The Armenian government will decommission almost 800 cars used by its senior officials and other public sector employees as part of a major cost-cutting drive that was announced by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian last week.
“In the first stage, 797 cars will be decommissioned,” the chief of the government staff, Davit Harutiunian, told a cabinet meeting in Yerevan on Thursday. “We have worked with all ministries except the ministries of defense and foreign affairs and other government bodies except the police, the national security, investigative and rescue services.”
“The number of cars directly funded from the state budget will be reduced by 107, while that of other cars used by entities subordinate to government bodies will be reduced by 690,” he said.
It was not immediately clear whether the decommissioned cars will be fully or partly sold.
Harutiunian also promised greater transparency in the use of the remaining vehicles by ministers, their deputies and other government officials. The government will soon post detailed information about that on its website, he said.
As recently as in November, the government announced plans to increase the total number of those cars by roughly 10 percent to 1,072, setting aside 1.2 billion drams ($2.5 million) in budgetary expenditure on their fuel and maintenance in the 2016 state budget.
The move prompted strong criticism from Armenia opposition lawmakers. They said the number of government cars is already disproportionately large for a country like Armenia and must on the contrary be cut drastically.
Speaking at the previous cabinet session last week, Abrahamian said the government should streamline its expenditures, step up its declared fight against corruption and improve the domestic business environment in response to “new challenges” emanating from the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The government will downsize many of its agencies through staff cuts, the premier said.
Deputy Prime Minister Vache Gabrielian said on Thursday that the government has formed a task force that will look into the matter and come up with recommendations regarding the scale of the planned staff cuts. He said the ad hoc body will hold its first meeting next week.