In general, this is a good and multifaceted book. It considers the evolution and prospects of being an Armenian as a national sociocultural phenomenon that is globally unique and local – in Armenia and Artsakh. The Jews and Greeks survived in the Middle East as well. The remaining civilizations disappeared into the brew of history, dominated by invasions of barbarians, and were ruled by the empires until the beginning of the 20th century. The First World War destroyed three empires, under the fragments of one of which we fell due to the collapse of the Ottoman imperial thinking and its replacement with Turkish nationalism and pan-Turkism.
The text frames’ system used in the discussion paper provides fascinating excursions into the history and various topics.
This work uses the Acemoglu-Robinson theory of extractive and inclusive institutions, according to which the latter can only exist in a democracy. In their book, Acemoglu and Robinson mistakenly describe China as extractive, although it is clear that, thanks to Deng Xiaoping, the country has become economically inclusive for the masses, creating the basis for China’s development and growth. In response, the masses agreed to leave the political control to the Communist Party. But the masses in the United States agreed also to a two- rather than a multi-party system, as in Europe. It is more important to understand the successes of Asian countries in creating a development-oriented state as a system of institutions and regulation encouraging accelerated industrialization and export.
The authors write that Singapore was not democratic at first. Well, we should rather talk about the literacy and patriotism of the elites and the political decision at the highest level to create a development-focused state. And then work on the application of the best practices and the creation of institutions, including private property, in such “communist” countries as China and Vietnam.
Democracy and determination came to Armenia to establish a rule of law and stop corruption. But equal opportunities and competition are not enough for the accumulation of capital and investment in an export-oriented growth. A development-focused state means an ability to successfully pursue industrial policy and carry out modernization in the wake of the 4th industrialization.
The opposition of “the Vardanyan system” to the state as a phenomenon for the people should be replaced with its ability to negotiate and receive privileges from the state, which made it possible to develop non-profit (IDeA, FAST, Aurora) initiatives and commercial interests (Ameria) that have already created significant economic activity in the tourism sector, education, and ICT. That is, we are talking about successful public-private partnerships. But at the same time, it would be nice to show (if that is the case) that Ameria provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises on better terms than other commercial banks.
“Armenia 2020” had an impact as an important soft power and a trigger for the joint activities of the near and far diaspora for its more active involvement in the development of Armenia. But the subsequent actions were not sufficient for the implementation of the Singapore scenario. Per capita exports in Armenia do not exceed $ 1,000. In Singapore, they are $ 70,000 (though this is mainly re-export). The same indicator in Israel is very high and twice as high as in Greece. That is, we lag very much, including from Greece.
While reading the book, I also thought about the phenomenon of Vardanyan, who managed to complete his projects in Tatev, the international school, and the bank, and he is able to organize serious forums and initiatives that serve as catalysts for the development of possible breakthrough directions for and around Armenia. It is important that he thinks systematically when drawing his projects. I would call this phenomenon “the Vardanyan System”.
Nune Alekyan understood and talentedly helped her co-author describe this system. I even got the feeling that this was an endeavor of a unique one-person band. At the same time, Vardanyan managed to develop his system even though the rest of the economy bent under the yoke of Serzh Sargsyan’s extractive institutions. Well, perhaps such islands of inclusiveness will fit well into the new system of a more progressive and law-based state after the Velvet Revolution?
With all due respect for the role of the individual in history, I am convinced that although one person is able to unite the whole nation, as Nikol Pashinyan did in the hours of the revolution, teams consisting of the best theoreticians and practitioners should work further to implement the country’s development and find the right niche in the regional economy.
At the time, perhaps, more people like Ruben will come to Armenia and receive not exclusive but equal competitive rights to participate in country’s development, that is, more systems will appear, the coordination of which could be carried out by some new development agency of Armenia.
So, Armenia needs several Vardanyan systems that will act based on general rules and complement the state efforts for development (and not oppose to it).
At the same time, the question remains: could others be able to create a similar system of projects in Armenia. Well, apparently, the Vardanyan system significantly affects the development of tourism and, I hope, in the near future, also education and latest technology.
But mere multiplication of the Vardanyan phenomenon and coordination of efforts within the development-oriented state will help the Diaspora to invest in Armenia and Artsakh and facilitate the influx of foreign, non-Armenian, capital, as well as primarily direct investment for the implementation of a new, export-oriented re-industrialization and development of IT, financial and business services in Armenia as a hub for the CIS and the Middle East.
Now, I hope that the government will quickly and as conflict-free as possible do the homework of self-cleaning and turning itself into a motor and development magnet as a result of proliferation of the best global practices and rules of the game to all foreign and local investors who’ll prefer to invest in Armenia and not withdraw their capital from it.
1. The title of the book might perhaps be changed to: “At the Junction: The Time for the Right Decisions.” Crossroads is a place to control oncoming traffic, rather than meetings. And for those living in Russia it can be associated with a supermarket of the same name.
2. On page 7 of the cover letter to first readers, the last paragraph should be amended as follows:
“... The resignation of the government during mass protests reflects the elite’s inability to understand in time the need for radical reforms and institutional changes, which led to the replacement of the old elite with a new one that does not yet have public administration experience, and that is one of the most important threats to revolutions. The correct reforms, changing institutions and creating conditions for the accumulation of capital and investment are the main tasks for solving and achieving success. The biggest mistakes of the old regime: expensive loans, corruption, and a parallel economy with illegal monopolies – must be corrected.”
3. On page 9: The Western Armenians are united by the struggle for recognition of the Genocide, and the Eastern Armenians – for the preservation of Artsakh under control of the Armenians. By and large, we are saved by the struggle for self-preservation in various manifestations, but mainly on our lands. The Diaspora in the developed countries assimilates faster. To what extent the memory of the Armenian roots is preserved remains an open question.
4. The Swiss Armenian community is rather weak and bitty and bears the memory of Turkish, Lebanese and former Soviet Armenians. It reflects the further collapse of the Armenian communities in the Middle East and the emigration also from Armenia. The orphans accepted into the country during the years of the Genocide have assimilated. The community itself is very fragmented. There is no coordination in the development of the relations with Armenia. The main rich people had their own relations with Yerevan. I wonder what will happen under the new Armenian government.