Center for Strategic Initiatives has ambitious programs in tourism, education and other spheres
YEREVAN, APRIL 21, ARMENPRESS. The Center for Strategic Initiatives (CSI) was established not to replace any body, rather to complement, assist and support quicker and effective implementation of reforms and programs through the public-private sector cooperation.
Alexander Khachaturyan – CSI Executive Director, Adviser to the Prime Minister of Armenia, gave an interview to Armenpress talking about the goals of the Center, as well as what programs it carries out.
-Mr. Khachaturyan, the CSI is working on the development of new programs aimed at the economic development. Can you talk about some of those programs?
-I want to mention about one important nuance: our Center doesn’t always develop programs, it also assists the Government to develop and implement new programs aimed at boosting the economic development. The Center is a supporting platform. We don’t replace any structure, rather, we support and assist the programs to be carried out quicker, more effective through the public-private sector cooperation.
We are working on various programs. The first one is the development of national digitization strategy. It relates to all spheres where digitization is possible. I think that document is very important since we will decide what is our final goal and target based on this, what are our advantages, in which directions we can differ from other states taking into account our geography, human capital, national resources and based on this we will decide our priorities.
Works are carried out with the State Revenue Committee, we propose various changes. The cooperation with the SRC is very productive. We are already preparing the second round of reforms, concerning what strategy we must have aimed at making tax, customs administration reforms, what vision we must form and etc.
In terms of investment programs, different works are being implemented. We have collected nearly 80 investment programs, and our team examines them. Our Center also examines investmentprojects.am platform. The Center’s task is to understand which investment programs can be implemented on the one hand, and to propose the investor realistic programs on the other hand. I hope we will have over 20 well-prepared investment programs.
To what extent are these investment programs realistic?
-The problem is that the investment cannot be made quickly since if a person invests his own money, he needs to think and assess whether that program will be profitable. As the investor needs information, analysis or research, we work on that path so that he will have all the necessary information, as well as we provide maximum favorable environment to make a decision and take steps.
I can say that there is a great interest. Investors arrive and hold talks over the programs in which they are interested. We will do everything to have over 2-3 major investments until the end of 2017.
-What works does the CSI carry out in tourism field?
-The Center cooperates with the State Tourism Committee of the Ministry of Economic Development and Investments. Our goal is to certainly review Armenia’s engagement in international tourism expos over which our team is already working. Armenia first of all needs to be presented in the exhibitions with a special form, with all its opportunities, attractiveness and advantages, then it can make proposals to tour-operators.
Secondly, we are working with the State Tourism Committee aimed at installing Tourism Satellite Account, already experts are engaged in the process. In order to be able to correctly target the tourism marketing policy, we must have sufficient information about tourism. We have an information that nearly 1 million 200.000 tourists visit Armenia and we have the amount of money the tourist spends in the country, nearly 800-1000 USD. The question is the following: when a tourist arrives in Armenia where he/she spends the money, what is more interesting for him/her in Armenia, what he/she doesn’t like here and so on. We can sum up all these through Tourism Satellite Account. If we see that the tourist didn’t like the road of the region, we will improve it.
-In your opinion, which sectors in Armenia have a great potential to ensure economic growth and why?
-Currently we are focused on several directions, but it doesn’t mean that the remaining fields have no potential. The Center’s main priority directions are information technologies, tourism, agriculture and processing agriculture, education, public administration system, tax and customs administration.
We have accepted several ideas as a base. Armenia faces a problem of efficiency. Nearly 50% of our human resource received higher education which is a good figure. But in line with this, our GDP is at low level, the country’s overall productivity is low. In term of agriculture, we are in a region where there is a demand for quality products. There is a big demand for Armenian products in Russia, the Middle East, the UAE and other states. Now the problem is how to do to pass from small volumes to big ones and at the same time to ensure the same standard, always what the market demands. It is very important for Armenia to be able to produce not only for the domestic consumption, but also for the export. When the company works towards exports, the market volumes, the entire business model, the number of investments highly increase, and the production quality rises.
-Does the Center cooperate with international structures? For what programs is this cooperation directed?
-One of the first steps of the Center has been to reveal ways of cooperation with the international structures. Our Center cooperates with all international structures in Armenia, regular meetings are being held. We have tried to understand their activity and to explain them our own one. The international structures need to understand what is the purpose of our Center, what it does and etc.
We have a very close cooperation with the European Union, we are jointly working on different programs, such as on strategy, vision development and etc. We are actively cooperating with the UNDP, they provide us human and technical resources.
There is also a cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) within the frames of a number of programs.
Moreover, the Center also tries to ensure the link with the private sector. We, in fact, are a bridge between the private and public sectors. The Center is open for all.
-One of the main goals of the Center is the optimization of public administration system. What works are carried out on this path?
-It is already several months we are working on this direction. A team has been formed in the Government where our partners are working on the reforms of the public administration system. At the first stage we want to certainly change the civil service legislation. In the next stage, we have planned to make a functional review. All these can be done jointly with international experts. In other words, we will analyze the entire public administration system, will examine all functions.
-Recently you have presented programs in line with the nationalization of Sustainable Development Goals. What are those programs?
-We are going to examine to what extent our today’s strategy is in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals. In this context, we are discussing with the UNDP the idea of creating Sustainable Development Goals laboratory which will analyze our reforms to see how they are in accordance with the sustainable development goals, whether we reach success from sustainable development perspective.
-According to you, which fields in Armenia require long-term solutions?
-Education and public administration. People expect rapid changes in these fields. We want to make Armenia’s educational system modern, however, time is needed. The same applies to the public administration system.
To sum up, we try to solve problems, issues and move forward.
Interview by Karen Khachatryan