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Armenia Makes New Bid For Extra U.S. Aid

By Emil Danielyan

The Armenian government has submitted new, much more modest proposals for additional U.S. economic assistance under the Millennium Challenge Account program almost six months after its initial application was found to be unrealistic.

The Finance Ministry announced on Wednesday that the government has asked for about $175 million worth of aid and hopes that its upcoming negotiations with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) , a U.S. government agency managing the scheme, will be successful. “In the coming months the government of Armenia and the MCC will hold negotiations in order to reach a final agreement on the issue,” the ministry said in a statement.

The requested sum pales in comparison with $900 million initially sought by the government. Armenian officials hoped as recently as last September that the money, exceeding Armenia’s annual budget, will be disbursed over the next three years.

But their enthusiasm was apparently cooled at a meeting with U.S. officials in Washington last October. Finance Minister Vartan Khachatrian said shortly afterward that Yerevan should lower its expectations from the scheme designed to promote political and economic reforms around the world. He said the Armenian government will hold more talks with MCC executives and file new proposals “by the end of the year.”

The Finance Ministry statement said the government approved the new aid application on March 25 and submitted it to Washington on Tuesday. It said most of the requested money would be spent on rebuilding battered irrigation networks and roads in rural regions of Armenia.

The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) was unveiled by President George W. Bush last year. Armenia is among 16 developing nations eligible for the program’s first $1 billion aid allocation. They were chosen on the basis of 16 indicators of political and economic reforms.

Armenia has already been a leading per-capita recipient of U.S. assistance which has totaled more than $1.5 billion since 1992.

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