By Atom Markarian
Armenia’s National Assembly continued discussing next year’s draft budget in a special session on Friday.
Presenting the Central Bank’s conclusion on the draft budget, Armenia’s chief banker Tigran Sarkisian said that the dram’s consolidation will continue in 2006.
The Central Bank expects that the dollar’s average exchange rate in 2006 will fluctuate within the limits of 420 drams. But, Sarkisian added, this estimation is only tentative and may prove wrong: “It is not a market rate and is not a forecast, as we don’t want to mislead the public. It is only an estimate rate. It is impossible to foresee today what the real rate will be in 2006.”
Yet, he assured the deputies that the price increase in 2006 will not exceed the projected 3 percent. Moreover, the incomes of Armenia’s population, according to Sarkisian, will grow more rapidly than the incomes of people in developed countries.
“It is also for this reason that the dram will be gaining in value,” Sarkisian stressed. “If we have an economic growth several times exceeding the economic growth in industrialized countries, it means that the rate of growth of our citizens’ incomes will be higher than in developed countries.”
According to Sarkisian, the Central Bank’s conclusion is that the 2006 draft budget is realistic.
Sarkisian’s presentation was followed by statements from the chairmen of the parliamentary standing commissions.
Head of the Finance-Credit, Budgetary and Economic Affairs Commission Gagik Minasian had a heated discussion with MP Hmayak Hovannisian over the paybacks of deposits lost in the Soviet savings bank. He argued that the state “is not in a position to give more than the offered scheme.”
“What we will implement now will be implemented at the expense of our taxpayers. Armenia’s third republic did not receive that money from the second republic, but only got savings bank checkbooks,” Minasian said.
To which Hmayak Hovannisian responded: “When you made a promise to solve the problem of deposits during your election campaign, you promised it to all depositors and not only depositors on beneficiary lists.”
MP Arshak Sadoyan also responded to Minasian’s statement, giving his own estimations.
“With these allocations from the budget the deposits will be paid back only after 350 years, and even if the process is speeded a little, it will take at least 70 years,” he said.
Minasian said that by returning deposits to beneficiary families only the government ensures social justice.
However, Artarutyun bloc member Aram Sarkisian disagreed with this opinion.
“If the government was guided by the principle of social justice, the State University would not pay more taxes than enterprises of a number of oligarchs,” said Sarkisian.
The Parliament will continue its special session on Monday.