IN Diplomacy engaged with the Ambassador of Armenia to Singapore, H.E. Mr. Serob Bejanyan, to discuss the evolving landscape of Armenia’s diplomatic ties and economic relations with Singapore. Highlighting the journey since diplomatic relations were established in 1992, Ambassador Bejanyan shares insights into the challenges and opportunities ahead, emphasizing the potential for mutual growth and collaboration between the two nations

When were diplomatic relations between Singapore and Armenia established?
Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Singapore were established on July 1st, 1992.

Given that the embassy is currently based in Jakarta, how do you effectively engage with Singapore and foster bilateral relations?
Yes, indeed, the embassy is located in Jakarta and covers not only Indonesia, but also Singapore and Malaysia. And, of course, this somehow creates difficulties. However, the embassy endeavors to engage with relevant Singaporean authorities in both the public and private sectors to enhance political and economic relations between the two countries for the benefit of our people.

Unfortunately, the absence of an accredited Singapore embassy in Armenia is another obstacle to the effectiveness of bilateral relations.

Can you provide an overview of the investment and trade ties between Armenia and Singapore?
Armenia and Singapore have been working to strengthen their economic ties, albeit with relatively modest trade and investment volumes. The trade relationship between the two countries certainly has a room for growth.

Armenia offers potential investment opportunities in areas such as information technology, renewable energy, agriculture, and tourism. The Singaporean government and businesses may find Armenia attractive due to its skilled workforce, competitive costs, and strategic location as a gateway to regional markets.

Singapore can serve as a valuable partner for Armenia in accessing markets in Asia, while Armenia provides Singapore with opportunities to tap into the Eurasian Economic Union and the broader Caucasus region.

Surely, there is real potential for deeper cooperation and mutual benefits in the future. In recent years, aluminum products, ores and mines, watches, natural juices, and wine have been exported from Armenia to Singapore. Inversely, pharmaceutical products, electrical, optical, photographic equipment, and machinery are imported from Singapore to Armenia.

What advice do you have for Singaporeans looking to visit Armenia for both business and pleasure?
Overall, visiting Armenia for both business and pleasure can be a rewarding experience, offering a blend of cultural enrichment, business opportunities, and natural beauty. By planning ahead and embracing the local culture, you can make the most of your trip to our fascinating country.

For business purposes, we recommend looking through diverse collection of publications covering Armenia’s economic sectors. Once business interests in Armenia are specified, Enterprise Armenia, the national investment promotion agency of Armenia, is ready to assist business partners by providing a comprehensive range of services throughout the entire investment process, completely free of charges or fees, including providing information on Armenia’s business climate, investment opportunities, and relevant legislation, arranging relevant meetings with actors from the public and private sectors.

I would also like to note that since March 2018, Singaporean citizens are exempt from the need to obtain a visa to visit Armenia. This facilitates visiting and exploring the rich history and culture of Armenia.

How has the Armenian economy been performing recently?
For years, Armenia has been registering constant economic growth of 6-7 percent annually. The year 2020, however, was a year of a global crisis, and Armenia’s economy has faced various challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in the Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh.

These factors have had a significant impact on economic performance. But Armenia’s economy decrease was not so dramatic, and in 2021 we recovered the growth rate to 5.7%. This growth trend is constant, and even stronger in 2022 with 12.6% growth. Currently, the main contributors to the GDP are agriculture, industry and construction, as well as service – with booming tourism and IT sectors.

International organizations such as the OECD and The Heritage Foundation consistently rate Armenia highly for its economic freedom.

Armenia also has a strong and stable financial and fiscal system, which is confirmed by the country’s positions in international indices.

What is Armenia’s investment policy and what incentives are offered to foreign investors?
Thanks to the liberal policies adopted by the government, Armenia’s FDI legislation is one of the most flexible and business-oriented ones among emerging markets, so:

  • Foreign nationals doing business in Armenia have the right to a 100% ownership of the resident legal entities in Armenia;
  • The legislation safeguards investors against discriminatory policies. Investors, regardless of their citizenship receive equal treatment, unless a more favorable regime is provided by a respective treaty;
  • Investors have virtually unrestricted access to any sector and location throughout the country;
  • Companies owned by foreign nationals have the right to purchase land. Foreign citizens can have long-term lease contracts.

The Government of Armenia, as part of its steadfast commitment to promote economic development, investment, innovation, entrepreneurship, and social welfare, provides a diverse array of tax incentives, as well as implements state support programs. These initiatives collectively contribute to fostering a favorable and supportive business environment in Armenia.

