Corruption in World Bank projects in Armenia Finally Make News Agenda

The World bank scandal became one of those, so far rare cases, when an important news item is consistently filtered out of the news agenda by traditional media, and only continuous blogging efforts persist in exposing it until the item finally becomes center of attention. As Onnik Krikoryan reports, although media in Armenia refused to cover the World Bank corruption scandal in Armenia several months ago, continuous efforts by British whistleblower Bruce Tasker on his own blog, Blowing the World Bank Whistle and also Oneworld Multimedia, the most popular English language Armenian blog,  finally rendered results. And although so far it is only RFE/RL reporting the developments, looks like the story will no longer stay in oblivion:

A U.S. anti-corruption watchdog joined on Thursday a British whistleblower in accusing the World Bank of covering up what they see as gross misuse of a $30 million loan that was meant to upgrade Armenia’s battered water infrastructure.
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Tasker claims that the installation of water meters was a major source of corruption among Armenian and foreign officials as well as private firms involved in the project’s implementation. He says local contractors alone were able to pocket up to $10 profit on the sale of each meter by charging customers for installation.

Onnik Krikoryan further reports, how media outlets have been reluctant to “get on the bad side of the World Bank”:

Tasker set up his blog when news outlets here refused to cover the story at the beginning of the year although the former finally did so only after this blog brought the alleged scandal to greater public attention. Eventually, some media outlets here did follow suit, but many publications here and abroad were hesitant in taking material from yours truly when I approached them. Nobody wanted to get on the bad side of the World Bank.
However, New Internationalist published my short piece on Tasker and his battle with the World Bank at the end of October. Now, RFE/RL reports that the scandal has hit the big time in Yerevan. However, the World Bank continue to deny any wrongdoing. Time will tell.

Telethon Collects $15 Million 275 Thousand

homeTelethon 2007 is over, with very satisfactory results – this is such a great, unifying initiative, that it is hard to see any other example, when the Armenian Diaspora collectively supports the development of our common fatherland – Armenia. The Telethon was also well represented on the Internet: the Armenian version of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund was quite up to date in all three language versions: Armenian, English and French.

Although logically, as we have, according to some estimates around 2 million Armenians in Russia, the website should have a Russian version as well, I somehow felt gloatingly satisfied to observe this omission. Here is at last an all-Armenian event, where Russia doesn’t play the dominant role. That is indeed satisfying, call me anti-Russian if you will!

More about the achievements of the Telethon 2007 can be seen on  this section of All-Armenian Fund’s website, as well as in various press reports:

[Panorama.am | 14:12 23/11/2007] The annual telethon organized by Pan Armenia Fund ended several hours ago in Los Angeles. The telethon managed to collect $15 million 275 thousand which is more than collected last year, $14 million.

The pan national fundraising was conducted under the heading “One nation, one future.” The collected money will be used to recover villages in Tavush region of Armenia and Martuni region of Nagorno Karabakh.
Pan Armenia Fund reports say people for Los Angeles, Europe, Asia as well as Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia actively participated.

While I greatly compliment the Armenian Diaspora on this  growing amount of financial assistance they are inputting into the development of Armenia, I also have to note, that the key indicator to help me measure the dynamics of Telethon and the success of the All-Armenian Fund was the fact, that only 142950000 AMD was collected by the 2500 Armenian organizations this time. Considering today’s CBA exchange rate that is $453507 US, or 2.96% of the total amount pledged. Comparing it with last years figures I was somehow depressed to see, that this year’s figure pledged from Armenia is lower than last year’s  $1.54 million or 11% of the total. What does this mean? Don’t the Armenian companies directly benefit from the programs implemented by the fund? Does it mean, that they don’t trust it anymore? Or is it, because the outgoing and weakened President Kocharian and  Serge Sargsyan, who disparately needs the support of big business, decided to not to pressure the big Armenian businessmen to contribute more? Indeed, there are many speculations and rumors, that Armenian businesses contribute only because they are told to from above. And that is a depressing idea.

Anyway, despite controversy over telethon (and I remember very well how Armenian blogger Nazarian was speaking about his doubts about whether to contribute or no), bare figures show us, that the Diaspora trusts the Telethon more and more. And despite all the reservations, I have to compliment the All-Armenian Fund and the Armenian Diaspora for this new achievement in joining forces to support the nation one more time. Diaspora, we need you, and it’s not just a matter of financial resources. We need the understanding, that we are all One Nation, One Future indeed.

Artur Baghdasaryan Endorses LTP's Anti-Fraud Measures and That's It

“Orinats Yerkir, which is one of only two opposition groups represented in parliament, [] endorsed two anti-fraud amendments to Armenia’s Election Code that were put forward by Ter-Petrosian at a rally on Friday. Baghdasarian’s party said the proposed changes will be incorporated into its own package of election-related amendments which will be submitted to the National Assembly soon.” RFE/RL reports.
However, in a statement issued on Thursday, the “Rule of Law”(Orinats Yerkir) party, which is the leading Armenian opposition party by the number of Parliamentary mandates, “refused to support former President Levon Ter-Petrosian in the upcoming presidential election, saying that it will not reconsider its decision to field its leader Artur Baghdasarian’s candidacy.”
It is interesting, that unlike Vazgen Manukyan’s utterly negative attitude towards Levon Ter-Petrossian, “Orinats Yerkir” seems to have assumed a more flexible policy. With one hand they implement suggestions brought forward by LTP, with the other they refuse to support his candidacy. Does it mean Artur Baghdasaryan is sending a hidden signal, that under change of circumstances at some point he might still be ready to endorse Ter-Petrossian? Moreover, from the same source we find out, that:

At the same time the party said it is ready to work together with Ter-Petrosian and other opposition candidates in trying to ensure the freedom and fairness of the February 19 vote.

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