attention to the special characteristics that different generations of those movements have. The last plenary session mainly covered the issues of interaction between the religion, state and society in the Baltic States and was represented by Ringo Ringvee, the adviser at the religious affairs department at the Estonian Ministry of theInterior.

Ms. Fidanyan’s paper comprised of social research in addition to the extensive review of scientific literature. The most of the findings were based on 15 in-depth interviews with historians and theologians and other experts on issues in question, as well as AAC priests and representatives of minority religious organizations. Moreover, two focus group discussions with local and diaspora parish members were held in order to find out how the Diasporan Armenians perceive the AAC as compared to those from the RA. The comments made during the discussion panel, helped to further develop the paper and submit it to the Edited Collection of Essays on “Religion and Migration in the Black Sea Region”.

Furthermore, along with coauthor Arman Gasparyan, she represented the most recent findings of the study entitled “The Armenian Apostolic Church - Historical Role, Current Perceptions and Function among the Armenian Diaspora” during the presentation at CRRC-Armenia on July 2, 2014.

May 13, 2014

Public Presentation on Armenian Tax Perception Survey

By Diana Hovakimyan

On May 7th, 2014, the USAID-funded Tax Reform Project (TRP) team held a public presentation on Armenian Tax Perception Survey 2013, which was designed and conducted by Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC)-Armenia in November-December 2013. More than 1,440 households and 400 business entities and individual entrepreneurs, selected through multi-stage clusterized sampling, were interviewed in all regions of the Republic of Armenia via face-to-face interviews with standardized questionnaire.

The main goals of survey were to identify attitudes of general public and business community toward the tax authorities, facilitate an improved public-private discourse, help develop effective and efficient tax policies and tax administration, and raise awareness of tax policy and tax administration related issues in the Republic of Armenia. Public presentation of the CRRC-Armenia implemented survey results was an opportunity for the Government of Armenia, private sector organizations, advocacy groups, business associations, as well as tax professionals and other interested stakeholders to get information on public perceptions about tax related issues, and discuss the main findings of the survey. 

In his opening remarks Mr. Janusz Szyrmer, Chief of Party of the USAID Tax Reform Project, emphasized the significance of such initiative. Mr. Gagik Khachatryan, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Armenia, mentioned that the survey results could serve as an important guide in developing the tax code. Director of USAID/Armenia Karen Hilliard noted that there was a need to conduct the survey annually in order to benchmark the progress of the Armenian tax system over time. According to Dr. Hilliard, the implemented survey will play a key role in promoting dialogue between the state and private sector. In addition, Mr. Jean-Michel Happi, the World Bank Country Manager for Armenia recognized the importance of the survey in improving the tax system in Armenia. 

Afterwards, CRRC-Armenia Program Coordinator Lusine Zakaryan presented the main findings of the survey. According to the findings, 67% of household respondents receive information about taxes from the TV and radio, whereas 48% of businesses receive the same information from tax bodies.

Fifty percent of households and 52% of businesses agreed that if paying taxes were easy and less-time consuming, people would be more willing to pay them. 

Other findings indicated that one of the main reasons for avoiding or evading tax payments for the majority of households (58%) and businesses (56%) were high tax rates. 

Interestingly, 44% of all surveyed businesses think that businesses pay bribes to tax/customs authorities, and one of the reasons (36%) for this is to pay less taxes.


At the end, Mr. Armen Alaverdyan, Deputy Head of the State Revenue Committee mentioned that there was a need to make a comparative study with other transition countries to have more complex and consolidated approach in the long run.

Other information on TRP can be accessed through CRRC-Armenia website.

May 4, 2014

Caucasus Barometer 2013: Hopes for the Better Future

By Valeria Sargsyan

On April 18, at Ani Plaza Hotel, recently released results of the Caucasus Barometer 2013, an annual cross-border survey in the South Caucasus region, were presented to the public. Over 80 participants of the presentation were welcomed by the Yerevan State University vice-rector Dr. Ruben Markosyan, World Bank (WB) External Affairs Officer Vigen Sargsyan, and CRRC-Armenia Research Director Artak Ayunts. 

