Bouldoukian, Labanon Central Bank’s Former Deputy Governor

Interviewed by Hamo Moskofian, Paris, 31 August 2010

 “It is time to think of constructing new Arks like that of the Noah’s or live in Armenia, or similar high mountainous regions.”

Hamo Moskofian: Three decades have elapsed since the historic 1979 World Armenian Congress in Paris to your July 2010 visit to the City of Lights. As a vice-governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon from 1985 to 1990, in addition to 51 years as banking executive serving in multinational banks, as well as an intellectual, university professor, author, economist and patriot, what are your thoughts and feelings about the rolling away of your active life?

Interviewed by Hamo Moskofian, Paris, 31 August 2010

 “It is time to think of constructing new Arks like that of the Noah’s or live in Armenia, or similar high mountainous regions.”

Hamo Moskofian: Three decades have elapsed since the historic 1979 World Armenian Congress in Paris to your July 2010 visit to the City of Lights. As a vice-governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon from 1985 to 1990, in addition to 51 years as banking executive serving in multinational banks, as well as an intellectual, university professor, author, economist and patriot, what are your thoughts and feelings about the rolling away of your active life?

Meguerditch H. Bouldoukian: I hardly feel the passing of time. It is like yesterday. Since that historic Armenian Congress, Armenians have established a free and independent republic. I feel gratified. We owe the success of the Congress to the efforts of Rev. James Karnuzian from Gstaad; Eduard Jakhian from Brussels; les anciens combattants de France, headed by Kevork Bakerjian of UFAFU (Union Française des Arméniens de Formation Universitaire), Paris; Prof. Vahakn Dadrian from the United States; Gayzag Palandjian from Spain; père Andranik Granian and Kevork Ajemian from Lebanon; myself and 330 compatriots from 23 countries.

