Armenia’s economy has become more competitive in the past year thanks to more transparent government policies and other improvements, concluded an annual global survey released on Thursday.
Armenia ranks 92nd in the latest Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) of 142 economies of the world compiled by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF), up from 98th place it occupied last year. Neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia are 55th and 88th respectively in the rankings.
The WEF assigns each of the countries surveyed a GCI score based on a dozen “pillars of competitiveness.” Those include the efficiency of public institutions and the labor market, the macroeconomic environment, financial market sophistication and the quality of public healthcare and education.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian hailed Armenia’s “serious progress” in the rankings at a weekly session of his cabinet.
“I am glad that in almost all indicators we have serious progress,” he said. “That progress would have been much faster had it not been for one indicator that pushed us back by 15 points. That is high inflation registered in 2010.”
Sarkisian singled out the improved transparency of government decision-making shown by the survey. “We occupy 35th place in that category,” he said. “The same goes for infrastructures. We have moved forward by 48 points in the area of information technology. That primarily applies to the accessibility of mobile telephony and the Internet.”
Both telecommunication services have seen rapid growth in Armenia in the last few years thanks to a liberalization of the local telecom market.
Some local analysts downplayed the improved performance, however, saying that the progress is not as serious as is claimed by the premier. Bagrat Tunian, an economics writer for the “168 Zham” newspaper, argued that the country still trails all of its neighbors in terms of competitiveness.
Tunian also pointed out that it also continues to score very poorly on fair business competition and government fight against economic monopolies. “In essence, it can’t be said that there is serious progress,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Sarkisian predicted that the Armenian economy will be rated more competitive in next year’s GCI. “Our improvements will be conditioned by the fact that inflation is falling rapidly,” he told ministers.
“Another important fact is that the reforms that we have carried out to improve the business environment. On five indicators in this area we will register serious progress in 2011,” he said.
Sarkisian has repeatedly pledged to improve the country’s problematic business environment and tax administration since being appointed prime minister in April 2008. Government critics say he has accomplished little so far.