  • Tax exemption for activities in bordering and other communities. Exemptions from VAT and corporate taxes
  • Customs duties exemption: Customs duties exemption on the import of equipment and raw materials from non-EAEU countries within the framework of export-oriented investment projects
  • VAT exemption: Majority of production equipment and raw materials imported for further processing are exempt from VAT
  • IT sector: 10% reduction of the income tax on employees’ salaries for licensed tech startups
  • Medical Sector: Exemption from VAT for the sale and provision of prosthetic and orthopedic accessories, medical equipment, medical products and medical assistance services
  • Compensation for attraction of highly qualified workers: Up to 70% reimbursement to the companies on wages paid to highly qualified specialists
  • Infrastructure in exchange for investment: The government helps fund the construction of roads, water supply systems, power supply systems, gas supply systems, drainage systems, and telecommunications systems. The assistance will be in the amount of 10% of total investment of up to 500 million drams and 20% of total investment of more than 500 million drams
  • Subsidized credit and leasing for new equipment, devices, and their parts: The government of Armenia subsidizes loans for the aforementioned purposes at 6-8%, and leases at 8-10%
  • Reimbursement for manufacturing economic complex products: Companies with at least 1 billion AMD capital investment can access up to 35% reimbursement of total capital investments made

Which sectors do you encourage foreign investors to explore in Armenia?
Armenia’s focus on economic diversification, innovation and structural reforms has established a strong growth foundation across multiple sectors. From Information Technologies and Tourism to Agriculture and Manufacturing, the local economy offers enormous business opportunities for foreign and domestic investors.

Armenia stands out with unique climatic conditions and vast natural resources, making the country a lucrative agricultural destination. Meanwhile, the sector is actively modernizing, and large-scale initiatives are being implemented in Armenia in areas like greenhouse construction, intensive orchards, smart cattle barns, etc. State beneficial policies and dozens of supporting, financing and subsidizing programs significantly ameliorate the sector, attracting more investments in it. Modern farming techniques and export-oriented agricultural products thus offer profitable investment opportunities.

Pharmaceuticals is a dynamically growing sector in Armenia, with potential in the generics production, active pharmaceutical ingredients, CRO, CMO, and research and development. The average hourly compensation in the pharmaceutical market in Armenia is 2.6 USD/hour, 20.4 times lower than 52.2/USD/hour, the average labor cost among the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical exporter countries.

The demand for active pharmaceutical ingredients can be seen in both the local market (Armenia imports 100% of APIs needed for local pharmaceutical production), as well as in the markets of Armenia’s foremost trade partners and export destinations. Local producers cover less than 15% of the domestic market.

The Textile and Clothing Industry is becoming more and more interesting for investors as famous brands are already outsourcing their productions to Armenia. Despite offering a highly cost-effective talent pool with lower salaries, the Armenian clothing and garment industry stands out with high standards in responsible business conduct, which is an essential prerequisite for the increased demand by big multinational corporations. From 2018 to 2022, the textile industry experienced a 19% annual average production growth in this industry.

Famed for its vast cultural heritage, modern touristic infrastructures, and diverse experiences, Armenia attracts an increasing number of tourists annually. This creates a number of advantages for attracting new investments in touristic infrastructures and hospitality.
Countrywide construction of hotels and resorts is in high demand.
In 2023, Armenia welcomed 2.3 million tourists coming to the country, marking a nearly 30% increase compared to 2019.

The food processing industry in Armenia is one of the most significant sectors of the country, and accounts for a substantial portion of its exports. In 2022, Armenia recorded a higher than 40% growth rate in its exports of processed food production.

Armenia’s winemaking renaissance positions it on the world wine map. From 2016 to 2022, investment in Armenia’s viticulture and winemaking industry grew 10 times.

Armenia is now on a path of modernizing the traditional sectors of the economy and promoting the tech sector, where Armenia has accumulated immense potential to become a regional innovation hub.
The role of the technology sector in diversifying Armenia’s economy is quite significant and is key in forming the nation’s middle class.

Being a regional tech hub, Armenia aspires to become a global tech hub. Thanks to specialized university programs, government assistance, and most importantly, a competitive talent pool, we’ve been able to attract multiple renowned IT companies which currently operate in Armenia. To name a few, Siemens, Teamviewer, Nvidia, AMD, Synopsis, Adobe, and many others have hired thousands of local specialists for their global operations, especially in their research and development activities. Similarly, homegrown companies, including the first regional unicorn, Picsart, are also driving Armenia’s economic growth and innovation. The well-established talent pool of professionals makes the future of Armenia’s vibrant tech ecosystem promising. Preparing future talents to sustain Armenia’s labor effectiveness is one of the long-term goals of the tech industry. There are free educational programs throughout Armenia that teach children and adolescents programming, graphic design, 3D modeling and much more. TUMO Center for Creative Technologies and ARMATH Engineering Laboratories are among the 200 R&D hubs in Armenia.