After helping organize the Congress, my banking career forced me to return to Lebanon in 1981. I was appointed the following year as deputy-governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon for five years.
This new central banking function opened new horizons in my life. I visited several banks in Europe meeting with the governors and senior officials for consultation and advice in implementing monetary policy for Banque du Liban. I thought these European central banks had the experience of crisis management due to the Second World War. Their contribution was very useful.
Following my tenure at Banque du Liban, in 1991 I was invited by the leaders of the Republic of Armenia for consultation in finance, banking and central banking under the new market economy.
From 1992 to 1993 I served as central banking consultant in Brussels to the external affairs of the European Community, (TACIS program) and I visited several of the CIS countries. These two years were a live university for me.
When my EC contract came to an end, I served a London-based bank, the UBAF Bank, as their representative in the Middle East. It was a new opportunity for me to be specialized in correspondent banking and trade finance. I have continued on that job to the present day. Parallel to my banking career, I was invited to teach finance and banking in five universities in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, I have participated in international conferences on economic relations, banking systems, restructuring, public debt and budgeting, and the Barcelona Agreement this year. Details of the itinerary of this part of my life may be viewed on my new website . One of the most important conferences where I made a presentation was in Rome in 2006. I spoke about the Euromed Barcelona Agreement 2010. I said that it was impossible to target 2010, even 2015 to realise the objectives of the agreement.
H.M.: How do you see the current situation in Armenia and in Diaspora, after the independence, the creation of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh, and the fall of the Iron Curtain?
M.B.: The Iron Curtain was a black label given by Winston Churchill to the frontiers of communist states. I wished he hadn’t. Because of this Curtain, for seventy years, we in the West did not see the lamentable life of millions of nations within the communist states. Regarding to the independent Republic of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh and Diaspora Armenians, twenty years have passed since independence. The osmosis of the interaction into one nationhood of millions of dispersed Armenians has been slow. I expect that with the information technology, this will change into a faster interaction of attitudes and mentality, a better understanding of each other’s problems, respect to positions and national interest, sounder behavior, unified struggle for human rights, justice and recovery of occupied Armenian regions and properties and compensation through international courts. This will take time. After all, the Republic of Turkey is a neighboring state of the Republic of Armenia. One day, both nations will come to terms. Stubbornness plus negation does not lead to positive results. 
I’ve met many Armenians in Yerevan. There are the intellectuals, artists, academicians and there are the tough fighters for just causes, as well as, the unyielding category of brave soldiers. They have many opportunities and challenges. The economy is in transformation and growing in spite of the blockade by Turkey. The new generation can face all kinds of risks and uncertainty. They seem self-confident, hardworking–an Armenian national characteristic–and with entrepreneurial spirit. The Diaspora must invest more.
As to Artsakh, independence is their legal right, and they are part of the osmosis. Kosovo’s case is the same as Nagorno-Karabagh’s. The recent declaration of Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu in Baku as a condition for normalizing relations between Ankara and Yerevan is just a diplomatic utterance. Armenians also can put conditions, starting with the recognition of the Wilsonian frontiers.    
H.M.: How do you analyze the situation in Turkey and in the Turkish Diaspora, concerning the rise of convert Armenians and other minorities, after years of oppression and silence?
M.B.: My specialty is economics and finance. I wish you asked me about the banking system in Turkey, Turkish banks and their origins, the banking crisis of 2001 or the Turkish economic progress since the ’70s, the KOT gap, or the Turkish holding companies… as they are part of my job.
It appears that to gain international credibility, the authorities in Turkey want to manage the situation of the minorities in a different style than the previous regimes. Turks are very sensitive to foreign intervention on behalf of their minorities, although they have signed many international agreements in this connection since the 19th century. It appears they do not realize that the world has changed in the past 100 years. On the other hand, tell me where on this planet are there no oppressed people? Where on this planet are there no genocides? Where on this planet is their justice? Why are there regional wars everywhere?
One major reason for wars is that there are the haves and have-nots–individuals or nations. Another factor is that there are two kinds of human beings: those who work and produce and those who live on the people who produce. It is the jungle world. You have the bees and ants, which work day and night; you have the mosquitoes and leeches which suck the blood of others. It is easier to live on other people’s belongings.
