November 19, 2014

IMF, World Bank, USAID Representatives in Armenia on Achievements, Challenges, and Growth

By Adrineh Der-Boghossian, Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan, CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows

A three-part series



CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan on September 29 and October 3 met with the heads of three major institutions in Armenia: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez, USAID Armenia Mission Director Karen R. Hilliard, and World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey to ask them about their institutions’ priorities and achievements in Armenia, challenges that were particular to their experience in the country, and what they liked the most and the least in Armenia.


Part 3. Being a high-level women official in Armenia.

Asked “What are some challenges that are particular to your experience in Armenia, a country where the majority of state and other prominent institutions are headed by men?”, all three interviewees said their experience of being a woman in charge of a major institution in an environment where many of the public officials are men is not unique to Armenia.

“I find that if there are any gender issues or if the men that I deal with have any particular attitudes about dealing with a woman, the polite nature of Armenian culture would prevent them from ever expressing it. And so, I discern no difficulty, challenges, or obstacles in my interaction with either men or women leaders in Armenia,” said the USAID representative, Hilliard, mentioning that her relationships with counterparts in all the countries in which she’s worked have been “very fluid, very easy, and based on mutual respect.”

The IMF representative Teresa Daban Sanchez was impressed by the high level of professionalism of the Armenian authorities. “When everybody behaves in a professional way, a gender doesn't matter, [if] you are a woman or a man,” she said, adding that she has a good working relationship with all her counterparts.

Ms. Sanchez, however, said it would be better if there was some diversity among decision-makers in Armenia in both the public and private sectors. As she noted, her impression was that Armenia is still in the process of empowering women.” Though, Armenia might be lagging behind other countries, Daban Sanchez opined, it’s only a matter of time until it catches up.

What the World Bank representative, Bailey, preferred to stress, however, were not the differences but the similarities between Armenia and other countries. These are some of her remarks on the issue:

“I think that when you are in a position of leadership you take very seriously the fact that you are representing not just your institution […], but also all the people who work with you.

When I go to a meeting with the government, when I sit in a meeting with ministers, I am representing not just the World Bank, this institution, I am representing every Armenian man and woman who works here in my office.

It’s my responsibility to represent them with integrity, to be very clear and honest in my communication, and to bring all of the best technical knowledge that we have and offer it, whether it’s in a discussion with the Minister for Energy or a discussion with an environmental civil society organization.

No matter who it is from the Armenian side, if I bring a great degree of technical value, if I bring a great deal of integrity, then my experience is people will listen. They will not perhaps worry too much about whether I am a man or a woman. What they are looking for is the value that I bring.”


CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows: Adrineh, Syuzanna, Julya, Vanuhi


November 11, 2014

IMF, World Bank, USAID Representatives in Armenia on Achievements, Challenges, and Growth

By Adrineh Der-Boghossian, Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan, CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows

A three-part series

Part 1 

Part 3

CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan on September 29 and October 3 met with the heads of three major institutions in Armenia: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez, USAID Armenia Mission Director Karen R. Hilliard, and World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey to ask them about their institutions’ priorities and achievements in Armenia, challenges that were particular to their experience in the country, and what they liked the most and the least in Armenia.



Part 2. Armenia: Pros and Cons

Interestingly, all three interviewees cited the warmth of Armenian people as one of the things they enjoyed most about living and working in Armenia.

“This is a very warm and welcoming country. When I walk into a shop, people smile, they say hello — it’s just very friendly. That’s a very nice thing. As a newcomer, you feel very warmly welcomed,” Laura Bailey said, adding that the second thing she liked most about the country was its beautiful scenery.

World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan (left) at the opening ceremony of the Gyumri Technology Center. Sept. 13, 2014. Photo: The World Bank.


The USAID Mission Director Karen Hilliard mentioned Armenia’s incredibly rich history and culture, a fascinating language, and the strength of Armenian family as positive disclosure, adding that "Armenians are such survivors". "It's a pleasure to work here", she confessed.


Dr.  Hilliard  speaks at the official launch of the USAID-funded Pension Reform Implementation Program, Sept. 11, 2013.
Photo: A.Karabekian, USAID/Armenia

While the IMF representative Tereza Daban Sanchez remarked that the quality of life was relatively good, there were certain situations reminding her Armenia still being a country in transition. She pointed to the lack of social cohesion and difficulties for communities to get together, and poor efforts and resources to increase the nation’s welfare collectively. As an example, she mentioned people’s reluctance to follow traffic rules, as drivers do not consider the impact their behavior has on the community’s safety. 

Moreover, Bailey also pointed out the traffic, saying that one thing she would change in Armenia was the “crazy drivers in Yerevan”!

IMF Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez (left) and IMF mission chief for Armenia Mark Horton (center). Press conference. Sept. 30, 2014. Photo: IMF Office to Armenia.

Furthermore, Ms. Hilliard  expressed a concern with regard to high level of corruption. “Armenia faces a lot of external obstacles, which have an impact on economic developments,  but the level of corruption is self-inflicted, it is something that holds Armenia back. What is the thing that I would change? - it will be that”, she said.


November 6, 2014

IMF, World Bank, USAID Representatives in Armenia on Achievements, Challenges, and Growth.

By Adrineh Der-Boghossian, Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan, CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows



A three-part series. 


CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan on September 29 and October 3 met with the heads of three major institutions in Armenia: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez, USAID Armenia Mission Director Karen R. Hilliard, and World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey to ask them about their institutions’ priorities and achievements in Armenia, challenges that were particular to their experience in the country, and what they liked the most and the least in Armenia.


Part 1. Priorities, Achievements, and Assistance to Armenia

The World Bank and USAID's priorities in Armenia are manifold: for the World Bank, these include fostering an investment climate and working not only on economic policy, but also in such sectors as education, health, social protection, and regional development, among others. USAID Armenia, in turn, identified priorities in the areas of private sector competitiveness, improvement of the business environment, financial services for small and medium enterprises, improved primary health care and social services, rural development (particularly in remote corners of Armenia), tourism, civil society development, and local governance. Past USAID activities include cross-border business promotion, civil society and cultural exchanges, but recently, Hilliard said, USAID has decided to focus on the business aspect, leaving the cultural and political aspects to the Public Affairs Section of the US State Department.

Dr. Karen Hilliard, USAID/Armenia Mission Director, presents to the public the USAID assistance strategy for Armenia for the years 2013-2017 at an official event on December 11, 2013. Photo: M.Khachatryan


Hilliard also highlighted the USAID’s endeavors in the energy sector; specifically, helping Armenia link its energy grid more closely with that of Georgia, so that Armenia is not dependent on one source of electricity and the two countries can actually help each other when they have shortages. She mentioned Armenia’s relationship in the energy sector with Iran, but said USAID is not involved “for geopolitical reasons.” However, she added, USAID believes that by forging business and cultural ties to increase tourism, it is preparing for the day when Armenia will no longer be blockaded.

Bailey, in turn, mentioned some of the more tangible areas of the World Bank’s work in Armenia, identifying the reintroduction of preschools and improved access to health (by rehabilitating 10 regional medical centers). “But it’s also important the things that are invisible: like changing the tax law. Sounds very abstract but it turns out that having a good modern tax code is incredibly important to getting businesses to grow,” she added.

The issue of energy dependence was also mentioned by IMF Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez, who identified it as a key priority of the IMF’s agenda with the Armenian authorities. Under the IMF-supported program, the authorities are encouraged to develop a strategy to improve the sustainability and efficiency of the energy sector. Preserving macroeconomic stability and working with the authorities on structural reforms were the other priorities of the IMF in Armenia that Daban Sanchez identified.More specifically, she cited economic growth, job creation, and tax reform as areas in which the IMF focuses and works with the Armenian authorities.

(left to right): Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, IMF mission chief for Armenia Mark Horton, and IMF Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez. Sept. 30, 2014. Photo: IMF Office to Armenia.


Asked in which areas their institution made the greatest strides, Bailey, the World Bank representative, identified competitiveness, while Hilliard, the USAID representative, mentioned disaster relief (following the 1988 earthquake) and growth of civil society, in addition to significant structural reforms such as the modernization of the energy sector, management of natural resources (particularly water), “transitioning from a Soviet-style health system to a more modern primary healthcare system,” and strengthening the pension system.

Ms. Sanchez also mentioned Armenia’s transition from the Soviet period, saying the IMF supported Armenia’s efforts to overcome the challenges of transitioning to a market-based economy and more recently Armenia’s recovery from the global economic crisis. However, despite these achievements,  she said, significant challenges remain. “Growth and inflation remain volatile. Real interest rates are high. Financial markets are under-developed and highly-dollarized. Business climate remains challenging. Poverty and migration continue to be high. Therefore, the IMF is determined to continue to support Armenia with a new three-year arrangement approved in March 2014, which includes policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and structural reforms,” she said.

Regarding the World Bank’s assistance, Bailey mentioned helping Armenia “change the way the economy is structured by reforming the government regulations and providing the incentives for businesses to create jobs.” Though this work is invisible, what is visible, she said, is addressing vulnerability, as the results are more immediate. The World Bank, she said, works with the government on social protection schemes such as the family benefit scheme. In addition, as a result of projects supported by the World Bank, pensioners receive their pensions in a timely manner, and 1 out of every 4 people throughout the country benefitted from temporary employment, many of whom later transferred to a permanent job.

(left to right): World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey, World Bank Regional Director for South Caucasus Henry Kerali, and RA Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan. Sept. 11, 2014. Photo: The World Bank.

The World Bank’s assistance to Armenia has been growing; however, there was a “brief dip” from 2013 to this year. Bailey said the reason for this was technical. There are two “buckets” of funding that the World Bank provides: one to middle income countries; the other, to lower income countries. Until last year, Armenia was eligible for assistance from both funds; however, this year, it is no longer eligible for funding provided to lower income countries. The World Bank believes this is a sign of maturity and evidence of Armenia’s growing economy. It has compensated for a little bit of the loss of funding by offering other resources specific to countries interested in investing in renewable energy resources.

The overall support USAID provides to Armenia also decreased; however, Hilliard said this “reflects the natural evolution of things.” The USAID’s assistance to Armenia in the early years of independence was greater simply because the country’s needs were greater. Over time, Armenia has progressed, and “it’s now about to graduate from lower middle income country to middle income country status. So it’s only natural that foreign assistance would decrease proportionally,” she said.