Lottery to Assist Artsakh Resettlement

Arthur Aghabekyan

YEREVAN—Artsakh Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Aghabekyan says his government is taking a fresh and more realistic approach to the issue of resettlement of the country.

For one thing, population and other demographic statistics are being compiled for Artsakh communities and resources will be targeted to those with at least 200 inhabitants.

Aghabekyan says the government wants to increase the population of some Kashatagh, Hadrout and Shahoumian communities to 1,000 by 2017 and will spur such growth by ensuring that the target communities will be supplied with water.

To finance such projects, the government says it will launch a lottery, in which 40% of the proceeds will go to funding and 40% will go to paying lottery winners.

However, the winnings will not be in the form of cash. Rather, lucky winners will be awarded local weaved rugs and apartments.

Lottery tickets will go on sale to the public as of May 9, 2014 and the winners will be decided on December 28.

Some 300,000 tickets have already been put into circulation and 220,000 have been sold; mostly to government agencies and employees of large businesses.

The plan is to sell one million tickets next year.

Aghabekyan says the 2,000 lottery tickets will offer buyers a way to directly participate in the development of Artsakh.

He says that short-term lottery games will also be launched specifically to finance local resettlement projects.

Aghabekyan estimates that in this way a few million dollars can be allocated to resettlement.

“Resettlement after the cease-fire in Artsakh, Armenia and the Diaspora is one of the most important subjects, and is always talked about We must be somehow related to the topic,” said Aghabekyan. He added that one of the most frequently asked questions to the governments of Armenia and Artsakh is why the resettlement in Artsakh is slowed down. Mr. Aghabekyan says that these criticisms are basically correct, but “when they listen to the governments of the two countries, they also see that we are right.”

Artsakh, according to the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, is a veritable bread basket capable of feeding 1-2 million people.

But it’s a crying shame, says Aghabekyan, that Artsakh’s population is a mere 140,000.

“We don’t have an Armenia that stretches from sea to sea anymore, but we do have a country called Karabakh that stretches from river to river. From the Araks to the Tartar,” exclaimed the official.

“Drive from Hadrout to the Araks River, some 70 kilometres. All along the route you’ll see great farm land, springs and great expanses of land. But travel away from the frontier and there are uninhabited lands,” notes Aghabekyan, explaining that the Artsakh government has decided to create conditions to bring settlers to those rich and verdant valleys.

The overall resettlement initiative is called “The Araks Project.”

Aghabekyan says he is filled with pride when he sees trucks filled with grain travelling from Artsakh to Armenia. Last year, 20,000 tons of grain was transported to Armenia.

“For this reason alone, it is worth fighting for,” Aghabekyan says, adding that the possibility exists to increase these amounts.

In response to the question from as to why development projects haven’t been launched in the Akna (Aghdam) region, known for its fertile lands, Aghabekyan said that many people, especially from Stepanakert, have obtained land there and are now cultivating it.

The official says that the lack of water has prevented greater cultivation. To solve the problem, Aghabekyan says the Artsakh government is thinking about diverting water from the Tartar River to the area.

“If there is a fight over land in Aghdam, the situation in the Araks River region is the opposite. There, we are exercising a policy referred to as ‘the more you run, the more you own.’ It’s like a land rush policy,” notes the Artsakh Deputy prime Minister.

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