Vahe Danielian

New York University
Master of Laws (LL.M)
Major: International Business Regulation, Litigation and Arbitration
Huys Scholar 2021

We are living in a volatile world where main paradigms can change during months or even days. We are living in the times which bring challenges every day. Hence, It is crucial for every country to have visionary strategies which will enable to find flexible and complex legal solutions in the sphere of business public policy and governance.

Currently, the prevailing approach to public administration in Armenia has drawn on a model of bureaucracy based on heavy regulations and corruption risks. This model of the old public administration does not match to the growing demands of a competitive market economy. As a matter of fact, elimination of needless red tape by cleaning up outdated laws, simplifying regulations is a major challenge for developed countries as well that have appealing record of pioneering public services. For instance, famous historian and former professor of Harvard University Niall Ferguson gives an interesting example in his book “The Great Degeneration” that it took an American journalist sixty-five days to get official permission (including, after a wait of up to five weeks, a Food Protection Certificate) to open a lemonade stand in New York City. Apparently, the situation in developing countries is incomparably worse, when we also take into consideration the existence of underdeveloped institutions and the level of corruption. For example, in Armenia the process of merely changing a person’s name takes up to 5 months. Moreover, a person needs to visit several government bodies and submit bunch of documents including a request that justifies the applicant’s valid reasons serving as a basis for the change of name; such as unflattering name, difficulty with pronunciation of the name or other cases when the change of name might be permitted by way of exception by the decision-making authority. This overall process is very convoluted and thus contains limitless discretionary decisions and corruption risks. Starting a business is another striking example. The procedure makes you go through the following steps; register a company in the Ministry of Justice that takes 2 days, visit the taxation authority to register the company’s Chief Executive Officer, buy a seal from a private company, open a bank account in the bank, buy a Point of Sale (POS) terminal, bring it back to the taxation authority to register it, choose optional taxes. This process is time consuming and very exhaustive. There is also very few online services available with limited accessibility. Such regulations serve to confuse and burden citizens and businesses diversely affecting on the business environment, thus the development of countries. However, the above-mentioned practice has very strong historic and legal traditions behind it and we need a bold strategy in order to eradicate the profound roots of complicated bureaucracy. This process requires two interrelated phases: firstly, completely abolish old administrative system and implement new institutions by simplifying the procedures until the “point of improbability” through cutting excessive regulations, and secondly, use the latest achievements of information technology to alter procedures to online platform. It seems prima facie easy task but it is a big challenge for most of the countries for decades and we would succeed if reforms are based on deep academic knowledge, best international practice and new creative solutions.

My professional experience has been rich in public service. The opportunity to work for different institutions, namely, the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the President, the Parliament and the Prime Minister’s staff, the Government was a great success and achievement. In my previous job as the legal assistant to the Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia, I used to meet local and international business people on a day-to-day basis trying to solve their problems regarding current regulations or practical administrative barriers they face during their activities. My role was as well important in a situation when there is lack of good regulatory frameworks in place and good institutions. There were many cases when I have initiated amendments to regulations. At the same time, I am sure that fragmented and ad-hoc solutions are not the best way to ensure the institutional changes we aspire.

It has been 1.5 year since I was appointed as a Deputy Minister of Justice, which is yet another inspiring role and a huge responsibility as well. From day one, I set a goal to make people’s life easier as soon and as fast as possible.  Coordinating the policy and the activities in the fields of public services that are provided by the Ministry, I initiated intensive digitization of services, eliminated excessive bureaucracy and elaborated the concept of Joint Office of Public Services that combines all public services under the single roof: including business or property registration, notary services, personal documents (ID, birth certificate and passport). Recently we have established first such agency, which operates under one-stop shop principle. We also adopted the Concept of Public Services Reform. In the short run, the latter intends to among others make it easier for new firms to enter the market, reduce the number of procedures and the burden of entry regulations, and shorten number of days and costs of setting up a new business. The final goal is to bring Armenia at least to the second place in the indicator of Starting a Business of the Ease of doing business index annually published reports by World Bank.

I also approved revolutionary identification solutions in the public service sector, such as Face ID and Bankcards. Face ID is a facial recognition system, an advanced technology that is able to allow biometric authentication of online users combining with the information of our passports’ database. This is the first attempt ever to use this kind of identification systems when giving public services in all over the world as an alternative to traditional electronic signature which usage is very low among people, despite of the huge  efforts to encourage its usage within last 2 decades.

However, in the long run institutional changes could be effective if we adequately address the problem of pressing need to develop credible academic context and best international practice behind reforms.

Hence, I decided that it is time to get new perspectives and ideas that will enable me to look at the Armenian Legal System from a different angle. Currently, I am honored to be enrolled in the LL.M in International Business Regulation, Litigation, and Arbitration.

This is one of the most popular and competitive LL.M programs, especially among foreign-trained lawyers. Not only it affords students the opportunity to gain exposure to the fundamentals of cross-border business activities, national and international regulatory regimes applied to them. It also offers various interdisciplinary courses related to business and human rights, business and environment, business and corruption, judiciary, governance, alternative dispute resolution.

Moreover, the NYU Law School offers a set of unparalleled courses that touch upon very important topics that have little or no regulation in our country; aspects of the law of agency, partnership, closely-held corporations, their legal structuring, fiduciary law, shareholder voting, derivative suits, executive compensation, reorganizations, Mergers and Acquisition Law and the best American experience of modern digitalization, that made these complex processes easier and more accessible to its stakeholders.

All these courses cover areas and provide potential solutions to Armenia’s problems over the past decades.

Therefore, upon returning to Armenia, I plan to elaborate reforms packages for the international investment regime and investment protection, digitalization, and alternative dispute resolution. The 2019-2023 strategy for judicial and legal reform of the Republic of Armenia highlights all these reforms as a high priority. Thus, I hope that the knowledge gained at NYU will help me contribute the reforming agenda.

Additionally, I consider my education in New York a brilliant platform for enlarging my network and acquiring new ties in academia, professional and business fields, and the Armenian diaspora.  More than ever, Armenia needs new vectors of collaboration with the global world; thus, I hope to find new collaboration mechanisms for the betterment of Armenia as well.

To sum up, my vision is that education at NYU will allow me to bring ideas to Armenia and change many old paradigms that impede Armenia’s development.

I am aware that Huys Foundation is granting the Huys Scholarship to me with the anticipation of my good faith pursuit and implementation of the projects and undertakings described in this letter, to which I hereby commit.