The government is serious about its pledges to de-monopolize lucrative imports of essential goods and commodities to Armenia, Economy Minister Artsvik Minasian insisted on Thursday.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has vowed to put in place “equal conditions” for all importers as part of sweeping reforms announced by him earlier this month. He said that the Armenian government will step up its fight against corruption and radically improve the domestic business environment in view of new security challenges facing the country.
Abrahamian told the Ministry of Economy and state anti-trust regulators to “analyze” within the next three weeks the impact of de facto monopolies on economic competition in the country. Companies owned by government-linked businesspeople have long controlled imports of fuel and basic foodstuffs, something which economists regard as a major hurdle to faster economic growth.
Minasian said that his ministry will release soon a detailed report on the monopolies. As part of the same effort, it has drawn up “explanatory” booklets for businessmen interested in importing about a dozen items, including fuel, wheat and sugar. Minasian unveiled them at a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
Minasian, who was appointed as minister in March following a power-sharing deal struck by his Armenian Revolutionary Federation party with President Serzh Sarkisian, dismissed lingering media and opposition skepticism about the government’s stated reform drive.
“Instead of joining forces to put that policy into practice, as soon as something good is done we criticize and complain about why it hasn’t been done before,” Minasian told journalists. “I not only believe [in the seriousness of the reform promise] but am also fighting for that.”
Critics argue that that many senior government officials have personally benefitted from business “oligopolies” and heavily relied on them for political support.