By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Astghik Bedevian
Armenian lawmakers on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to adopt the state budget for next year despite opposition claims that its fulfillment could be a risky job.
By a vote of 87 to 2, with eight abstentions, the parliament majority passed the government-submitted draft budget that envisages increased revenues mainly at the expense of improved tax collection and reducing the shadow segment of the economy.
The budget foresees the revenue pattern at 746 billion drams (about $2.5 billion). Its expenditure pattern is 822 billion drams, with a deficit of 76 billion drams.
The dollar exchange rate assumed is the budget is 325 drams; the euro is assumed at 470. A gross domestic product (GDP) growth of about 10 percent is expected.
The Republican Party, the Prosperous Armenia Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation voted in favor of the budget.
Among those voting against the bill were two deputies from the opposition Heritage faction attending the vote. Another opposition faction, Orinats Yerkir, abstained.
The parliament completed the discussion of the draft budget on Tuesday.
“We cannot have a negative attitude to the fact that pensions rise by about 65 percent,” Mher Shahgeldian, of Orinats Yerkir, said, explaining why the faction had abstained.
Speaking in parliament yesterday, Speaker Tigran Torosian predicted “against votes”, but said the document, which he called “the budget of the second generation of reforms”, would be passed.
Parliamentary Budget Committee head Gagik Minasian was also convinced that the draft would be passed. He brushed aside opposition claims that the budget was risky. “Our fulfillment of the previous six or seven budgets is a bright evidence of this. We will also fulfill the coming year’s budget, and there is nothing risky in it.”
Artsvik Minasian, of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), said that their faction would vote for the bill “considering that a majority of their proposals had been accepted.”
Meanwhile, Heritage faction secretary Stepan Safarian said: “We cannot vote for a budget which is risky from the point of its implementation, a budget that simply gives temporary solutions to certain social problems.”