Economic growth in Armenia continued unabated in the first quarter of this year, with Gross Domestic Product increasing by 4.7 percent, according to government statistics released this week.
Data from the National Statistical Service (NSS) shows the Armenian economy continuing to expand on the back of strong growth in industry and services other rather trade.
Armenian industrial output was up by 16.4 percent year on year and generated more than one-third of GDP in January-March. The export-oriented mining and metallurgical sectors accounted for much of that gain. Growth in the services sector was similarly strong: 11.5 percent.
Other major sectors of the economy fared much worse in this period. The NSS recorded zero growth in agriculture and trade and a more than 5 percent drop in construction.
The first-quarter GDP performance is virtually identical with the full-year growth figure registered in 2011. The Armenian government forecast late last year that the growth rate will ease to 4.2 percent in 2012.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) initially agreed with this projection but revised it downwards to 3.8 percent in March. An IMF mission that visited Yerevan at the time pointed to the likely impact of “weak external environment” on Armenia’s economic performance.
One external factor that could influence the economic situation in the country is recent months’ sizable decrease in international prices of copper and other non-ferrous metals, the number one Armenian export.
Artak Baghdasarian, a senior official at the Armenian Ministry of Economy, portrayed the latest GDP data as a further indication that the country is continuing to steadily recover from the 2009 recession. Baghdasarian echoed government claims that Armenia is now more immune to external shocks because industry and services, rather than construction, are the main driving forces behind its economic growth. “This is certainly a better guarantee of steady growth,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
However, Bagrat Asatrian, an economist critical of the government, downplayed the NSS figures, saying that the growth is not benefiting most Armenians. He said poverty in Armenia, which rose during the 2009 crisis, has still not started to fall.