Before the Second World War who were the wealthy in Germany? Germans of Jewish descent. You had the Holocaust. Who were the wealthy citizens in the Ottoman Empire before its downfall? The minorities: Armenians, Greeks, and Jews. You had the Genocide.
Oil was first found by Alexander Mantashoff, a Baku Armenian, followed by Kalouste Gulbenkian, Alex’s student. Which nations had an eye on this vital product other than the colonial powers–England and France? The Germans were kept out of the game. One of the reasons for the First World War was the oil of Mosul, still an Ottoman territory before the war. The Berlin-Baghdad Railway was not to transport German pilgrims to Najaf, Karbala, Mecca or Jerusalem. Do not forget Lord Curzon’s famous statement in 1923: "Oil weighed heavier than the blood of the Armenians."
During the Second World War if the Germans had won at Stalingrad, their next plan was the invasion of Caucasus…for Baku and Mosul oil, and it would have been the destruction of the Armenian SSR. Ottomans and the Turks miscalculated twice, during the two world wars. They will still make wrong calculations in the future with the same mentality.
You speak about the convert Armenians of Turkey. For the Turkish authorities these converts do not seem to be a priority, although the Hamshens and the Zazas have given many state officials and ministers in Turkey and still do. The new administration seems to have other priorities: the rising Kurdistan in Iraq (oil in Mosul, Kirkuk and the Kurdish expansion); the existence of the Kurdish population in Iran, Syria and Turkey; the entry to the European Union; new markets for the Turkish economic agents (producers, contractors and manufacturers) in Arab and Islamic countries, in African countries, such as Ethiopia, where even a benevolent Turkish organization for the poor, called KIMSA YOKMU (Solidarity and Aid Association) operates in Addis Ababa or a secondary school in Sana’a, Yemen. Of course, there is also the reconciliation with the state of Israel, and some kind of an alliance with Iran and Syria.
H.M.: As an internationally-known author of a series of books on finance and banking, which readers are you targeting?
M.B.: The financial sector (executives in banking institutions mainly), the international traders and the business sector, university students preparing their MBAs and the public at large.
H.M.: Did the crisis of 2008 negatively affect the Lebanese banking system?
M.B.: On the contrary, Lebanese banks attracted billions of dollars in the form of investments and deposits as a safe haven for money. This phenomenon is still continuing. 
H.M.: What are  your future projects.
M.B.: My plans at the age of 74? Every morning I wake up and pray God for enabled me to survive, in spite of the wars I have seen, since 1937 and the risky banking life. In 1973 I was held hostage at the Bank of America in Beirut; in 1987 my office at Banque du Liban was hit by several rockets; in 2008 I was knocked down by a car in one of the busy streets of Yerevan. I had been in Armenia 36 times before that accident.
2009 was a year of anniversaries for me, of which the two most important ones were: Fifty years of international banking career. Fifty years ago, in July 1959, I came to Paris for the first time, to meet my uncle Dikran Roupen Bouldoukian, an entrepreneur and engineer. I know the city of Paris street by street, including all the metro grid.
Every morning I go to my banking job. One’s work is one’s best partner in life. You take care of it, it takes care of you, and keeps you away from illness, such as Alzheimer, Parkinson and other unknown illnesses. Work keeps you young. I wonder why the citizens of France — I expect not all — are against the French government’s law to extend the retirement age. Happiness is in working not in vacationing or in early retirement.
I am working on three new books. The first is “Bottleneck in the Dark Tunnel”, my experiences in 1992-1993 in the transformation of the communist states from directed economy to market economy, the challenges, the difficulties, darkness, ignorance, uncertainty about the future and the decadence of human values. The second book is called “Moments”. It includes short stories about critical moments which have been decisive in my life. I plan to write a third book entitled “De cons, de fons et de patrons”, inspired by two famous writers: Bernard Zimmern’s  “Les profiteurs de l’État”and Aram J. Kevorkian’s “Confessions of a Francophile”. I hope to realise these three books in the coming years.
Now as I look back to my life, it is like "Hier encore” of Aznavour.  L’avenir? As Victor Hugo says,“l’avenir n’est à personne! Sire! l’avenir est à Dieu! A chaque fois que l’heure sonne, Tout ici-bas nous dit adieu.”
Finally, I intend to do whatever I can to raise “human values” in societies we live in. Every individual, in any society, is the brick of the nation. If these bricks do not function properly, if they are not made of good material (health, education, moral and spiritual values) and they are not well cemented, our modern society will be driven more and more into all kinds of extremism, causing its disappearance, in spite of all the scientific and technological advancements. There will be no more stability and peace on earth. It will be a wild forest with all its consequences at a time when climatic conditions are causing havoc in many parts of the globe: torrential rains causing floods, forest fires, tsunamis and tornados, earthquakes…

