Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Going Underground

Walking through Yerevan’s North Eastern Parkway and trying to navigate a passage around the Nalbandian Street construction site, I was prompted to think more deeply about why our authorities had decided to apparently spend a not insignificant amount of money and the best part of two years, digging up two major intersections to make a couple of pedestrian underpasses.

Putting aside the question of whether there is an actual need for the underpasses, and putting aside the fact that the work is undoubtedly being financed by one or another of the international donor organisations, when I look at any development project in Armenia I recently find myself asking – What is in it for them?

Of course, they will need a reason to persuade a donor to provide the money in the first place, and a couple of pedestrian underpasses would seem to fit that bill. Then having agreed the finance, the state will find a preferred construction company to build the underpasses, probably one with Karabagh roots, and there will understandably be a healthy profit in it for them. And the work will no doubt be done for a fraction of the value of the financing, to make sure that there will be leftovers to be handed around. That of course is how the authorities manage to support their excessive life styles.

But there has to be something else that gives these pedestrian underpasses priority over other seemingly more profitable ventures, such as ‘privatizing’ another state asset, or building another Northern Prospect.

A little brain racking was sufficient to come up with the answer.

Of course any self respecting underpass should have a full range of amenities; shops, stalls, cafes, all of which will no doubt be sold or leased to the not-so-fortunates who no longer qualify for their places under the sun. They will no doubt soon be pressured into paying an arm and a leg for the privilege of being driven underground.

I wonder if Yerevan’s so thoughtful authorities will think about providing convenience facilities in their new underground emporiums. Or will that be overlooked in the same way as they overlook the need to provide police control for the traffic chaos that has been the daily treat for Yerevan’s commuters, as a result of their philanthropy.

And who will be surprised if Yerevan soon becomes the proud possessor of two privatized underpasses?

Time will tell

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