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By Emil Danielyan

President Robert Kocharian singled out on Friday Armenia’s economic revival as his main objective and said his efforts so far have produced encouraging results. While admitting that recent years’ growth has yet to benefit most Armenians, Kocharian said he has succeeded in enacting important laws, reforming the judiciary and improving the business environment during his more than three years in office.

“An economically strong Armenia is my number one aim,” the Armenian leader said in an online question-and-answer session with readers of the Russian Internet daily GazetaSNG.ru. “True, we continue to grapple with numerous problems in the economic sphere. But the problems are much more different from the ones we face two or three years ago. The economic climate in Armenia has changed substantially over the past years.”

“Unfortunately, part of the society does not feel the positive trends in the economy in its day-to-day life,” he continued. “But quantity is turning into quality, and our daily work will no doubt reflect [positively] on the quality of life of our citizens.”

Kocharian’s opponents accuse the current authorities of failing to get the country of out a severe economic slump it suffered in the early 1990s. Despite seven consecutive years of growth, 55 percent of the population is still mired in still lives below the poverty line and the economy remains strangled by extremely high unemployment. In a recent report on Armenia, the World Bank described this phenomenon as an “economic paradox.” The report concluded that because of rampant corruption and favoritism only a privileged minority has reaped benefits of the growth.

Kocharian publicly disagreed with some of its conclusions last month. He on Friday claimed that the Armenian authorities “have reduced to minimum” the possibilities of bureaucratic red tape and are determined to further improve the investment climate. “Creation of favorable conditions for private business is the main pre-requisite for Armenia’s economic development,” he said, adding that “advancing the reforms in all directions” is the government’s main task.

Yerevan is under strong pressure from Western donor states and lending institutions to ensure better governance and strengthen the rule of law, a major obstacle to a greater influx of foreign investments.

Kocharian also noted that Armenia’s membership of the World Trade Organization, expected later this year, will amount to “international recognition of the fact that the market economy has established itself in Armenia.” He said: “The Armenian economy can not development without serious export volumes. The WTO membership first of all means access to the markets of the member states.”
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