Seven new projects financed through the Pilot Regional Development Programme (PRDP) will help to create more economic opportunities in Armenian marzes. On 13 December, during the “Armenian Regions Benefiting from Strategic Planning and Comprehensive RD Projects” regional development conference, 7 PRDP grant contracts were signed and over €9 million in support funds were allocated to different sectors in the target marzes of Shirak, Lori, Syunik, Armavir, Vayots Dzor, Gegharkunik, and Tavush.
Piotr Świtalski, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Davit Lokyan, the Armenian Minister of Territorial Administration and Development (MTAD), and the heads of those organisations which were awarded grants all attended the contract signing event.
The Ambassador welcomed PRDP’s focus on regional development: ‘This is an important moment for the EU, because we believe that our future strategy should be based on promoting sustainable regional development in Armenia. Armenia’s economic resilience hinges on overcoming the gap that exists between Yerevan and the marzes. This gap is significant. Cooperation with the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development towards this end has long been very constructive. For us, it’s a long-term choice to focus more on cooperation in the marzes, especially where the gap is most explicit’.
Lokyan said the EU’s support could have multiple benefits: ‘GDP per capita is 2.5 times less in many marzes,than in Yerevan. Programmes like PRDP will help to overcome poverty in Armenia’s regions. There should be no GDP gap between Yerevan and other marzes’.
The successful grantees will begin to implement their projects in early 2017. The expected outputs are different: the projects will support 2,200 persons to increase their employability through skills development, more than 700 enterprises to increase competitiveness, and 500 new jobs will be directly created, more than 320 enterprises will increase their competitiveness measured in increased turnover or employment.
The PRDP call for proposals opened on 14 September 2015, and welcomed project ideas from all over the country, albeit those which focused on regional development.
PRDP’s total budget is almost €10 million, of which €7 million was provided by the European Union and €1.75 million by the Armenian government. Grant applicants were required to co-finance their proposals by a minimum of 10% co-financing themselves.
A second call for proposals will be opened by the EU and MTAD in January 2017. It will aim to select one o two additional regional projects to be financed from remaining PRPD funds. Project ideas for Shirak marz in the cultural and creative sectors will be invited.