Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian appears to have extended his de facto ultimatum that was issued in May to Armenian businesspeople that have long been suspected of large-scale tax evasion.
At a meeting held one month after his appointment as prime minister in April, Abrahamian gave more than 100 wealthy entrepreneurs until July 1 to stop underreporting their earnings to face a tough crackdown by tax authorities. The latter have clearly failed to significantly increase the government’s tax revenue since then, however.
Visiting a pro-government youth camp in central Armenia on Monday, Abrahamian indicated that he needs more time to substantially improve tax collection. “Did you think that I will wave a magic wand and everyone will stop evading taxes?” he said. “No. That [tax collection] means a financial loss for people, they don’t give away money easily. We need time to overcome this difficulty.”
Abrahamian added that chronic tax fraud in the country will be eliminated “little by little.” He claimed that his cabinet has already made progress in that direction.
Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), seized upon Abrahamian’s remarks to accuse the premier of failing to fulfill a key pledge. “It turns out that he needs much more time,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Tuesday. “He is simply trying to mitigate his failure. But I don’t think that anybody in Armenia believes in that fairy tale.”
“Serzh Sarkisian’s regime is depleted,” claimed Zurabian. “Even if they promote the most efficient and energetic people from their ranks the results will still be bad.”
Abrahamian has also repeatedly pledged to put in place “equal conditions” for all businesspeople. He has said that government connections will no longer be important for doing business in Armenia.
These promises are dismissed by opposition politicians and pundits critical of the Sarkisian administration. They say that Abrahamian himself has exploited his long-running presence in government to develop extensive business interests and is disinterested in improving the investment climate.