Holding the purpose of elaborating on the topic on conceptual platform, the following analysis does not comprise fundamental and contextual studies on the resource allocation and detailed economic data.
Currently the Republic of Armenia has a territorial area of 29743 km2 and is divided into ten provinces and Yerevan, the capital, given a status of a separate administrative district. Overall, there are 11 administrative units, the average territorial area of a single unit amounts to 2700km2 (however, e.g. Vayots Dzor covers an area of 2308km2, Armavir Province – 1242km2). No wonder that the given numbers of territorial division are incomparable with those of big countries. However, let us draw parallels between the territorial divisions of Armenia and two of its neighbour countries. With respect to Georgia, ignoring the exceptions conditioned by separate ethnic issues, it can be noted that the average territorial unit of the country is 2-3 times larger than that of Armenia. The actual territory of Azerbaijan is divided into 8 units, each of them being 3.5 times larger than the Armenian ones.
Although the territorial division of Armenia was initially accomplished via expansion method, the Soviet regions were transformed into provinces when expanded but it was of inadequate amount.
Current administrative division of RA encompasses serious problems not being justified in terms of economic, political-administrative and historical perspectives. The proper regulation of the sector supposes cardinal changes and we will try to substantiate the necessity of the latter.
In this light, let us classify the problems in the RA territorial division policy into three major spheres, not deviating from the conceptual level.
Logically, the governance of territorial management should be carried out with possibly extensive geographical boundaries to manage a large territory by using fewer administrative resources as far as possible.
If formerly the main indicator of territorial management was accessibility (e. g. how many miles it will take one to travel on horseback from center to the border), the spatial indicator is not relevant anymore regarding the modern technological advancements.
Modern Information and Communication Technologies enable us to solve any type of administrative problem regardless of a spatial factor. The effective solution to those problems is basically related to the competent administration and media-literate society but not to the size of the region. Thus, the size of the province is of no significance if it comprises a competent administration, media-literate society and communication technologies.
Current administrative division to some extent causes extra difficulties for the country’s economic life. The division of Ararat valley between the two neighbour provinces – Ararat and Armavir is extremely illogical, given that manifold issues such as general water preservation policy, road infrastructure and entrepreneurship management, to name but a few, face coordination problems. Provided that both provinces live in accordance with the biorhythm of Ararat valley, their disunion is utterly inappropriate.
The same thing refers to the Syunik-Vayots Dzor pair in regards to mining industry and tourism.
Small and sparsely populated provinces cause additional problems relative to the sufficient consumption, competitiveness and investment attraction.
Almost all the documents pertaining to the territorial division and territorial administration of the Republic of Armenia are overwhelmed by the reverence for the historical past accompanied with contextual desire for awakening the latter. Nevertheless, the present situation shows that in some provinces historical bases have been violated unnecessarily. For example, separate provinces of Ararat valley or Syunik and Vayots Dzor performing separately.
In any case, restoring the logic of the Great Hayq’s territorial division in present-day Armenia is unrealistic (only 5 out of 15 states of the Great Hayq are currently in the territory of the Republic of Armenia and even partially), but we find it unjustified not to do the maximum which is possible within the limits of the existing opportunities.
- Ten regional governments, including the affiliated services and infrastructures (serving the proper functioning of the buildings, regional government and supporting structures) are a huge burden on the state budget.
- Administrative limitations hinder, say, businesses or other institutions requiring spatial resources operating in neighbour provinces simultaneously.
- Senseless multiplication of state institutions in regional centres – police, judicial bodies, state services and local representatives.
- To combine the provinces of Syunik and Vayots Dzor and form a new province – Syunik. Both of them have similar relief, climate, identical historical past, economic and resource commonalities.
- To combine Ararat and Armavir and form a new province – Ararat. Both provinces, as already mentioned, have fundamental commonalities in connection with Ararat valley and economic factors, as well as with the same historical past.
- To combine Aragatsotn, Kotayk and the southern part of Shirak province to form a new province – Aragats. The aforementioned economic, administrative and historical factors are equally relevant here.
- To combine Lori, Tavush and the northern part of Shirak and form a new province – Gugark.
- To leave Gegharkunik province unchanged. From economic and ecological viewpoint, it is an independent unit in Armenia. Its unification or territorial expansion is not expedient as its territory is already large enough.
- Yerevan maintains its status as a separate district. It is correct for the capital to remain off the territorial units regarding both its political significance and population share.
We also propose to make changes in the territorial administration system. The mentioned constitutes – to introduce the institute of the council of elders at the provincial governance level, to make the governor’s office elective in the following format – the population of the province chooses the council, subsequently the council elects the regional governor. Firstly, this will transform the territorial governance system of Armenia into a more democratic one, secondly, communication and mutual responsibility will considerably increase between the regional government and local population. The influence of the party acquired power in the central governance system of the Republic will weaken within the territorial administration system, creating possible counter balance mechanisms.
- The main issue that province expansion and the enlivening of economy face has a logistic nature, we allude particularly the poor quality of transportation and communication infrastructures (a vivid example can be the absence of a road link between Kotayk and Aragatsotn provinces).
- The second problem is the lack of competent professional staff and administration.
As a result of the proposed amendments the work of the regional governments will have another rhythm and quality, the latter to accordingly imply the necessity of young, educated, capable and skilled professionals.
- The proposal will provoke an emotional response among immediate beneficiaries, an opposition from the residents of the provinces is likely as well.
What will redivision induce?
- Larger and more populated provinces usually have a heavier weight in economic relations, are more attractive in terms of investment, and fit into the concept of the Californian effect,
- Mergence of the single economic zones into solitary administrative borders,
- Reduction of exaggerated public administration system and fund saving,
- More professional and competent regional governance, governance efficiency,
- Deepening and activating democratic processes in the field of territorial self-governance,
- Partial renewal of historical justice.
The presented package of proposals basically derives from the current concept, the evidence of which are the community expansion program and the reduction of workforce recently provoked in the state service sector. Consequently, this may be an additional and quite effective step in that direction.
The abovementioned logic of redivision can also be applied to Artsakh. The separation of Artsakh, in our view, is artificial as the latter geographically fits in the proposed provincial format. Thus, the division of it at the community level is sufficient.
The following approach should also be adopted in the future, when resolving the Nakhichevan issue.
- Հայաստանի ազգային ատլաս
- ՀՀ ԱՎԾ, http://armstat.am/am/?nid=645, http://armstat.am/am/?nid=82&id=1834, http://www.armstat.am/file/article/marz_11_30.pdf
- ՀՀ ՏԿԶՆ, http://mtad.am/hy/the-ta-system/
- David Vogel, Trading Up: Consumer and Environmental Regulation in a Global Economy, Harvard University Press, 1995.
Author: Areg Kochinyan. © All rights are reserved.
Translator: Varduhi Bejanyan.