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Armenian Growth Continues To Slow Down


Armenia -- A strawberry crop in the Armavir region damaged by hail, 20 May 2010.

Armenia -- A strawberry crop in the Armavir region damaged by hail, 20 May 2010.

Armenia’s economic recovery slowed down further last month amid a sharp fall in agricultural production and a continuing crisis in the domestic construction industry, according to official statistics.

The latest macroeconomic data released by the National Statistical Service (NSS) shows Gross Domestic Product increasing by 2.4 percent year on year in January-October, down from 2.8 percent registered in the first nine months of the year.

As was the case in previous months, economic growth was primarily dragged down by the agricultural sector that contracted by about 17 percent during the ten-month period. The slump in turn resulted from highly unfavorable weather conditions that have inflicted serious damage to farmers across Armenia.

A 5 percent fall in construction was another reason for the slowdown. The sector was hit hardest by last year’s global financial crisis that caused the Armenian economy to contract by as much as 14.4 percent.

The economy began growing again at increasingly higher rates this year. The year-on-year growth rate peaked to 8.8 percent in January-May.

“The crisis in Armenia is continuing,” said Bagrat Asatrian, an economist affiliated with the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). “The government steps -- they haven’t really taken any -- have not produced results.”

“This year our citizens are worse off than they were last year,” Asatrian claimed at a news conference.

But Gagik Minasian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on economic policy representing the ruling Republican Party, sought to put an optimistic spin on the declining growth rate. He argued that the latest figure is still well above a growth rate of 1.2 percent forecast by the Armenian government and Central Bank late last year.

“Of course, we have problems related to inflation but we also have quite encouraging figures on foreign trade,” Minasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He pointed to a 41.3 percent surge in Armenian exports that totaled almost $794 million in January-October.

Asatrian downplayed the increase, saying that it mainly stemmed from increased international prices of non-ferrous metals, Armenia’s single largest export item.
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