By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Economic growth in Armenia accelerated last month despite political instability resulting from the start of the opposition campaign for regime change, according to government data cited by President Robert Kocharian on Friday.
Kocharian said the Armenian economy expanded by 9 percent in year-on-year terms during the first four months of this year -- up from a 7.5 percent rate reported by the government after the first quarter.
More detailed macroeconomic figures separately published by the government’s statistical department show that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last month was 18.5 percent higher than in April 2003. They also show that the average monthly salary in Armenia has increased by almost 30 percent to 37,800 drams ($70) over the past year.
Kocharian presented the latest figures as vindicating his economic policies and demonstrating that the opposition campaign of street protests in Yerevan, which began in early April, is not taken seriously by the business community. “The business people have much more simple calculations and much more down-to-earth instincts which make them feel that these developments do not pose any threat to their businesses in Armenia,” he told journalists during a visit to a textile factory in the capital. “No one expects any serious developments.”
Kocharian’s stated confidence contrasts with statements made by other senior government officials, notably Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian who is believed to be extensively involved in economic activity. “Maybe my opinion will differ from governing circles’ view that these events in the domestic political arena do not affect progress in our economy,” Sarkisian told the “Hayots Ashkhar” daily last week. “In my view, they do.”
In a similar bid to deter Armenians from attending the anti-Kocharian demonstrations, Energy Minister Armen Movsisian claimed last month that they endanger the realization of multimillion-dollar energy projects planned by the government, while Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakharian said that the rallies disrupt tax collection in the city center.
In its latest World Economic Outlook released late last month, the International Monetary Fund predicted that the Armenian growth, which hit a record-high rate of 13.9 percent last year, will slow down to 7 percent in 2004.
(Photolur photo: Kocharian inspecting the factory.)