By Shake Avoyan
The 13th anniversary of the introduction of the Armenian national currency will be marked in Armenia tomorrow, November 22.
The troika of specialists who led the process in 1993, including current Central Bank Chairman Tigran Sarkisian, former Central Bank chairman Isahak Isahakian and ex-finance minister Levon Barkhudarian, gathered at the Friday club in Yerevan on Tuesday to congratulate everyone on the anniversary and reflect on the history of the dram.
“The introduction of the Armenian dram 13 years ago was one of the most important attributes of statehood after Armenia gained independence,” Sarkisian said.
The speakers admitted that it was a difficult process, as Armenia was totally unprepared to have its own currency at that stage. According to Sarkisian, the introduction of the dram was a little belated, which, according to him, resulted in hyperinflation.
Levon Barkhudarian shared this opinion and said: “I can say frankly that it was not the best time for introducing national currency because we had no currency reserves, there was no assistance from international financial organizations, but as time showed that step was correct.”
Meanwhile, Hrant Bagratian, the prime minister back then, finds that as long as there was hope to remain in the ruble zone, they should have taken their time. He said that ‘we needed Russia at that time more than we do now’.
“Of course, the troika committed essential errors,” Bagratian told RFE/RL, adding that it was the wrong initial exchange rate of 14.5 drams per U.S. dollar that caused hyperinflation.
The dram introduction was entrusted to the parliament in 1993 and the government at that time effectively did not participate in the process, Bagratian added.
Within ten days after introduction the dram exchange rate was already 350 per dollar.
On the whole, Bagratian said that the troika did a good job in the end, but said that the terrible inflation could be avoided.
He reminded that eventually the government stabilized the situation taking over the powers from the troika.
Bagratian joined in the congratulations on the anniversary.
“I hope that the dram will not suffer the fate of large economic complexes in Armenia and will remain governed by the state,” the ex-premier concluded.