By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian predicted on Saturday that the Armenian economy will grow by 12.5 percent and boast other record-high indicators in 2002 thanks to continued “political stability.”
“What we had planned has mainly been achieved,” he told the country’s leading businesspeople. “In particular, we have succeeded in maintaining political stability and have done everything to ensure that pre-election developments do not affect the economy.”
In Kocharian words, the GDP growth will accelerate on the back of an expected 16 percent increase in industrial production and 50 percent surge in exports. He said the authorities have also succeeded in boosting their tax revenues and meeting the 2002 budgetary targets.
“For the first time in [post-Soviet] Armenia’s history the state budget is being implemented by 100 percent,” he said.
Macroeconomic figures are expected to feature large in Kocharian’s reelection campaign which will intensify after the New Year and Christmas holidays. Kocharian’s supporters say he needs a another five-year term in office to significantly raise living standards which remain low despite several years of robust growth.
His opponents have always questioned the credibility of official statistics, saying that most Armenians feel little improvement in their lives.
Still, positive economic trends were recognized by a leading Western financial institution, the International Monetary Fund, earlier this year when it revised its 2002 growth projections for the Armenian economy from 7.5 to 9.5 percent. The IMF representative in Yerevan, James McHugh, described as “very favorable” the macroeconomic situation in Armenia, in an interview with RFE/RL in November. McHugh also praised the government for drafting a “realistic” budget for next year.
The budget approved by the Armenian parliament on Thursday anticipates a nearly 30 percent increase in state revenues and expenditures. The targets are based on government expectations of continued economic expansion.
Kocharian made the comments at a meeting with more than a hundred members of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Armenia’s largest business association. The incumbent president counts on their support for his reelection bid. Hence, his indirect warnings that a change of leadership could jeopardize Armenia’s economic recovery.