Dr. Markosyan emphasized the need for such high-quality research in the region, as the one CRRC-Armenia provides, and expressed deep satisfaction with a possibility for researchers, analysts, and all interested people to compare data on different issues across the countries in the region. Mr. Sargsyan, in his turn, underlined the importance of CRRC-Armenia research and expressed regret on not fully using that invaluable data. He also expressed gratification to the CRRC culture to openly share the primary datasets, which goes on line with the WB open-access approach.

CRRC-Armenia CEO Heghine Manasyan began her presentation with extending gratitude over EPF-Armenia, Yerevan State University, National Statistical Service of Armenia, Carnegie Corporation, and CRRC-Armenia staff for many years of fruitful, productive and efficient cooperation. She presented findings based on new questions regarding awareness of regional conflicts, Armenia's joining the Eurasian Customs Union, and human rights and social media usage questions, as well as traditionally covered population's attitudes on economic, social, political and other vital issues in the South Caucasus.

As in previous years, unemployment and poverty are issues worrying people most in Armenia (45% and 16%) and in Georgia (54% and 10%), while Azerbaijanis tend to mention regional conflicts (38%) followed by unemployment (25%) as the most important issues being faced by their country.

Attitudes towards country's membership in the Eurasian Economic Community-Customs Union (EEC-CU) and European Union (EU) across countries were diverse as well: 65% of Georgians support the country’s membership in EU, while only about 41% of Armenians and 34% of Azerbaijanis do so. Instead, 55% of respondents in Armenia support its membership in the (EEC-CU), against 32% of Georgians. Not surprising then 83% of Armenians considering Russia as the main friend of the country.

It is worth mentioning that 34% of Armenian thinks that the country is not a democracy, as opposed to 18% of Azerbaijanis and 11% of Georgians thinking the same way. Moreover, this figure has been growing during past 3 years in Armenia (28 and 27% in 2012 and in 2011 years respectively). Nevertheless, majority of people in all three countries think they have the right to openly say what they think:

As observed, people in South Caucasus countries are not well aware of the regional conflicts in their neighboring countries: around half of the Armenians and Azerbaijanis haven’t even heard about Georgian-Abkhaz conflict; however, 62% of Georgians said they have heard about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Moreover, the very fact that 35% of Azerbaijani people believe that this conflict could be solved by peaceful negotiation raises hopes for better future.

As part of the social capital and values fragment of the presentation,  Dr. Manasyan noted that 35% of Azerbaijanis tend to think that education is the most important factor for getting a good job (as opposed to 19% in Armenia and 28% in Georgia) and for well-being of the children: 41% against 28% both in Armenia and Georgia.

Still, people’s attitude towards economic future in Armenia leaves much to be desired yet: only 30% hope that financial situation of their children will be better off when they reach their age, with average score of 5.2 from 10 on perceived household economic rung.

As in previous years, Armenia shows higher figures for interest in emigration, either temporary (60%) or permanent (31%). And finally, Georgia brings up the rear with the traditionally highest level of happiness in the region: 7.0 from 10 against 6.6/6.7 in Armenia/Georgia.

The presentation, followed by question and answer session, was mainly attended by researchers, NGO and government representatives, policy analysts and other interested parties.

All the Caucasus Barometer related materials and documents are available on the CRRC-Armenia webpage.

February 6, 2014

First Work-in-Progress Discussion at CRRC Armenia

Armenian Police Reform in Comparative Perspective

By Zofia Baldiga, CRRC-Armenia International Fellow

On January 29th, CRRC-Armenia hosted a presentation on Armenian Police Reform in Comparative Perspective delivered by Nona Shahnazarian and Matthew Light. The event was organized within newly launched Work in Progress academic discussion series coordinated by CRRC-Armenia in cooperation with various scientific institutions. The aim of the series is to create an opportunity for the fellow researchers to present their research on the early stage, share their methodology, present tentative findings and receive some valuable feedback on their ongoing projects. 