If these natural disasters continue, they will signal the start of a new super-deluge. Many parts of the globe will go under water, not only Venice, in 200 to 300 years. It is time to think of constructing new arks like that of the Noah’s or live in Armenia, or similar high mountainous regions.

  1. Mr. Bouldoukian, I would like

    Mr. Bouldoukian, I would like your ideas and suggestions about the following please:

    • How to improve the economy in Armenia
    • Ways or methods of getting international banks help Armenia more
    • What investment opportunities exist currently in Armenia/Artsakh
    • What is your personal recommendation to a diaspora-businessman to invest in the motherland?  
    1. Greetings Vartkes, Thank you
      Greetings Vartkes,

      Thank you for asking these questions.  If you go back to my first interview of Jan. 20 this year and the one which followed in July in  Keghart, you have tentative answers to some of your questions. However I shall reply to your specific questions.

      Nos. 1and 3-
       Armenia is a landlocked economy in addition to the blockades. The RA does not have a direct  access to any sea landscape.  The factor  of transportation  is an important factor for exporting bulk and heavy material or other produce, although air transport can be an option.
      This makes the RA to look for economic models that  would best apply to its economic performance and circumstances.  In my opinion, the Swiss model is the most suitable for the RA. There are other models too. All the  other countries  have access to waters. 
       Being part of the CIS  and having former relations, mentality and culture with these  republics, I consider them normal and priority markets for the economic  productions of the RA.
      Industrialisation in the long run depends on markets; review the Japanese, the Chinese and the South East Asian economies. the RA will not be an exception.
      Industries that will best fit to promote in the RA today are:

      Construction  (Housing, building materials, equipment, paint…)

      Services (Banking, Insurance, Tourism/Hospitality,  IT/Software, Telecom and Hightech)

      Industries related to precision instruments and electronics

      Industries related to Metals and Mining

      Industries related to Agro-business, mineral water and chemicals)

      Industries related to electric power generation

      Film Industry, actors, singers, music, painters, Jewelry(Gold and Diamond) 

      Pharmaceutical, medically related industries and cosmetics

      International Contracting and consulting offices.The list can be longer Vartkes.

      All these industries will provide ample employment opportunities; International and local trade
      provide lesser employment chances but they are necessary.

      The above cited industrial productions need equity capital and bank financing or foreign investments.
      Banks  look for opportunities for financing with a relative risk.  they are not benevolent institutions.
      Most important of all is the banking system of the RA,  that will promote the venue of commercial banks
      from overseas. That is the job of the central bank.
      On the other hand, there are other sources of private finance, such as the  IFC, EBRD, FDI, Venture Capital or the Diaspora(Armenians or friends of Armenians). At this stage, that is, 20 years after the RA was established, we need capital formation.  The one existing under the Soviet Union was destroyed.
      Capital formation depends on time and efficiency to make it simple.

       Oligarchs have existed  in  all countries where capitalism or market economy was  introduced. Look at the USA,  the big trusts and families of the 19th century as well as Japan’s Zaibatsus and Armenia is not an exception with the adoption of the new model of market economy.

      I already hinted to this question in No.2

      The diaspora must invest; it should be treated as any foreign investor. Their investments must not be considered as donations. Investment is something and donation is something else.

      Well, if you have any other questions, please feel free to come back. There are many other things that can be  recommended for flourishing the economy of the RA.  That will be later.

      1. Thank you!
        Thank you for the quick reply Mr. Bouldoukian.

        I hope the rich Armenians are reading this site and they will consider investing in Armenia (some of them already do), because the economy of any country is the starting point for survival of a nation.

        Businesses should join forces and make significant changes in the Armenian economy without interfering in the politics. By the same token politics should not interfere with the businesses. On the contrary, it should provide incentives to succeed.

        Is that too much to ask??  I don’t think so.

        1. Government interference in business and the economy

          I do fully agree to what you have just commented. A government’s mission  in  any  liberal economy,  worldwide, is to assist in the  creation of  a positive environment, legislate and supervise/control and provide incentives  to a nation’s productive agents. By this action, it creates credibility and acquires reputation within the country and for overseas investors;   international  capital, private or official agents  such as the WB, the IFC, the EBRD, FDIs, multinational  private companies or funds,such as the Arab Funds in the GCC…

          Mnam harkanok,


          1. Harkeli Baron Bouldoukian
            Harkeli Baron Bouldoukian,

            If one million Armenians decide to buy 100 Dram a day, what impact would it have on Armenia’s economy, if any?

            Mnam harkanok


      2. Armenia today
        Dear Friends,

        I was really glad to reach this opinions exchange. However, I am much less optimistic than most of you. Someone used Israel as an example of how a small country can have a flourishing industry. Let me make a slight reminder. There has been a HUGE movement of Jews settling in Israel since 1948 (if not earlier), despite all the wars and other problems. There has been no such movement since the independence of Armenia. On the contrary,  there has been only a very strong emigration, leaving the country almost depleted of its inhabitants.

