preserve the high levels of literacy, higher education, and scientific potential that Armenia enjoyed at the outset of independence in 1991 and continues to enjoy even now.
The literacy rates for Armenia are almost 100 percent, and the number of people with higher education is among the highest in the world. Secondary education is compulsory and free of charge through grade ten. The main problem, however, is the general economic conditions in the country. Similar problems continue to exist in the science sector. During Soviet times, the organizational structure was highly centralized and based on the Academy of Sciences. Some research institutions reported directly to federal agencies in Moscow and some to local Armenian ministries. The economic transition in Armenia has had a major impact on science, basic and applied research, and technological development. Armenia has more than 140 scientific institutes, centers, and other units, including major institutions like the Yerevan Physics Institute, the Byurakan Observatory, and the Microbiological Depository Center. The National Academy of Sciences [NAS-RA] coordinates fundamental and applied research in different fields. As a state scientific organization, the NAS-RA unifies scientific and research institutes and subsidiary services. In 2001, the Academy system had a total staff of about 4,600 employees, including a scientific staff of about 2,400 (116 academicians, 340 doctors of science, 1,150 candidates of science).
The story of Armenian science in the last decade was a story of survival and adaptation to new conditions. In 1998, scientific R&D expenditures in Armenia were 0.3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and educational expenses were less than 2 percent of GDP. Although state funding is very low, Armenian scientists are doing excellent work in many areas, due to substantial scientific potential, recognized schools, research-oriented scientific traditions, and good equipment. The number of scientific publications was 0.8 per scientist per year in 1998, and the ratio of scientific personnel to the general population was 0.17 percent. Scientific institutions of course experienced a major problem as many scientists have emigrated. Yet, sometimes it can be beneficial as well, because the former staff members have helped to establish good contacts between their former and current institutions.
I want to speak about the problem of “brain drain” and emigration from Armenia. Armenia’s census in 2002 showed that the permanent population in Armenia comprised 3 million people, implying an emigration of close to 800,000 people since 1989. Emigration has now significantly slowed down, but it is a cause of concern. The emigration of people from Armenia is the tragic result of underutilized economic potential. Neither is it an isolated phenomenon: we know from history that Ireland has suffered a similar brain drain, which is now being reversed. I have confidence that eventually, as Armenia’s economic progress picks up, it will be possible to stop and reverse the migration in Armenia.
Soviet Armenia’s economy, which was approximately twice the size of the current GDP, was anchored in the Soviet Union’s command economy. By 1989,