By Anna Saghabalian
The Armenian economy will continue to grow strongly this year despite recent political turmoil, Minister of Economy Nerses Yeritsian said on Wednesday.
According to official statistics, Armenia’s Gross Domestic Product increased by 13.7 percent in 2007, its sixth consecutive year of double-digit expansion. The growth rate slowed to 8.9 percent in the first quarter of this year amid the country’s worst political crisis in nearly a decade resulting from the disputed presidential election of February 19. But that did not prevent the Armenian government from registering a further sizable increase in its tax revenues.
Yeritsian downplayed the negative impact of the crisis on short-term growth prospects, predicting a full-year GDP growth of at least 8 percent for 2008. “Our investment projects will allow us to maintain the high growth rate in the coming years,” he said.
“The investors with whom we are talking have not changed their plans much,” Yeritsian told a news conference. “Of course, they are asking some questions and we must make additional efforts to assure them that the situation hasn’t changed, that the [government’s economic] policy is continuing and that we are going to implement new programs.”
Yeritsian cautioned, however, that growth will inevitably slow down in the longer term due to objective factors. “That will be natural because rich countries grow more slowly than more low-income ones,” he explained.
While admitting the uneven distribution of its benefits, the government maintains that recent years’ growth has considerably boosted living standards in Armenia. Government figures show that the proportion of Armenians living below the official poverty line has fallen from over 50 percent to below 30 percent between 2001 and 2006.