Perched on the cultural boundary between Europe and Asia, Armenia has always been open to the world. Today, two and a half decades of social and economic progress have transformed its fortunes, and this historic nation is reclaiming its place as the link between east and west
Armenia’s civilisation once spanned all the way from Persia into Eastern Europe, and its globalised culture incorporates a unique mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Caucasian traditions. Established 29 years before Rome, the country’s bustling capital Yerevan is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, but it is also fast becoming a modern metropolis. A thriving tech scene – growing at an annual rate of 20% – has earned it the moniker of the Silicon Valley of the Caucasus, while companies from America’s Microsoft to Taiwan’s D-Link are increasingly taking advantage of Armenia’s highly educated, entrepreneurial and cost-competitive workforce.
“As policymakers, we are putting an emphasis on the innovative and creative thinking of our labour force,” says Vardan Aramyam, minister of finance. “Armenians are an innovative nation – they think strategically, and we want to convert this into advantages for our industries. We teach chess at schools to encourage this kind of thinking.”
– Vardan Aramyam, Minister of Finance
A Zangezur Copper Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC) mine in Armenia. Photo: ZCMC
Having been led by only three presidents since its independence in 1991, Armenian voters in 2015 approved changing the government from a presidential system to a parliamentary republic. The country’s most recent parliamentary elections, held in April last year, saw sitting president Serzh Sargsyan’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia win a majority of votes cast. The constitutional change, which comes into effect in April this year, is seen by the country as a positive step toward, strengthening its position within the various international organisations it is a part of, including the Council of Europe.
Meanwhile, recent economic and fiscal reforms aim to ensure that growth – forecast at nearly 4% for 2018 – is sustained through guarantees of regulatory stability, regardless of which party is in government, as well as tax relief and incentives for early movers in strategic sectors such as energy, pharmaceuticals and technology.
Armenia’s globalised outlook has stood it in good stead. It is a signatory to numerous trade and economic agreements that position it as an entry point into both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, providing investors with access to millions of consumers. A flurry of infrastructure improvements looks set to make reaching these markets easier for Armenia’s exporters, while with Dubai just a three-hour flight away, the country is hoping to create closer trade and investment ties with the Gulf region.