        Certainly, developing businesses may help open jobs and retain people inside Armenia, but thus far there does not seem to be any reversal in this trend. Rather than hoping to involve more international banks or financial institutions whose debts have strangled more than one economy in the world, leaving their populations impoverished, I would hope that there is more attention given to the educational system and the social protection of the most disadvantaged.

        Not everything was bad in the Soviet period and the level of our schools (where I myself studied) was at the top on the international level. The country still runs thanks to the ‘old school’ and people with a good level of basic and higher education. What do you have of this today? A system in shambles and a government that could care less about any social or educational programs. I do not see any replacement of this educated class in 20-30 years. Despite these difficulties, I do think that our most urgent problem today is the loss of population and we should encourage a movement of people to settle in Armenia. Are diaspora Armenians ready to do this? If not, all the good-will will lead to nothing.

        1. I agree with you Zara

          I agree with you Zara on many points; emigration is a cancer, the education system needs more attention, plus a new legal system should be in-place with more younger and educated leaders in government.

          As for the example of the Jews and Israel, I won’t agree that "a small country can flourish…" I will reply to Mesrob separately regarding his comment.

  2. Bouldoukian interview

    I would like to ask Mr. Bouldoukian what Armenia should do to raise the level of its educational institutions–from kindergarten to university to research institutes.

    A second and a related query: Considering its geographic-geologic-diplomatic-natural resource limitations/circumstances, in what industries should Armenia focus its resources? That is, areas where we can excel and improve Armenia’s economy.

    My apologies for using Israel as an example, since they receive incredible support from America and Diaspora Jews, but that country, despite its small size, little population, frugal resources, has become a giant in pharmaceuticals and other science-related industries. 


    1. Greetings Mesrob, I do not
      Greetings Mesrob,

      I do not know much about the educational system in the armenian Republic.However,

      One factor of any educational system and its institutions  in any country is to provide  with the workforce and labour  to its economy, in addition to  agents to political, military and social life.. I think there should be a close collaboration  and coordination at the republic’s higher strata in adopting educational systems that would  best fit  to economic performers in the RA otherwise there will be distortions in the general  employment set up  and you will have unemployment and  emigration.

      For your other question, please read the text I  mailed to vartkes.

      1. Bouldoukian interview

        Dear Mr. Bouldoukian,
        Thank you for your prompt response. And thanks for your detailed reply to Vartkes.

    2. A small country, but…

      Mesrob,  despite Israel being a small country by size, the fact of the matter is that the ‘real’ Israel is USA with all its military, economic, industrial, financial might.

      When a sizable number of people in the government (senate, congress, advisors, etc.) are Jewish and all the financial institutions and media are the same…then the country ceases to be independent and ‘belongs’ to the controlling party; in this case "Israel owns USA" as mentioned by several Israeli leaders.

      I don’t have anything against it; As they say it’s "survival of the fittest". Jews, being few, like Armenians, have found the ideal way to survive in this harsh ‘human’ world.  They are Ճարպիկ.

      We should do the same!  We should explore the means to control another superpower so we can protect our nation and live amongst the barbaric criminals that we have as neighbours; otherwise we have limited time in history…

  3. Replies to Vartkes and Mesrob

    Thank you for your questions.  I shall reply to you tomorrow, as its sleeping time for me in Beirut city.  Its 11.33 p.m.  Sur you will have a reply.

    Kind regards,


  4. Interview with Mr. Bouldoukian

    Thank you for the informative interview with Mr. Bouldoukian. We have every reason to be proud of Armenians like Mr. Bouldoukian.

