By Shakeh Avoyan
Hrant Bagratian, Armenia’s former liberal prime minister, on Wednesday again accused the government of grossly inflating the rate of economic growth which is set to remain in double digits for the fifth consecutive year.
Official figures show the Armenian economy expanding by 12.2 percent in the first ten months of this year. Bagratian, who served as prime minister from 1993-96 and is now in opposition, claimed that this and previous growth data posted by the government are not credible.
“I don’t consider the economic situation to be bad,” he told RFE/RL in an interview. “But the economic growth which they are talking about -- 10-12 percent -- is non-existent. I have repeatedly analyzed and said that real growth is three or four times slower.”
Bagratian’s allegations were always dismissed by government officials. The government’s macroeconomic statistics is trusted by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. A senior IMF official specifically mentioned the reported double-digit growth during a visit to Yerevan last month.
“I think Armenia has now achieved a double-digit economic growth for the fifth year in a row,” Jeroen Kremers said. “It can be a record showing on the world level.”
The IMF and World Bank also think highly of painful economic reforms which Bagratian, a staunch advocate of liberal economics, initiated while in power. The two institutions believe that Armenia is now repeating their benefits. Kremers said continued growth is contingent on further structural reforms.
Bagratian, who is now a senior executive at the French-owned Yerevan Brandy Factory, claimed that the reform process has “slowed significantly” in recent years. He pointed to what he see as a decline in education standards, virtual disappearance of a nascent stock market, absence of private pension funds and underdeveloped insurance services.
“Some things have been done of late, but that’s very little,” he said, citing a new social security net introduced by the government in 2000.