by Emmanuil Mkrtchyan
Armenia needs very serious changes that like a drive gear will drag along others. Ruben Vardanyan, Russian businessman, the founder and the head of IDeA Foundation, made such statement in an interview with the Shant TV. In early 2000, Vardanyan came out with an initiative of creating a peculiar development program for his motherland and called it Armenia - 2020. However, he failed to put it through the "government cordon."
Speaking of today's situation in Armenia and the effect that would be from that program, if it were implemented, Vardanyan said: "when people do not realize what will be their future, it is very hard to accept today's reality. It applies to any country." It requires genuine efforts to realize the future. "Generally, I am satisfied, despite all the difficulties and disappointments with the unrealized projects and ideas. The projects that originated in the course of those discussions were implemented automatically," he said. Unfortunately, the banker said, that discussions were not continued. Today's apathy and discontent is probably connected with the fact that people do not realize their future and their role in it. According to Vardanyan, that professional serious discussions must held regularly and publicly. Of course, the vision of future is not one of the serious problems of the Armenian public for the last 20 years. "Survival has become their problem. It is when you have to think every day how to survive. And you have no time to think of the perspectives for 10-20 years. However, if we fail to think about long-term outlook, we will not manage to overcome the current model and will face pitfalls. This means that the country will be constantly in the state of semi-survival and semi-standstill. This means that we must go on a risk to live better. In the Soviet Union, people used to believe in "their tomorrow". Now, we have lost that feeling. The people that gained independence and won the war now live with a feeling that they have to survive. It is not only because of the economic situation. It is connected with our attitude to what is taking place. Fortunately, good things also happen in our country, but in the light of overall apathy and non- confidence in future, positive examples fade away. "
According to the banker, the charitable projects his Foundation is implementing in Armenia are large-scale but not ambitious, as their task is to change and not to surprise. "Implementation of these long-term projects requires genuine efforts. Look at the Tatev Monastery restoration project. It was launched in 2005 and will be completed in 2017. The project of the Dilijan International School we have launched this year emerged under the project Armenia - 2020. Discussions on the project began in 2007. This year, the school will welcome its first students, but it will operate at full scale only in 2023. There are also other long-term projects that will take shape in 15-20 years." According to Vardanyan, all these projects are implemented, as Armenia needs changes, very serious changes.
"And we chose the projects that will bring changes to the regions or sectors. I am not alone. My wife and many other people participate in these projects. What we care about the most is to make these projects efficient. These are not just restoration or construction projects. Much is behind these projects. For instance, a very important criterion is the involvement of the local population in these projects. They must feel that it is their projects. Another important circumstance is self-financing of these projects. Of course, the capital investments of the first stage were charitable funds. However, we hope these projects will become self-financing through provision of various services and will no longer depend on charity. It is very important for these projects to meet international standards. So, we have contacted many friends and colleagues in many countries who were very happy to share their experience and knowledge with us."
To recall, the Foundation headed by Ruben Vardanyan and his spouse Veronika Zonabend is implementing in range of projects in Armenia. One of the most large-scale projects they have funded is the Tatev Monastery project that implies restoration of the complex and development of the local tourism industry. Under this project the world's longest ropeway (cost $45 million) was built in the area of the Monastery. Another big project is the United World Colleges (UWC International) Dilijan International School (DIS) (cost $120 million).