President Armen Sarkissian, who is in Switzerland on a working visit, during a business lunch held a meeting with the members of Switzerland-Armenia Chamber of Commerce and Swiss, including Armenian-Swiss, entrepreneurs. The event was organized by the Swiss-Armenian Chamber of Commerce with the support of the Embassy of Armenia in the Swiss Confederation.
The President of Switzerland-Armenia Chamber of Commerce Mike Baronian congratulated the President and the people of Armenia on the achievements registered in 2019 and noted that President Sarkissian’s presence at the event was important for the community and members of the Chamber of Commerce.
“In the last six months, I have had the honor to meet with the President of Armenia four times,” James Zhan, UNCTAD Director for the Investments and Enterprise Division noted in his remarks. “I have heard about his vision, projects, and wise thoughts not only during the meeting pertinent to investment policies and in the framework of the Armenian Summit of Minds but also at the UNCTAD Panel of Prominent Persons which took place last year. During the mentioned Panel we had the opportunity to hear President Sarkissian’s viewpoints on global issues, avenues to address them, particularly in the context of developing countries as well as his pioneering ideas on the future role of UNCTAD.”
The UNCTAD Director for the Investments and Enterprise Division James Zhan thanked Armen Sarkissian for entrusting them with drafting the report on Armenia’s investment climate. He noted that it would help Armenia improve investment climate and would position Armenia in the first lines on the global competition field. “Changes in Armenia will be considerable if the leadership adopts a vision of making the country a regional business hub and makes headway in the areas of IT and artificial intelligence, becoming a link in the global chain,” he said. “We see great potential in Armenia in the areas of agribusiness, textile, industry, wine production, and tourism. Mindful of that potential, the UNCTAD will continue to support Armenia in improving the investment climate in the country.”
In his remarks President Armen Sarkissian thanked James Zhan for the works accomplished by the Investments and Enterprise Division of the UNCTAD and spoke also of prehistory of the issue. “One year ago, I was in Geneva and asked to prepare a report on Armenia: what are the investment challenges in Armenia and which areas possess potential? They have done excellent job. First, they came up with interesting ideas based on the observation not only of the Armenian government but also on those of the investment community abroad. It’s a brief report but comprehensive nevertheless. They have done this job for Armenia complimentary and I would like to thank them for it. I hope to see in Armenia in early March partners from other countries – leaders of various states, and we will discuss the future of this UN body. I am greatly honored to chair the Panel of Prominent Persons of this Organization.”
As for the existing challenges, President Sarkissian said in particular, “It is well-known that there are more challenges than achievements. It is my understanding that fight against corruption means creation of a culture in which people are intolerant towards corruption. It must become part of our culture as it has become in a number of European countries, including Switzerland. Thus, to achieve that, it is necessary to go through certain processes, changing the legal system. It is a very big challenge indeed.” President Sarkissian highlighted the change of the economic structure as yet another challenge. “At the moment when the fight against corruption begins, it is necessary to switch from the oligarchic economic to a much more open society,” the President said. “Nowadays, people are more politically open than two years ago. In Armenia, there is a society in which young people have started to dream big dreams about having startups and becoming successful.” According to President Sarkissian, “The world is standing at a crossroad. I believe that many of politicians and businessmen despair because they don’t know what’s going on and cannot make predictions,” the President of Armenia said. “They cannot predict what will happen next, what this or that politician will say and how markets will respond.
What is going on? This question today doesn’t have many answers. Predictability of the world has declined sharply. However, there are analysts and philosophers which view positively this situation even though we don’t know what to do, which direction to take, and there are no pillars of stability for the global economy. I have always maintained that uncertainly breeds opportunities.
