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By Hovannes Shoghikian
Armenia’s government approved on Thursday a long-term economic program that commits it to achieving over the next decade much greater prosperity already enjoyed by the European Union’s new, formerly Communist, member states.

“Our target is the level of economic development of eastern and central European countries,” said Finance Minister Tigran Davtian. “The program envisages that by 2017 we will have reached the level of economic development which new European Union member states had in 2006.”

According to Davtian, the success of the Sustainable Development Program (SDP) will be measured by the per-capita size of Armenia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which stood at around $3,500 in 2007. He said that ratio is to more than double by 2015 and reach $12,600 by 2021.

The unveiled program is a significantly revised version of a poverty reduction strategy approved by the cabinet of late Prime Minister Andranik Markarian in 2001. Under that program, the proportion of Armenians living below the official poverty line was to drop to 26.5 percent by 2012.

The government claims to have already met that target in 2006 because of faster-than-expected economic growth. The SDP envisages that the poverty rate will shrunk by more than half in the next four years and stand at only 7 percent in 2021.

In a written statement, the government said that its new development targets will be met as a result of continued economic growth, further increases in public spending and a “modernization of the country’s system of governance.” It said all government ministers were instructed to come up by December 30 with detailed action plans designed to spur “prolonged economic growth.”

According to official statistics, the Armenian economy is on track to expand at a double-digit rate for the seventh consecutive year in 2008.

Davtian was confident that the robust growth can continue despite the global economic crisis. “Armenia’s economy is not quite integrated into the world financial system,” he told journalists. “That is one of the reasons why we are barely feeling the effects of that upheaval. That is also the result of our strict fiscal and monetary policies.”

(Photolur photo: Tigran Davtian.)
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