Knowledge is a non-depletable resource, and we are certain that the best way to increase its value is through sharing it. With an ambitious plan to unfold it into a full-fledged outreach activity of free public lectures by WB local and visiting experts on an array of development topics, the first in this series was held on Wednesday March 3, byAristomene Varoudakis, WB Armenia Country Manager.
The World Bank has a solid presence in Armenia – such as through extensive expert advice and support for development projects. However, there is room for increasing the general public awareness and knowledge of development issues in general, and of the scope and scale of the Bank's activities in Armenia, in particular. To measure it up with the immense bulk of information the Bank produces on the field, we aim to tap into this need for development knowledge through public lecture-discussions organized by the Knowledge for Development Center (KDC, located at the American University of Armenia (AUA).
Launching this initiative was Mr. Varoudakis's lecture titled Challenges and Opportunities for Emerging Economies and Armenia in the Aftermath of the Global Economic Crisis - a comprehensive presentation of the reasons and adverse effects of the crisis and the post-crisis realities in the world and in ECA countries, with a particular focus on the consequences of the crisis endured by Armenia, country's key vulnerabilities to such economic downturns, strategic strengths in place to rebound and develop, and the ways and level of the Bank's support to Armenia since the outbreak of the crisis.
Aristomene then took a wide range of questions from an audience of over 70, including students of different universities, AUA faculty and staff, representatives of local and international NGOs, research centers, and other visitors. His responses covered a broad spectrum of issues, detailing the Bank's development operations in Armenia and its two-pillar Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) to mitigate the adverse poverty effects of the crisis and to lay a foundation for economic competitiveness and growth. He further dwelled on the need to improve the quality of (higher) education to put in place a knowledge-based economy; the Bank's technical and advisory support for improving the business and investment climate in the country; the effects of the persisting monopolies on the economy; the Government's prudent fiscal policy that helped mitigate the impact of the crisis; the sectors of the economy with a potential to attract FDI (foreign direct investments) to the country – such as tourism, IT, and healthcare; and the Bank's support for any positive development in Armenia-Turkey possible border re-opening that could help Armenia's economic development by providing gateways to foreign markets and transport routes.
A group of young undergraduates from the Yerevan State University shared their impressions of the event with us: "As students of economics, we are really happy for the opportunity to be here today. These days we are exposed to a variety of opinions about the state of the economy in the aftermath of the crisis, but what we've heard from Mr. Varoudakis is a well-rounded presentation of the issue, backed by solid statistical data. We are especially glad for the marked optimism for Armenia's economic recovery."
Also speaking to us from the event venue was Heghine Manasyan, Head of the Caucasus Research Resource Center-Armenia. She stressed that such initiatives are critical for engaging people into the development issues and professional discussions. "They bring to us the best of knowledge, information and analysis on Armenia and the whole world, from highly qualified WB experts. Especially the academia – such as professors and students of international economics, public administration, macroeconomics, etc., can fare well from these lectures, adding to the Bank's support for improving the quality of education in Armenia. I would like to extend an offer to the Bank to extrapolate this activity to other universities in Armenia," Mrs. Manasyan enthused.