Could you describe Armenian cuisine and recommend restaurants where readers can try it?
Armenian cuisine is known for its rich flavors, use of fresh ingredients, and traditional cooking techniques that have been passed down through generations. Here are some key dishes and recommended restaurants, where readers can try Armenian cuisine:

  • Khorovats (Armenian Barbecue) consists of skewered and grilled meat, typically marinated in spices and herbs. It’s a popular dish enjoyed at gatherings and celebrations;
  • Tolma (Dolma) is a dish made from grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, minced meat (often beef or lamb), herbs, and spices. It’s usually served with matsun (yogurt) or a tangy sauce;
  • Lavash is a soft, thin flatbread that is a staple of Armenian cuisine. It’s typically served with various dishes or used to wrap khorovats and other fillings. You can find freshly baked lavash at local bakeries and markets throughout Armenia;
  • Harissa is a traditional Armenian dish made from cooked wheat and meat (usually chicken or lamb), seasoned with spices, and slow-cooked to a porridge-like consistency. It’s often served during festive occasions. Although the Harissa festival in the village of Musaler near Yerevan is not a restaurant, it is famous for the fact that every third Sunday of September, in honor of salvation during the 1915 genocide, it is prepared in huge quantities and served free to all people;
  • Armenian cuisine features a variety of cheeses, including string cheese (chechil), aged cheeses, and fresh cheeses like panir;
  • Armenian Sweets are often made with nuts, honey, and fruits. Traditional sweets include paklava, gata (a sweet pastry), and sujukh (walnuts threaded onto a string and dipped in grape molasses);
  • Armenian Wine: Armenia has a long history of winemaking, dating back thousands of years. Visitors can sample Armenian wines at wine bars and tasting rooms in Yerevan.
    These are just a few examples of Armenian dishes that tourists can find in all restaurants in Armenia. Exploring local markets, bakeries, and restaurants in Yerevan and beyond will provide visitors with a delicious culinary experience and a taste of Armenian hospitality.

What products made in Armenia would you like to introduce to the region?
Introducing products made in Armenia to the region can provide an opportunity to demonstrate the country’s unique cultural heritage and quality craftsmanship. Here are some products from Armenia that could be presented in the region:

  • Armenian Brandy: Armenia is famous for its brandy, whose long history of production dates back to the 19th century. Armenian brandy, also known as “cognac,” is made from local grapes and aged in oak barrels, resulting in a smooth and flavorful spirit;
  • Armenian Carpets and Textiles: Armenian carpets are prized for their intricate designs, vibrant colors and traditional craftsmanship. One of them can be seen in a small museum hall next to the Armenian Church in Singapore, which was presented to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his official visit to Armenia in 2019;
  • Armenian Delicacies: Armenia produces a variety of delicacies including dried fruits, nuts, preserves, jams, and honey. These high-quality, locally produced products could appeal to consumers in the region seeking natural and healthy food products with a unique taste;
  • Armenian Jewelry: Armenian jewelry reflects the country’s rich cultural heritage and craftsmanship, with designs inspired by ancient motifs and traditions;
  • Armenian Wine: Armenia’s wine industry is developing, and the country’s reputation for producing high-quality wines from local grape varieties is growing. As far as I know, Armenian wine, as well as brandy, can be found in some online stores and restaurants in Singapore.

Can you share a brief overview of your diplomatic career and experience.
I began my diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1998, working in various departments of the MFA, and embassies. In 2006, I was posted to Greece for 3 years. During 2014-2018, I was Envoy, DCM of the Armenian Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium.

Before coming to the region, I was the Director of the Media and Public Diplomacy Department of the MFA.

What is your message to Singapore investors and travelers?
Armenia offers unique advantages and countless opportunities for those seeking to expand their horizons. We extend an open invitation to investors from Singapore to explore the vast potential that Armenia holds. With a liberal investment environment, supportive government policies, and a skilled workforce, Armenia presents attractive prospects for foreign investment.

As to travelers, we invite you to explore our beautiful country, rich in culture and history that goes back thousands of years. Explore ancient monasteries, enjoy delicious cuisine, and immerse yourself in the warmth of Armenian hospitality.

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