By Atom Markarian and Shakeh Avoyan
Armenian government officials clarified on Wednesday that the 20 percent growth announced by President Robert Kocharian the previous day referred to the first-quarter output of country’s largest enterprises rather than its Gross Domestic Product, as was wrongly understood by some media, including RFE/RL.
Visiting a textile factory in Yerevan, Kocharian cited the figure in an ambiguously worded sentence which contained the “economic growth” and “industrial enterprises” phrases.
The head of the Armenian National Statistics Service, Stepan Mnatsakanian, told RFE/RL that the figure reflects the performance of Armenia’s 253 largest manufacturing firms monitored by the ministry of industry. Mnatsakanian said his agency has yet to release the main macroeconomic indicators of the first quarter of this year.
Government statistics shows the Armenian GDP increasing by 5.5 percent in January and February compared with the same period last year.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Economic Development Ashot Shahnazarian told reporters that economic growth in 2002 will mainly be driven by the manufacturing sector. He said several large factories will resume production operations soon and speed up the growth in industrial output.
Echoing Kocharian’s remarks, Shahnazarian said the Armenian economy, which is still reeling from the near collapse of the early 1990s, will generate at least 25,000 new jobs this year. “There should be no doubt about it,” he said.
Analysts, meanwhile, cautioned that the growth, which hit 9.6 percent in 2001, may well slow down in 2002 due to domestic and external factors. Tigran Jrbashian of the Sed Marsed consulting firm predicted that there will be “a certain reduction” in the growth rate because of business expectations of political tension in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections due early next year.