By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government’s Department for State Property privatized 90 large and medium-sized enterprises last year, raising a total of 3.37 billion drams ($5.8 million), officials said on Wednesday.
The figures do not include the $40 million sell-off of Armenia’s state-run electricity distribution network to an offshore-registered foreign company, the government’s biggest privatization deal in 2002. It was handled by a special inter-ministerial commission.
The deputy head of the Department for State Property, Gagik Markosian, told reporters that his agency could not attract buyers for 16 other enterprises also slated for privatization in 2002. He put at 502 the total number of state-owned businesses which the government intends to privatize in the coming years.
Armenia has privatized the bulk of its state assets -- 1,763 large and medium-sized enterprises and 7,146 small ones -- since the launch of market reforms in the early 1990s. The private sector already accounts for more than 80 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The ongoing process has attracted little interest from foreign investors, one of the reasons why proceeds from the privatization have been quite modest.
Markosian said the government is more concerned with the investment and job commitments rather than the takeover price offered by buyers. He said hundreds of new jobs are expected to emerge as a result of the 2002 sell-offs.
With most of the lucrative state assets already in private hands, the government finds it increasingly difficult to sell its remaining businesses that have largely stood idle since the Soviet collapse. Official figures show that 43 such enterprises were liquidated for that reason last year. According to Markosian, bankruptcy proceedings are currently pending against 71 other entities.