Daron Acemoglu: “The Diaspora needs to support Armenia morally and through financial investments”

Hayern Aysor presents Voice of America’s interview with world famous economist, Professor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Daron Acemoglu.

VOA: Let’s start from the main issue. How important do you think the “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia was?

Daron Acemoglu: I think it was a turning point for Armenia since Armenia has suffered too long due to corrupt and ineffective governance, and this was reflected in the economy and in the figures of emigration.

Therefore, this laid the foundation for the country’s new start, and it can be celebrated. Overall, radical reforms are really a complicated process, and countries in need of such radical reforms face two major obstacles. The first is the peaceful start of the process because the whole process can become much more complicated without a peaceful start — the society is polarized, enmity is formed, violent acts begin. In such conditions, it’s almost impossible to achieve any constructive result. This was the case in the period following the Arab Spring.

Armenia managed to lay a foundation for a peaceful and very promising start, and this is a brilliant victory. The next step is to continue the process of structural reforms based on the peaceful start and lay down the pillars for prosperity, quality governance and peaceful existence in the future. The second step is still not guaranteed, but we initially have the opportunity to take that step.

VOA: If you were the Prime Minister’s Advisor, what would you advise the Prime Minister? What are the first steps that need to be taken?

Daron Acemoglu: Every country requires a special approach. However, overall, if you want to extirpate corruption and lay the foundation for long-term reforms and growth, you have to do all that in peace. If you look at countries that have achieved greater heights, you will see that they have always managed to leave discrepancies in the past and find paths to start anew. Indeed, it is hard, and, of course, there are the problems of the past, but I believe what is more important is to find commonalities. What is especially promising for Armenia is the fact that all Armenians in Armenia and abroad are truly excited and certain that this is the right time for changes and that those changes are necessary.

However, there are still several challenges, including geopolitical dangers that Russia and Azerbaijan pose. The other danger is that there may be an attempt to make all the reforms at once at this exciting moment. I must say that the more steps that we try to take at once, the fewer results we will achieve as we lay the foundations for future advancement.

VOA: Do you see yourself as a member of the Armenian government?

Daron Acemoglu: I don’t believe holding office is the right thing. I believe that Armenians living abroad can show support and give advice. However, I am certain that the citizens of Armenia must independently build their country. I am ready to provide any form of assistance because I am certain that this is really a turning point for Armenia. I believe a fresh look at the processes in Armenia can be helpful, but it is the citizens of Armenia who must be in the focus of the process and actions. So, I truly hope that my assistance is helpful, but I also don’t expect to play a major role. This refers to the role of the Diaspora in general. I think the Diaspora plays a major role, but it has to provide its support through moral support and financial investments. However, sometimes certain Diaspora Armenians try to direct processes from abroad, which I believe is wrong. Only the citizens of Armenia must assume the role of leaders in all processes.

VOA: So, did Armenia pass its first exam?

Daron Acemoglu: That’s right.

VOA: So, does Armenia have a real opportunity to be among progressive countries?

Daron Acemoglu: Yes, because other countries have succeeded in doing so in the past. Those countries that have failed have mainly failed during the first test, not being able to maintain peaceful change of power. Armenia has brilliantly passed the first test, and this will really help the country take the second test since the public at large believes in the need for changes. The young people are also bright and educated and are independently trying to find ways to turn the achievements into positive changes. However, I wouldn’t like to underestimate the risks.

VOA: When will you visit Armenia?

Daron Acemoglu: I have had the honor of speaking to the Prime Minister twice, and we are currently discussing the appropriate time for my visit. However, I first want to understand the challenges facing the new government and how it wants to overcome them. When I fully understand them, I will sit and do my “homework”, analyze how the situation can unfold and how I can give real advice, not just visit Armenia as a tourist.

Scroll Up