But there are also many failures, particularly in the areas of Diaspora investment. When Karen Karapetyan, the Prime Minister of Armenia, sent an appeal recently to the Diaspora Armenians to strengthen their ties and commitment to Armenia, the response from several Diaspora organizations and activists within Armenia was mostly negative, citing several examples of failed initiatives due to corruption and bribery. Some even blamed the Armenian government for thinking of Diaspora just as a “cow to be milked” (ktan kov).
So, where do we go from here? Is there room for improvement? Are there better alternative ways of growing the Armenia-Diaspora partnership? Are there different ways of solving recurring issues related to mutual trust, confidence or cooperation between the partners? With the impending elections in Armenia next month, I believe it is appropriate to re-assess the form of governance for the Ministry of Diaspora.
Despite all the good intentions, goodwill, and accomplishments of the Ministry of Diaspora, there are serious problems between Diaspora Armenians and Armenia. The initial enthusiasm of the first few years is long gone, when Diaspora Armenians were much more willing to visit, live, work and play, and more significantly, invest in Armenia. There is now a general lack of trust and discontent by the Diaspora Armenians toward Armenian government leaders. When it comes to the issue of investing in Armenia, there is widespread conclusion that investments mostly disappear due to bribery and corruption. When it comes to the issue of governing Armenia, there is heavy criticism of the Armenian government leaders. Growing protests by a multitude of Diaspora intellectuals, celebrities, and artists against the Armenian government leaders is a testament to that.
Armenian government leaders, as well as Armenians living in Armenia may very well tell the protesting Diaspora intelligentsia: “If you want to make a difference, you better move to Armenia, come and live and vote in Armenia, instead of just complaining from abroad.” However, I suggest the Diaspora Armenians would have a much more defensible argument, if they focus on improving the relationships between Diaspora and Armenia. The very reason for the establishment of the Ministry of Diaspora is the Diaspora Armenians.
There is an absolute need to reverse the vicious cycle of mistrust, and as a first step, I suggest that the Minister of Diaspora be a Diasporan Armenian. Along with the additional suggestions given below, there should be confidence—building measures taken by the new government, in order to encourage Diasporan investment into Armenia again. If the government is successful in creating credibility and a level playing field for investors from abroad, the source of potential foreign investment would not only be limited to Diaspora Armenians, but would also attract international investors as well, without the need for appeals from the Prime Minister.
I would like to add the following points.1- The Armenian government does not and will not take seriously the Diaspora intelligentsia protesting against poor governance. However, it would seriously consider any proposal that would improve relationships and flow of investment from Diaspora to Armenia.
The primary purpose of this article is to open up the subject for discussion by government leaders in Armenia as well as among Diasporan community leaders, political, religious, cultural organizations, and interested individuals. The problems have been discussed and argued for many years without any solutions, and it is my hope that by soliciting comments and constructive criticism of this proposal, we can perhaps strive toward a workable, achievable and fair solution to improve the Armenia-Diaspora partnership, for the mutual benefit of all Armenians in Armenia, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh), and the Diaspora.