By Emil Danielyan
The World Bank has approved $72.5 million in fresh loans to Armenia, citing “considerable progress” in its government’s efforts to combat poverty and maintain high rates of economic growth.
The largest of the three loans disbursed by the bank’s governing board late Thursday is worth $28 million and is part of a four-year World Bank program to support implementation of the Armenian government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). Most of it will be channeled into the state budget.
“The credit will support measures to strengthen public management and governance, expand the public provision of basic education and health, and improve equitability of access to those services, especially for the poor,” Saumya Mitra, head of a World Bank team in charge of the program, said in a statement.
Unveiled in 2003, the PRS set an ambitious goal of reducing the proportion of Armenians living in poverty to 19 percent by 2015. The government claims to be successfully implementing the plan. Official statistics show the national poverty rate declining from 50 to 33 percent between 1999 and 2004. Both the government and the World Bank say the rate has since shrunk further thanks to continued double-digit growth.
A separate World Bank statement said this “impressive” macroeconomic performance is enabling Armenia to enter “the ranks of middle income countries.” “Armenia has come a long way over the past few years and should be proud of its accomplishments,” Donna Dowsett-Coirolo, the bank’s country director for Armenia, was quoted as saying. “The World Bank will continue to support Armenia in sustaining growth, creating jobs, and reducing poverty,” she added.
The two other loans, worth approximately $22 million each, are designed to support the ongoing reform of the Armenian judiciary and to make healthcare more accessible for rural residents of the country. The money will be spent, among other things, on construction of a Court of Cassation building and capital repairs of court houses in some Armenian regions.
The World Bank is Armenia’s principal foreign lender, having provided it with over $1 billion in low-interest loans since the early 1990s. Most of those loans are repayable in 30 or more years. The Washington-based institution said recent years’ economic development has meant that the country will increasingly qualify for less concessional borrowing.