By Armen Zakarian
Industry and Economic Development Minister Karen Chshmaritian painted on Saturday a bright outlook for the Armenian economy, announcing a 12 percent rise in industrial production and 40 percent surge in exports in the first half of the year.
According to him, the industrial growth excluding the energy sector was over 20 percent and was accompanied by a 25 percent jump in construction.
“This year will see better indicators than last year did,” Chshmaritian told RFE/RL in an interview. “This applies to both the overall Gross Domestic Product and the industry, agriculture and exports.”
Official figures show the Armenian GDP increasing by just over 10 percent in the first half or well above the government expectations. Officials say the growth is likely to remain strong for the rest of the year. They anticipate that the country will attract at least $200 million in foreign direct investment in 2002.
Chshmaritian said the struggling economy was helped by a stronger global demand in copper, gold and jewelry items -- the traditional Armenian exports. He thanked the U.S. Congress for its recent decision allowing duty-free imports of Armenian jewelry and textile products into the United States.
Political opponents of the Armenian government have always questioned the credibility of its statistical information. They argue that most Armenians do not feel any improvement of their lives and claim that the upbeat economic figures are part of President Robert Kocharian’s reelection strategy.