Dismissing opposition concerns about Armenia’s foreign debt, the National Assembly allowed the government on Thursday to borrow $112 million from the Asian Development Bank (ABD) for building new roads around Yerevan.
With a combined length of 17 kilometers, the three roads will directly connect Yerevan suburbs with two major national highways, bypassing the city center. The government says that the ADB loan repayable in 22 years will reduce traffic congestion in the Armenian capital.
The Armenian parliament also debated and is expected to approve government plans to secure another loan worth $40 million. It will finance capital repairs on roads passing through four Armenian regions.
The two-day heated debates were marked by angry speeches by opposition lawmakers protesting against the country’s increased debt burden which passed the $5 billion mark last month. The figure is equivalent to about half of Gross Domestic Product.
One of those lawmakers, former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian, accused the government of musing more than $3 billion in loans that have been provided to Armenia by international institutions and foreign governments since 2008.
“What have you been doing?” Bagratian said, appealing to President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian. “I presume that part of these loans is pocketed.”
Other deputies also questioned the efficiency of the government’s use of the credits. One of them, Nikol Pashinian, claimed that the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) will use the planned roadworks in its campaign for next year’s parliamentary elections.
“The Republican Party is not doing anything special,” countered Khosrov Harutiunian, another ex-premier representing the HHK. “We gave pre-election promises and are fulfilling them.”
Deputy Transport Minister Artur Arakelian and Yerevan’s Deputy Mayor Kamo Areyan, who presented the government’s loan agreement with the ADB signed in October, also sought to dispel the opposition concerns. Areyan said that the Yerevan municipality will hold international tenders to select construction firms that will implement the road projects.