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By Atom Markarian
The Armenian economy expanded by almost 12 percent in the first half of this year despite a slight fall in industrial output, Trade and Economic Development Minister Karen Chshmaritian said on Wednesday.

“Earlier forecasts that we will again have a more than 10 percent rate of growth this year are proving correct,” he said.

The official data calculated by the National Statistical Service put Armenia on track to register a double-digit rate of growth for a sixth consecutive year. Its macroeconomic performance regularly draws praise from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The growth remained in double digits despite a 0.4 percent drop in industrial production which Chshmaritian attributed to a continuing downturn in Armenia’s diamond-cutting industry. “The decline in the diamond industry would have a serious impact on the growth of GDP a few years ago,” he said. “Today that impact is offset by the development of other sectors.”

Chshmaritian assured reporters that the manufacturing sector will rebound during the second half of the year with the upcoming reactivation of Yerevan’s Nairit chemical giant and the Armenal aluminum plant which is being upgraded by its Russian owners.

The government unveiled last month its short-term economic outlook which predicts that Armenia’s Gross Domestic Product will grow by at least 6 percent a year from 2007 through 2009. Officials said this will translate into a further increase in government spending on education and social programs. Armenia’s GDP per capita will rise from the current $1,600 to $2,300 by 2009, they said.

Chshmaritian could not say how many new jobs have been created as a result of recent years’ robust growth, arguing that many Armenian businesses continue to underreport the number of their employees in order to evade taxes. “Quite a few people earn decent revenues but are officially unemployed,” he complained.

(Photolur photo: Karen Chshmaritian.)
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