Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian met with Armenia’s leading entrepreneurs on Wednesday to discuss economic policies planned by his newly formed cabinet.
The Armenian government’s press office said they talked about a “wide range of issues related to the current economic situation and development prospects.” It said Abrahamian told more than 100 businesspeople that he is open to their “frank evaluations and proposals” on how to improve the investment climate in the country. No further details were reported.
Participants of the meeting, among them wealthy parliament deputies affiliated with the ruling Republican Party (HHK), were likewise reluctant to divulge its details, with most of them refusing to talk to journalists.
One of those lawmakers, Aleksan Petrosian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Abrahamian pledged to ensure more transparency in tax collection and greater government support for business. He quoted the premier as calling for a “mutually honest behavior” by the government and the business community.
Barsegh Beglarian, the owner of a leading Armenian fuel-importing company, appeared satisfied with the discussion. “You’ll see the results very soon,” he said without elaborating.
According to Gagik Makarian, the chairman of the Armenian Union of Employers, even government-linked tycoons attending the meeting complained of a lack of competition and “equal rules.” He said they included Samvel Aleksanian, one of Armenia’s richest men who has long controlled lucrative imports of key foodstuffs. Aleksanian, who also holds a parliament seat, refused to comment after the meeting.
Abrahamian, who was appointed prime minister a month ago, met the business leaders less than a week after pledging to create “equal conditions for everyone” doing business in the country. He said he will not hesitate to take measures hurting his wealthy cronies and other entrepreneurs close to the ruling elite.
Abrahamian and some members of his cabinet are known to have extensive business interests. They have long been accused by the opposition and media of exploiting their government positions to make big fortunes.