If there is no predictability but you have a gut feeling and have predicted correctly, you will benefit from it. In the atmosphere of uncertainty, development has become Armenia’s course towards future. There is only one road leading to success: to work diligently for development and use that opportunities because from political and economic point of view we are not able to predict much, besides we stand on the crossroads of great technological changes which people call the fourth industrial revolution. I have another definition which I have used a couple of times – a political or swift revolution. This is not a regular revolution like others which will discover how fire can be obtained by burning wood or will tell about the practicality of computers. We are on the verge of permanent revolutions since we have discovered how powerful small can be. We have discovered how powerful a mathematical program can be, mathematical modeling in the form of artificial intelligence. We live in a new era. We are dealing with “new doors” leading to future.” Whenever there is a new start, all become equal – the most talented, the richest, the strongest, and the weakest. In this, I see an advantage for my nation. In this new world attachment is what important. It is our human nature. When we are born, we have no attachment tools. We become attached to the world through our mothers. But currently attachments change too. For instance, my two-year old grandchild and other grandkids, in a sense lives in a virtual realm because the first tools their discovered were gadgets. Tomorrow, all will be living two lives – a virtual life, which provides information at lightning speed, and material one. We are a global and interconnected nation. You will be surprised to learn the number of the Armenians in Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Moscow, or elsewhere who via internet get information on the developments in Armenia. They also have a great impact on the country, present via internet their ideas on how to govern the county, on right and wrong. Armenia tells them that it’s time to come back to Fatherland.
Artificial intelligence provides Armenians spread all over the world a good opportunity to establish a connection with each other. Thus, Armenia is a small country but has a huge advantage – we are one of the most interconnected nations in the world. I am confident that in the rapidly developing 21st century small can be not only beautiful but also powerful. There are many examples to prove that. I have come here from Abu Dhabi where I participated to the Sustainability Week forum. That country is impressive: it is small but powerful. Prior to that I was in Doha which is also small and powerful. From here, I will travel to Israel which is too, small and powerful. In Abu Dhabi I met and spoke with the President of Rwanda, again, a small but growing country.”
President Sarkissian noted that all this speaks of discipline and a precise vision. “One needs to find his own route, decide what you want to change dramatically in your county and find avenues leading to success,” he said.
“Armenia needs to develop all areas: tourism, hotels, industry, and banking system which is already well-developed in Armenia. All these areas are interconnected since if you develop infrastructure, more tourists will visit, the more tourists means development of the real estate market which will result in the development of the banking system, and so on.
We need to stand up on our own feet and take care of our nature. And nature is not only about the territory we live on. I am representing not a country, which is rich with oil or gas reserves, but one which is very rich with water. We are looking for the ways to use solar energy more efficiently. I am proud to note that last year our efforts resulted in a pledge to build a 400MW solar stations in Armenia. They will be built by the Masdar company. This is only the first step, but we can do more. Armenia is producing six times more water then we consume. Many envy us on this. Water is much more valuable than oil. Who is going to be more powerful in the future: one who has nature, clean air, clean water, mountains, food, and a healthy lifestyle or the one who will not be able to use the base provided by clean nature and will not be able to foresee the future? We must invest into nature, clean water, clean food. This will become Armenia’s business card, our logo.
Do we need to spend money to find our logo? I don’t think so. You will agree that we can present Armenia to the world not only as the country with the best drinking water but also the native land of everything which is clean and organic. This will be our logo which we will use to sell Armenian tomato, cucumber, and apricot. Armenia should become a place which is healthy for living because it has healthy food, clean air and a healthy lifestyle. This is the cornerstone. We need to think about future.”
Noting that future is in artificial intelligence and quantum technologies, President Sarkissian in that context presented his АТОМ (Advanced Tomorrow) initiative. “It comprises three components, one of which a Disney Land of the future,” the President presented some detail. “If we want to make Armenia attractive for tourists, we need to make them come and see the future. The venue will have also a Museum of Future where one will be able to see what tomorrow will look like. Another component is scientific, business platform where we will have major international companies working in the area of mathematical modeling and artificial intelligence. There will be big companies not only from Europe but also the US, Russia, India, and China. And the third component is educational.
In the political area, as a presidential initiative, I am working on creating a cooperation network of small but successful countries, the countries, which are small but have registered outstanding success through proper reforms.
It is difficult to define success. It is not going to be another G7 or G20. It will be a club where we will gather and share our ideas on how to achieve success by being small but successful and powerful.
I believe that if we have a vision, strategy, a program and work together diligently, hand in hand, our nation and our state will flourish.”
Appealing to our compatriots, President Sarkissian said in particular, “Armenia is our common home. Some of us live all our life in Armenia, some temporarily reside somewhere else but it doesn’t matter; your hearts, as William Saroyan said, are in mountains, in the Fatherland. Your mind, your money, you are physically elsewhere but your heart and soul are in Armenia. You are good citizens of this country, and I am confident you will be good citizens of Armenia.”