The research on Armenian Police Reform is currently being conducted by Nona Shahnazarian, Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Social Research in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Matthew Light, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science of the University of Toronto, Canada.  

The objective of this comparative case study is to address current police reforms in Armenia in comparison to other CIS states, notably Georgia, as well as to give an insight on the reform process, structural changes inside the police entities, anti-corruption measures facilitation and implementation, human rights issues, recruitment and training schemes for newly hired policemen, the introduction of community policing to Armenia and public awareness of the ongoing structural changes in the police forces. Moreover, Shahnazarian's and Light's research is the first systematic attempt to describe the recent evolution of policing in Armenia.

During the presentation, the subject was elaborated upon and the research methods and tentative findings were discussed. The study is based on an ethnographic research and a desk study on legal framework and documents. Between 2011 and 2013 Shahnazarian conducted roughly 200 interviews in several Armenian cities (Yerevan, Vanadzor, Stepanavan, Hrazdan, and Masis). Among the respondents were NGO activists, police officers,  ordinary citizens (mostly taxi drivers), government officials, and, last but not least, high-positioned police officers. The interviews were taken to assess the conceptual change of Armenia’s policemen behavior (particularly the highway police) patterns in the daily formal and informal interactions with citizens.

In a nutshell, the research revealed that major structural changes inside Armenian police forces are being implemented. The anti-corruption measures, the conceptual changes in training programs, improvements in treating detainees, creation of a new „Elite Battalion” and the increasing numbers of women students in the Police Academy could be brought as  an example of a new, good practice.  Unfortunately, the police reform has a very low public recognition. Both ordinary citizens and NGO representatives have low awareness of the evolution of the institutional approach to policing.

Among the attendees were representatives of civil society organizations and research institutions. This informative and important presentation was then followed up by a lively discussion during which the issues of the public trust towards the police forces and public awareness of the ongoing structural changes were raised.

January 30, 2014

Exploring Circular Labor Migration: A Look from Poland

Introducing the newest International Fellow:
by Zofia Bałdyga

The high level of both temporary and permanent labor migration from Armenia is considered as an issue of fundamental importance for the state and for the society. The phenomenon of both permanent and pendulum migration from Armenia was examined by various institutions. It was a subject of interest of several think tanks (International Center for Human Development) (ICHD)), research centers (CRRC-Armenia), NGOs active in the field of development aid (People in Need), migration (IOM), and humanitarian organizations (Caritas).

In addition, migration management facilitation is a high priority issue for wide range of international and foreign counterparts. Indeed, EU Advisory Group aims to provide Armenian government with tailored expert advice and to ensure that good practices designed and implemented in European Union member states are promoted and facilitated in Armenia. This initiative seems to be a meaningful example of deep understanding of a cooperation need between countries that accept or release migrants.

Another project, “Strengthening Evidence-Based Management of Labor Migration in Armenia”,  jointly implemented by ICHD and IOM, could serve as a good model for creating networks between destination countries and countries of origin to  prevent irregular migration of Armenian residents through regulation and to facilitate the employment possibilities both for potential employers and employees.  Additionally, the project is appealed to assist competent Armenian Private Employment Agencies striving to compete on the European labor market by enhancing their service delivery, and to foster circular labor migration (CLM) between Armenia and the EU.

In Armenia, migration is very often perceived as a one-way road leading from Armenia to the CIS countries, United States, Canada or European Union member states. Nevertheless, I do believe that this road is bidirectional. I see well-managed circular labor migration as an opportunity to combat irregular and illegal migration and to bring gained skills and capital back to Armenia.

