The post-war situation in Artsakh is dire; the damage inflicted by the enemy is enormous. We have many lost villages, houses, lands, educational and cultural centers, historical and cultural monuments…
The state is making great efforts to get the saved part of the country out of this situation, to get it up and even to ensure development. How will it be implemented? This is what the interview with the Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure of the Republic of Artsakh Hayk Khanumyan is about.
- Mr. Khanumyan, in the situation created after the war, what are the first steps of the ministry to solve the priority problems?
- The priority tasks of the Ministry are to provide housing for people displaced from their permanent residences, to support various social programs implemented by the governments of Armenia and Artsakh. Due to the lack of different systems, the main sources of information are the mayors, local self-government bodies, whose work is coordinated by the ministry. The ministry has been forced to become a social service provider, and it is not yet performing its functions. The most important block of the ministry is the infrastructure. Various branches of infrastructure are in a rather difficult situation. For example, the Martuni region has been without electricity for two months. We will provide 24-hour power supply with temporary solutions. The construction of a more powerful power line is underway. The same situation applies to artesian wells and heating systems due to low or no electricity. In many cases, reservoirs, wells, and even roads leading to villages remained under the control of the enemy.
- You proceeded smoothly to the next question. In the current situation, how should the main functions of the ministry be carried out?
- In the current situation, both the whole state system and our ministry fulfill the responsibilities of firefighter and ambulance. This situation will last until the urgent problems are solved, after which we will move on to our main functions, we will have time to move on to the implementation of development programs.
- When will it happen? What development programs are you developing in this difficult situation of the country, with whose funding?
- In the spring, I think, our main work will start. The discussions of the 2021 budget are underway in the National Assembly. In fact, it is a sad budget, because own revenues have decreased more than three times compared to last year. There is a deficit of 43 billion drams, the sources of financing of which are not yet known. Artsakh needs a serious humanitarian "intervention". We have to decide who the implementers are and work with them.
- Is there a clear idea of where you should get that humanitarian aid?
- Mainly from the "Hayastan" pan-Armenian fund, as well as from various other international Armenian foundations operating in the world, which are not included in the budget. In addition to own revenues, the budget includes the interstate loan provided by the Republic of Armenia. Even though the situation in Armenia is difficult now, it will continue to be provided. However, the solution to the problems we face today must be linked to various humanitarian initiatives. In short, the problems facing the country today can be solved both through the state budget (own revenues, interstate credit) and funds.
- Is the growth of own budget revenues expected?
- I suppose that with the restoration of the economy, the incomes will be restored. And it also depends on the rehabilitation of infrastructure. That is, both large and other taxpayers will be able to pay taxes when the infrastructure is fully operational.
- Most of the territory of Artsakh has passed under the control of the enemy. It turns out that the volume of activities of the Ministry of Territorial Administration has decreased. What problems have arisen in this reality? How should they be solved?
- From the point of view of territorial administration, I attach great importance to the balanced distribution of the population. We must avoid previous mistakes. We were building Stepanakert, leaving the districts empty. Rural communities should be strengthened as much as possible. At the same time, we must have all the infrastructures that the capital has in those communities.
- Does the state have the opportunity to solve such problems today or are they programs implemented in the future?
-"If we do not set such problems today, tomorrow, I think, we will face more difficult problems." As the country's territory shrinks, the problem has diminished in size and, consequently, become easier. I am convinced that these tasks can be achieved. It is possible to achieve it with the means of the budget. It is true that, as I mentioned, the budget deficit is large, but we should try to find ways to service the deficit and reduce it by increasing our own revenues. That's why I think we need to move quickly from social programs to development programs. For example, helping entrepreneurs who lost businesses quickly get back to work. This will create jobs and increase the tax base. The Armenian government, in the person of the Ministry of Economy, has taken the initiative to support new, lost businesses. It will be proposed to invest in the "Kataro"and Shekher wineries in order to re-establish those companies. We must try to move forward with such steps. Yes, most of the gardens have passed to the enemy, but we must be able to use what we have, turn it into a product, a workplace, a tax, and try to develop in this way. We must try to move forward with such steps.
- Are there any new directions for the establishment and development of which the state is ready to make investments?
- To tell the truth, now there is a great demand in the field of construction. Many entrepreneurs should be interested in this field, as a lot of construction work will be carried out in the country in the coming years. And many entrepreneurs have already applied to the ministry with offers to work in this field.
- Many people are interested in the quality of prefabricated houses offered by Russia as humanitarian aid. People want to know how seismic, strong, heat-resistant they are, etc.
- Those prefabricated houses, at least the ones that the Russian army is building for them now, are quite comfortable, seismic, heat-resistant, energy-saving, moisture-resistant. They are much better than stone houses in their parameters. I cannot say for sure how safe and stable it is, say, during the shelling. But it is obvious that we should not rely on the strength of individual houses when organizing civil defense. We need to think about creating well-established community shelters. For example, build strong shelters in the basements of public buildings, such as schools, kindergartens, and municipalities. And if the existing buildings do not have basements, then new buildings must be built. Yes, even in Stepanakert, with so many buildings, we have very few normal shelters, which was proven during the war.
- You mentioned that the regions should develop and reach the level of the capital. Is there a more important area that you prioritize, or will everyone be equally focused?
- All regions and sub-regions are important. There are just a few sub-districts where housing will be built to accommodate the displaced in a compact way. The selection criteria are as follows: to what extent is that village, sub-region capable of accepting new inhabitants? The number of arable lands, pastures, existing infrastructure will be taken into account. For example, the sub-regions of Haterk, Mokhratagh-Mets Shen-Maghavuz, Astghashen-Patara, Varanda-Mushkapat-Haghorti-Kghartsi, Nakhichevanik, Noragyugh-Hovsepavan-Ivanyan, Berdadzor meet those criteria. At the same time, equal work will be carried out in all directions.