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Armenia’s economy expanded by 2.6 percent last year following a sharp decline caused by the global financial crisis, according to official statistics released on Wednesday.


Throughout 2010 its renewed growth was primarily driven by industry and, in particular, its mining sector, which strongly benefited from a rally in international prices of non-ferrous base metals. Data from the National Statistical Service (NSS) show the country’s industrial output, which generated almost one-quarter of Gross Domestic Product, rising by 9.7 percent.

Overall economic growth exceeded 6 percent in the first half of 2010 and slowed down significantly in the following months because of a 14.5 percent drop in agricultural production caused by bad weather. A continuing crisis in the Armenian construction sector was also responsible for the slowdown played down by the government.

Speaking on Saturday, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian stressed that the full-year growth rate will be at least twice higher than the one projected by his government in late 2009. He also spoke of “very serious changes” in the structure of the Armenian economy.

Addressing officials from the National Competitiveness Foundation, Sarkisian argued that the economy is no longer excessively dependent on construction, the main driving force of pre-crisis growth. That dependence has been widely blamed for a more than 14 percent fall in GDP in 2009.

The government as well as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank expect GDP growth to accelerate to 4.6 percent this year. The bank has said it could reach almost 5 percent in 2012.

“We had really positive and negative indicators last year,” Gagik Minasian, the chairman of Armenian parliament’s committee on finance and economy, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Wednesday. He pointed to industry’s increased share in GDP and a more than 41 percent surge in exports reported by the NSS.

On the negative side, Minasian singled out an inflation rate of 9.4 percent, the highest in years. He blamed it on external factors, while acknowledging that a lack of competition in some sectors of the economy exacerbated them.

Armenia -- Parliament deputy Artsvik Minasian holds a news conference on August 20, 2009.
Artsvik Minasian, an economist and parliament deputy from the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation, gave a far more negative assessment of the economic situation in the country. “When we look at real life and people’s living standards, we see that there has been regress,” he said.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Minasian claimed that the modest growth only benefited “oligarchs and the state budget” and that no genuine economic diversification is underway. “The Armenian government is not ready and willing to make radical changes in its socioeconomic policy,” he said.

Another opposition force, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), also remained highly critical of the authorities’ economic policies. In a written statement, the HAK alleged that their actions are aimed at “strengthening the oligarchy and monopolies and eliminating the class of small and medium entrepreneurs.” It also said socioeconomic tensions in Armenia have risen of late -- an apparent reference to a recent series of unpopular economic decisions taken by the government.

The statement said the governing board of the opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian met on Wednesday to discuss the HAK’s further steps “in this context.” It did not elaborate.
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