Though, circular migration existed in Armenia life since Soviet times, the relevant state policy is still underdeveloped, while the CLM model is strongly and widely advocated by European Union policy advisers. CLM could be seen as an instrument to regulate seasonal work in Russia, traditionally being the main and preferred destination of low and medium-skilled circular labor migrants from Armenia. The main advantage of organized CLM schemes would be the holistic assistance to the job-seekers ensuring that their rights as workers are protected. Successful implementation of this conceptualization shall involve NGO sector, governmental and employment agencies, both private and public. 

Bilateral agreements on workers mobility are subject of interest of both Armenia and EU member states. As an example, the Polish case could be mentioned.  Polish Migration Policy, an official document reflecting the governmental approach to migration and integration of third country nationals to the Republic of Poland, confirms that the vision of potential regulations of migration flows between the countries is very congruent and enables bilateral cooperation. Moreover, Poland has declared a political will to develop its relations with Eastern Partnership countries, and, in particular, now Armenians are able to get the work permit for Poland through the simplified scheme.

As a young researcher from Poland experienced in migration policy analysis, I have always been longing for gaining work experience and deeper insight into migration profile and migration policy measures developed in traditional emigration countries, citizens of which I have been encountering on a daily basis during my work in Warsaw. In 2012, I was given an enriching opportunity to work with ULISSES unit, a division within ICHD, responsible for implementation of the above mentioned project. As an intern, I was responsible for European stakeholders identification and external communications with foreign counterparts, as well as for legal framework and seasonal employment regulations analysis. During the two months of my internship, I developed a deep interest in Armenian migration policy towards circular migrants and returnees. In summer 2013, I returned to Yerevan and to ICHD to support the project team as a CLM Expert. 

Now, I am joining CRRC-Armenia as an International Fellow to gain more profound scientific insight into the phenomenon of temporary migration from Armenia. In addition, I am deeply interested in push factors repelling Armenian citizens from their homeland, such as unemployment, lack of career development opportunities, or women's underprivileged situation in the labor market.  

Furthermore, mentioned developments show that CLM management is a promising field that might lead to fruitful international cooperation and shall bring Armenian citizens enriching opportunities to develop their careers and gain new skills. I believe that, to achieve this goal, policy makers, researchers, and NGO workers have to cooperate and monitor the migration patterns development and consequences. This belief has influenced my decision to stay in Armenia and continue working on migration issues.

December 28, 2013

Prospects for the Global and Regional Economy: IMF Public Lecture

By Valeria Sargsyan

On December 20, 2013 CRRC-Armenia in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative Office in Armenia and the Yerevan State University (YSU) organized a public lecture on Prospects for Global and Regional Economy”. The lecture, conducted by the IMF Resident Representative in Armenia Ms. Tereza Daban-Sanchez, was hosted by the YSU, and attracted students, bankers, auditors, researchers, and business people interested in economic developments and their effect on Armenia.

Overall, Ms. Sanchez presented the regular issue of IMF’s “Regional Economic Outlook: Middle East and Central Asia” Report. She began her presentation with a remark on relatively weak global growth, including China, Russia and other major emerging market economies, noting that global growth forecast is a subject to a number of risks, however, and mitigating these risks requires further policy efforts, mainly in the advanced economies.

She further went on with a discussion about the Caucasus and Central Asia region as the one containing both oil and gas exporters and importers thus showing reasonably steady growth rate. This stability is reflecting in a recovery in hydrocarbon sector, strong commodity prices and a firm growth in domestic demand, supported by stable inflows of remittances. However, there are some risks stemming from slowdown in key emerging markets, tightening of global financial conditions, and weak domestic institutions and accountability paired with political uncertainty. As for policy response, further efforts are needed to rebuilt buffers, as well as more exchange rate flexibility and structural reforms to spur job creation and private investment are essential, she believes.

