By Atom Markarian
Representatives of Western donor-states and international finance institutions will meet in Paris next week to review the Armenian government’s economic policy and discuss more aid and loans to Yerevan. The donors are likely to approve the continuing economic reforms and government efforts to improve the business environment in the country, a senior World Bank official said on Wednesday.
“The fact that Armenia is making a very big effort to attract domestic and foreign investments is definitely going to create more confidence in the mind of the Western donors,” the bank’s resident representative in Yerevan, Owaise Saadat, told RFE/RL.
He said an Armenian government delegation led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian will brief them on its policies and try to “get some increased commitments from the donors for meeting Armenia’s budget requirements.”
The previous such meeting was held in Yerevan last October, with Western governments and lending agencies promising a new hefty package of development funds and urging the authorities to continue reforms with a greater focus on the microeconomic environment. The donors pledged to provide between $320 million and $350 million in fresh loans and grants to Armenia within the next fourteen months.
The Paris meeting, scheduled for July 9-10, will discuss the Markarian cabinet’s tentative three-month economic program. Its overall approval by the boards of directors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank led to the release of a total of $140 million in fresh loans from the two institutions in late May.
“I am really hoping that there will be a very fruitful discussion [in Paris] and many ideas will come up from the government side and many from the donors,” Saadat said. He added that the government should make more efforts to improve the investment climate in Armenia and achieve higher rates of GDP growth.
“I think that the macroeconomic situation in Armenia is quite good, but what really needs to be done is to move to higher rates of growth. And the other important point is to bring about a qualitative change in the growth so that it has a greater impact on the poor people.”
The Armenian finance ministry has forecast a growth rate of at least six percent for this year. Official figures show the Armenian economy expanding by 8.5 percent in the first four months of this year.