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Armenia Shrugs Off Forbes Conclusions


Armenia -- Armenian Minister of Finance Vache Gabrielian (R) and head of the World Bank Yerevan Office Jean-Michel Happi at a joint press conference, Yerevan, 07July2011

Armenia -- Armenian Minister of Finance Vache Gabrielian (R) and head of the World Bank Yerevan Office Jean-Michel Happi at a joint press conference, Yerevan, 07July2011

An Armenian government official has put a brave face on the recent negative conclusions by a leading international publication about Armenia’s economic status, calling them ‘momentary’ and not constituting ‘a final diagnosis’.

Earlier this week the Forbes magazine offered a list of the world’s ten worst economies ranking the South Caucasus country next to the supposedly poorest performer Madagascar. The magazine based its conclusions on the analysis of the macro-economic indicators of 177 countries and regions over the past three years. Other data used by Forbes included the per capita gross domestic product growths as released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the current account balances and the IMF-forecast inflation rates in the coming 2012.

Armenian Finance Minister Vache Gabrielian on Thursday stopped short of challenging the veracity of the data used by the magazine, while calling into question attempts to extrapolate the assessment.

“I don’t want to say that what Forbes wrote has nothing to do with the reality at all or that we didn’t have a 15-percent decline or that there is no inflation in Armenia. I just mean to say that it is a strictly momentary estimation, which cannot be the same in the coming year,” said the minister at a joint press conference with a World Bank representative.

Answering an RFE/RL Armenian Service question, Gabrielian said that the Forbes estimation was conditioned solely by Armenia’s economic performance in 2009, the year when the country experienced its worst economic decline in years. He said the analysis should rather be taken as a challenge.

“In this sense I wouldn’t pay particular attention to it as to a final and sustainable diagnosis, but would view it as an indication of the challenges we face, the fixation of problems that we need to solve. And I think we are working in this direction,” the minister stressed.

World Bank Armenia Country Manager Jean-Michel Happi shared the Armenian official’s vision on this account.

“Armenia is not the worst country in terms of economic performance and doing business in the world,” he said.

On the contrary, the World Bank representative described the cooperation between the Armenian government and the World Bank as very strong. He said that for the next two years the World Bank planned to allocate a new loan package of $200 million to Armenia to help the country maintain its economic growth and care for the needs of the vulnerable groups of its population.

Happi stressed that new financial means will be provided based on Armenia’s rating reflecting its performance. He said that despite the challenges the Armenian economy is facing in the aftermath of the economic recession, the International Development Association, a World Bank arm helping the world’s poorest countries, gave Armenia the second best rating among 72 countries under review. By the criteria set by the Association, Armenia is eligible to borrow, according to Happi.

“This is the result of a very strong policy and institutional reforms,” he said.

The bulk of the $200-million loan package funds is due to be directed at social services and infrastructure projects.
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