By Shakeh Avoyan
Armenia’s economic growth accelerated to 13.6 percent during the first eight months of this year, according to preliminary statistics released by the government on Thursday.
The data presented to government ministers by the National Statistical Service (NSS) show that the booming construction and services sectors remain the driving forces of the high growth rate, which looks set to remain in the double digits for the six consecutive year.
The overall volume of construction carried out in Armenia from January-August was up by 19.6 percent year on year. The sector, which generated almost 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, is continuing to expand rapidly on the back of strong demand for expensive housing and office space in Yerevan.
According to the NSS, growth in services other than retail trade stood at 19.7 percent, while the volume of retail trade expanded by almost 11 percent during the eight-month period.
By contrast, Armenia’s industrial sector, still the single largest contributor to GDP, remained largely stagnant in January-August 2007, with industrial output increasing by only 1.7 percent year on year.
The Armenian government’s growth target for 2007 was a minimum of 9 percent. In its policy program approved by parliament in June, the government forecast that the Armenian economy will continue to grow by at least 8 percent annually in the next five years. It said the proportion of Armenians living below the official poverty line will drop below 12 percent by 2012. The official poverty rate currently stands at about 30 percent.
Government critics and some economists say the real figure is higher. They also point to the uneven distribution of the growth’s benefits manifested through widespread tax evasion.