Ms. Sanchez concluded this part of the lecture with a summary of near term priorities for the Caucasus and Central Asian Region, for both oil and gas exporters (to preserve part of the oil and gas wealth for future generation and ensure that budgets are sustainable) and importers (to create fiscal space by reining in hard-to-reverse expenditures and by broadening tax bases, Increase exchange rate flexibility to lower the risk of output and price fluctuations).

Turning to Armenia, Ms. Sanchez presented an overview of Armenian economy, existing risks, policies, challenges and obstacles as related to the CCA emerging market vision, that is a higher, sustainable, less volatile, and more inclusive growth. “Achieving the vision will not be easy, and CCA countries face many challenges along the way,” she stated. The possible policy recommendations for external/global and domestic challenges for Armenia were made, including strengthening fiscal frameworks, fostering financial sector development, and focusing on structural reforms.

The lecture was followed by a lively discussion mainly focused at the awareness and information sources and availability, regarding existing economic situation and reforms run, as well as IMF’s role and place in Armenian economic policy.

December 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, CRRC-Armenia!

By Valeria Sargsyan

On December 11th, 2013, the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC) - Armenia celebrated its 10-year anniversary at the Yerevan State University assembly hall with a meeting followed by a reception.

CRRC-Armenia was honored with presence of many representatives of non-governmental organizations and government agencies, academic community, international organizations, partners and fellows.  The event was also attended by special guests:  Ms. Deana Arsenian - Vice-President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, HE US Ambassador John Heffern, Minister - Chief of Staff of the RA Government Vache Gabrielyan, Dr. Aram Simonyan - Rector of Yerevan State University, Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan - Eurasia Partnership Foundation CEO.

The meeting hall was filled to capacity and created a positive atmosphere for celebrating this important yet obliging landmark. A video reflecting on milestones that dot the CRRC-Armenia’s decade-long history made it possible for guests to explore it. The two-hour celebration included various speakers taking the podium. The guests expressed congratulatory messages, words of gratitude directed towards CRRC-Armenia and acknowledgement of its past and present activities and accomplishments. Vache Gabrielyan, joining the voices, read out the congratulatory message from the RA Prime Minister and awarded Heghine Manasyan RA Prime Minister’s commemorative medal. 

Ambassador Heffern also welcomed the guests and admitted that “…it is hard to imagine a better and more productive collaboration than this one between YSU and CRRC-Armenia.” He also noted that nowadays, when politics relies on facts and conclusions, CRRC provides deep, valid and reliable data that is used by many public and private agencies.

Eventually, CRRC-Armenia CEO Dr. Heghine Manasyan introduced key landmarks and achievements of CRRC-Armenia over the last 10 years. "We, the CRRC-Armenia staff, are very proud to hear today all those words of acknowledgement and appreciation," she admitted. “There is no better time to get started again than with the coming of a significant anniversary. As we look back on our achievements over the past 10 years, including our recent establishment as an independent foundation, we recognize that these achievements have been made possible through outstanding acts of caring and a commitment from our donors, partners, users, and friends. I earnestly hope that our efforts and accomplishments have prepared us towards future goals and objectives for a bright and prosperous future. At the same time, more than just marking the passage of years, this important date should connect our high-water marks with past and present CRRC-Armenia staff members, since it is really people and relationships that matter most and keep us moving forward”, said Dr. Manasyan.

Certainly, while celebrating the anniversary, CRRC-Armenia was celebrating devotion to social science research, loyalty to the partners and friends, value of high-quality research resources, and appreciation to the donors for its achievements. It was both a celebration, with socializing and recalling, and an inspirational dispute over the present and future of CRRC-Armenia. The interactive communication illustrated what goes on now and will be going on in the future at CRRC-Armenia: groundbreaking research, valid data collection, reliable resource provision, and high-professional training, all in one as always aimed at strengthening social science research and public policy analysis in the South Caucasus, particularly in Armenia.

Follow the the event full photo report and coverage on YSU website and in the newspaper.