By Shakeh Avoyan
The Armenian economy grew by 10.2 percent in the first half of this year helped by a continuing major upswing in the construction and service sectors, according to government statistics released on Wednesday.
The reported data puts Armenia on course to register a double-digit rate of economic growth for the fifth consecutive year. Its government says robust growth has resulted in a considerable fall in widespread poverty.
“Our forecasts on the main indicators have proven correct and we have had a growth rate exceeding 10 percent during the first six months of the year,” Trade and Economic Development Minister Karen Chshmaritian told reporters.
According to the latest macroeconomic data, construction remains the fastest growing sector of the economy, having surged by 43 percent from January through June. It is followed by the service sector where growth was reported at 15.5 percent. Armenia’s industrial output, by comparison, rose by just 5.3 percent.
The official figures also show a 31.3 percent rise in the volume of Armenian exports despite a dramatic appreciation of the national currency, the dram, against the U.S. dollar and the euro. However, the figure does not include cut diamonds, Armenia’s number one export item. The country’s net imports were up 24.2 percent.
“Our external trade has more than doubled in the last four years,” said Chshmaritian. “Exports alone have nearly tripled. These indicators testify to positive trends in the Armenian economy.”
Armenia’s macroeconomic performance was welcomed last week by a visiting senior official from the International Monetary Fund. “Armenia is on a promising path toward sustained high growth and the alleviation of poverty,” said Agustin Carstens, the IMF’s deputy managing director.
The Armenian authorities say that despite a highly uneven distribution of its benefits the economic growth has had a major impact on living standards. Household income surveys regularly conducted by them show the proportion of Armenians living the below the official poverty line falling from 50 to 43 percent between 1999 and 2003. The poverty rate calculated with a World Bank methodology is even lower: 33 percent.