18 Years Later Still Reliant On The Outside

Aram Zakaryan

Lragir, Armenia
Dec 7 2006

18 years have passed since the devastating earthquake in Spitak in
1988. According to different sources, it took 25 thousand lives. We
commemorate the victims of the disaster on every December 7. You
cannot bring back the victims, but by caring for the alive we can
bring peace to the souls of the victims. Unfortunately, today we have
too little to boast for.

The funds of the Armenian government, as well as the funds of foreign
and international organizations and foundations have been spent
on the reconstruction of the area of the earthquake. The largest
foreign donation was Kirk Kerkorian’s 100 million dollars. Houses,
cultural and sport buildings were built on this money. Only in Gyumri
20 thousand apartments were ruined by the earthquake in 1988. So far
13 thousand have been reconstructed. The government has decided that
instead of building new apartments it will be more effective to sell
the existing ones, because, first, a new apartment eventually gets
ruined if nobody lives there, besides, according to the prime minister,
as soon as the family living in a cottage moves into a new apartment,
an inhabitant of the nearby villages occupies the cottage.

People are granted certificates for purchase of apartments with
a certain value. In 2005 220 certificates with a total value of 1
billion drams were granted in Gyumri, and all were used. In 2006 300
certificates with a total value of 875 million drams will be granted,
and only 40-50 were used. Currently there are about 6000 cottages
in Gyumri, but half of the inhabitants of the cottages have the
status of homeless. The other half did not lose apartments during the
earthquake, therefore they are not considered as homeless. They are
perhaps the "re-settlers" mentioned by the prime minister. In Spitak
500 families are homeless, they are living in cottages. If these
rates of certificate deals continues, the solution of the problem of
homeless in the region of Shirak will take at least 15 years.

The Dashnak governor of Shirak and the Republican mayors of Gyumri
and Spital state that new apartments are needed. However, instead of
trying to explain the necessity and effectiveness of building new
apartments to their party and coalition colleagues they are trying
to build new apartments on the money of businessmen who come from
Gyumri or Spitak and make money abroad. It is difficult to say how
successful they will be.

If the housing problem can be considered as partly solved, the problem
of unemployment remains a burning issue. Despite the two-digit economic
growth, unemployment is a more painful problem in the area of disaster
that took place 18 years ago. Absence of jobs and presence of grim
prospects of future were another problem why many are abroad now.

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