By Shakeh Avoyan
The Armenian economy has expanded at a double-digit rate for a fifth consecutive year, reducing poverty and boosting personal incomes, Trade and Economic Development Minister Karen Chshmaritian said on Thursday.
Official macroeconomic statistics for the first eleven months of 2005 revealed by Chshmaritian show a 13.5 percent growth in Armenia’s Gross Domestic Product on a year-on-year basis. He said its total value for the entire year is on course to surpass 2 trillion drams ($4.4 billion).
“For the second consecutive year, the growth in the population’s incomes is faster than that of its expenditures,” Chshmaritian told a yearend news conference. “That is a result of increased purchasing power of the population.”
The continuing robust growth reported by the Armenian authorities was touted by President Robert Kocharian earlier this week as a major achievement of his administration. “This is a quite serious progress and all of you can be proud of having contributed to it,” he told the country’s leading entrepreneurs.
Kocharian similarly stated that the growth is benefiting all segments of the population, reporting a 24 percent rise in the average salary and a 18 percent drop in unemployment, Armenia’s number one socioeconomic problem.
The official unemployment rate was just under 10 percent a year ago. But independent analysts estimate that the real figure is at least twice as higher. They also believe that the decade-long economic growth has not been accompanied by sufficient job creation.
Still, Armenia’s macroeconomic performance has been repeatedly praised by the International Monetary Fund and other Western donors. A group of IMF economists described it as “remarkable” in a research paper published earlier this month. “In coming years, economic growth and capital formation should be broad-based and generate employment,” they wrote. The IMF experts also predicted that the growth rate will slow down to single-digit levels in 2006-2010.