Lincy Foundation Completes
$170 Million Project in Armenia
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
It is said that bad news travels fast. In the case of Armenia, there has
been plenty of bad news in the past 15 years, starting with the Karabagh
War, the earthquake, the blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan, emigration, and
economic as well as political turmoil. The population of Armenia suffered
through several very harsh winters without heat and electricity, and not
much food. Over a million Armenians, trying to survive, were forced to leave
Even though the situation has improved in recent years, some Armenians in
and out of Armenia are still under the impression that the country is
hopelessly mired in a myriad of difficulties and that nothing positive can
be accomplished there. I felt it would be appropriate and uplifting,
particularly during this Holiday Season, to share some good news about a
particular recent accomplishment in Armenia.
With funds provided by The Lincy Foundation, The Armenian government just
completed $150 million of construction projects as well as $20 million of
loans to small and medium size businesses. The infrastructure projects
consisted of highways, tunnels and bridges ($73 million); housing in the
earthquake zone ($45 million); cultural institutions ($18 million); and
Yerevan streets ($14 million).
The $73 million road project built or repaired over 270 miles of highways
throughout Armenia, as well as several key bridges and tunnels. Work on the
1.5-mile long Sevan-Dilijan tunnel was started during the Soviet period, but
abandoned due to its complexity and high cost. Now completed with a $9
million grant from Lincy, the tunnel makes travel possible during the winter
months when the road is occasionally blocked by heavy snowfall.
The $45 million housing project repaired or reconstructed 149 buildings or
3,674 apartments in the earthquake zone (Gumri, Akhurian, Spitak, Vanadzor,
Stepanavan, and Gugark). This means that 3,674 families, who have been
living in temporary shipping containers for the past 15 years, are now the
proud and happy owners of their own modern living quarters.
The $18 million cultural project renovated almost all of Armenia's major
cultural institutions: the Opera and Ballet Academic Theater, the Aram
Khachatrian Philharmonic Hall, Gumri's Vardan Ajemian Dramatic Theater, as
well as 10 other theaters and concert halls; the Paradjanov, Charents,
Toumanian, Saryan, and 5 other home-museums; the Mesrop Mashtots Depository
of Ancient Manuscripts (Madenataran), the State Museum of History of
Armenia, the Vanadzor Cultural Palace, and 4 other museums and exhibition
halls; Garni, the Genocide Memorial Museum, and 2 other historical-cultural
complexes; and the All-Armenian youth camp in Tsaghgadzor which includes a
youth hostel as well as a modern Olympic-size indoor swimming pool. Most of
these buildings are now equipped with modern lighting, sound, and
fire-fighting equipment, as well as heating and air conditioning, so they
can operate year-round.
The $14 million street project renovated 17 major streets and sidewalks as
well as two main squares in Yerevan. New street and traffic lights were
installed on all repaired streets. The dilapidated underground pipes for
water, sewage and gas, as well as the old electric wires crossing the
renovated streets were replaced.
Given the massive scale and high visibility of these major projects,
multiple layers of supervision were established to ensure that the allocated
funds would serve their intended purpose. The President of Armenia
personally, as well as his immediate staff, closely monitored the progress
of these projects and took the strictest measures whenever required. In
addition to the oversight provided by various governmental agencies, Lincy
had its own staff of highly competent and trustw
orthy engineers who
independently oversaw the construction process. As Vice Chairman of the
Lincy Foundation, I was on an almost daily phone contact with the Chief of
Staff of the President and made several trips to Armenia over the past three
years to ensure that these projects were carried out in compliance with the
terms and conditions of the memorandum of understanding signed between Lincy
and the Government of Armenia.
The bidding requirements for these projects were advertised in local
newspapers and the contracts were awarded to the lowest reasonable bidders
in line with World Bank procedures. All of these projects were carried out
by local Armenian companies and workers. This meant that, in addition to
repairing Armenia's infrastructure, these projects provided employment to
around 20,000 workers, raising their standard of living.
Whenever the quality of the construction was deemed unacceptable, no payment
was made for the work performed. The contractor was asked to redo the work
at his own expense. If the second time around the work was found to be of
inferior quality, the contractor was removed and replaced by another company
with a proven track record.
Upon the successful completion of each segment of a project, the contractor
was paid 90% of the value of the contract. Another 5% was paid after the
entire project was satisfactorily completed. The final 5% was paid 12 months
later, if no defects surfaced in the meantime.
The unprecedented scale of construction in such a short period of time has
had a tremendous impact on Armenia's economic development. The Lincy
projects helped diminish the exodus of workers from Armenia, gave a boost to
locally produced construction materials, and introduced western business
practices to the local construction industry.
The successful completion of these projects proves that, if properly planned
and executed, much good work can be accomplished in Armenia with a minimum
of waste and corruption. These projects also give the people of Armenia
renewed hope and a sense of optimism for the future.