Armenia’s prime minister Karen Karapetyan told Bloomberg in an interview about his plans to develop the economy, fight corruption and ensure competition in the country.
“We’re proposing the most rapid change that’s possible, including measures to combat corruption by streamlining bureaucracy and a government fund to support enterprise," he said, stressing that businesses shouldn’t be obstructed’ by corrupt officials seeking payments for administrative decisions or by dominant rivals using political ties to restrict competition.
"We won’t allow dominant players to use administrative support that isn’t available to others’ to suppress competition. No one is immune and no one is privileged,’’ Karapetyan said.
He noted that Armenia’s foreign debt is $5.8 billion with GDP at $10 billion, while growth of 3.2 percent in 2017 won’t be enough to raise living standards significantly. “We also have external debt growing faster than the GDP growth and growing faster than revenues,’’ he said, adding that changes in the leadership of the customs service and in the tax code are improving transparency.
Karapetyan said he’ll also form an advisory group including foreign specialists to “brainstorm how we can develop the country’’ for the long term, including with tax changes and support for businesses in areas such as health care, education and agriculture.
Armenia rejected a trade pact with the European Union to enter the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union of former Soviet states in January last year. While critics say there’s been no economic benefit so far, nobody knows what would have happened if Armenia hadn’t joined and “the negative impact could have been much greater,’’ while membership doesn’t stop Armenia developing EU trade, Karapetyan said.
Armenia’s also seeking to bolster trade with Iran following the lifting of international sanctions over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Karapetyan said he’s ordered plans developed by December 25 to implement a free economic zone near Armenia’s southern border to boost ties in areas including agriculture and food production.
"We are seeking to develop clear long-term plans over the next six months so that from 2018 we’ll have sustainable year-on-year growth,’’ Karapetyan concluded.