    However, in one instance I was perplexed by his simplilstic and misleading reason for the Genocide of Armenians. Mr. Bouldoukian says that Jews were killed in Germany because of their wealth. He then cites the same reason for the Genocide of Armenians and the killing of Greeks in Ottoman Turkey. The Ottoman state committed genocide against Armenians because Turkish leaders wanted to create an ethnically-homogenous nation; because Armenians are Christian; and because Armenians were progressive, and generally wealthier than the average Turk.

    1. Response to Vrej’s comment.
      Dear Vrej,

      I shall not contradict you; but, know one thing: Turkey, until today is not an ethnically homogenous nation.

      If you read MOURJ Monthly Magazine of 1905,yea, yea, Nov/Dec. 1905, printed in Tiflis, pages 188-206, you will find out  many other reasons for the future genocide. The rising  Armenian rich   bourgeoisie in Caucassus in the 19th century had  boiled  the envy of the Ottoman feodal lords who owned  only the land. One such Armenian bougeois was Alexander Mantashof of Baku, with whose donation Armenians in Paris today have their  Hovhannes-Meguerditch church.

      **definition of envy, as per MerriamWebster’s 10th edition Collegiate Dictionary: I quote

      "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage."  If he can, it’s my quote.



  5. To Vartkes, Nerces, Zohrab, Zara , Shahe and M. Bouldoukian

    With all due respect to all of you and your posts  here, plus indeed my old friend Meguerditch Bouldukian, I have this to add, to each of your wishes/desires.For what you actually profess is no other than criticizing, and/or just that wishes.

    In a non chronological order, haphazardly, my humble input, as I did 8 long years ago, when participating at the Armenia-Diaspora Conference (Pre Conference  Section of the  wherein my "paper" plus 6 others, including that  of dear Meguerditch Bouldoukian´s was placed on Foreign Ministry´s web page and kept for 4.5years.

    What I advocated  was Down to Earth plain method  of creation of a "National Investment Trust Fund", nucleus of which to be established by our 6/7 magnates, with each investing in the working capital  of same , say 3/400 million dollars. Then after the billionaires’ input would be followed by our more than a hundred millionaires, down to one hundred thousand dollar investments, further down to a thousand dollar ones. Just sit back ,relax  and take a pen and paper  or calculating machine and count….

    Those  that   would really count would be  the 100,000′ strong "Professional Colleagues Associations" members…With fund in Geneva and governed by the magnates´  experts.

    Loans  to be given through RA/Artsakh banks at 2/3percent per annum to small, medium size entrepreneurs and farmers.

    Forget about the Grandiose  ACBA Bank HSBC  bank and others who loan out at 14%…how can the farmer buy what he needs to farm with such high interest bearing loans….

    Let the Gov. continue with grants, Loans from Finland, Holland Belgium U.S. France, Germany, Canada and channel these through their system— That is governmental/ state  business, which so far  has not eased up our farmers’ overall situation nor the small entrepreneurs’.

    What is  more,  my "Projections on a New Statute for the Armenian Diaspora"…intends/suggests a planned Repatriation, as first major goal, once the Fund is  there..

  6. Deposit of One Million Armenians
    Harkeli Zohrab,

    This action of buying Armenian Drams, daily, over say 100 days or more, brings to the bankibg system of Armenia millions of dollars to be deposited in banks.

    Banks worldwide depend on deposit base, as you know, to feed the economy of a country. If the dollars are deposited in banks and stay in Armenia, they give to banks the possibility to lend in dollars to borrowers. However, to attract this kind of money, the banking system of Armenia must provide confidence to depositors. In summary, it would be a useful and goodwill gesture. Kind regards.

    P.S. Sorry if I am late in my reply as I was in Baghdad last week, visiting Iraqi banks.

  7. Both Curzon and I have

    Both Curzon and I have discussed the alegeld genocide here numerous times before. Search the archives as I don't feel like going at it again here. Simply put, attacking people who aid an invading enemy is not genocide. There was no aim to eliminate Armenians as was the case w/ jews in WW2.

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