Armenia’s police on Monday released Saribek Sukiasian, a brother of prominent pro-opposition businessman Khachatur Sukiasian, after keeping him and his associate in custody for 72 hours on suspicion of illegally possessing a gun and threatening to kill a fellow entrepreneur. They now have been confined to city limits while the investigation is continuing. The Armenian opposition has decried the arrest of the businessman as another example of political persecution against its supporters.
“The EBRD was very much concerned about this fact. We are glad that Mr. Sukiasian has been released, but definitely that doesn’t improve the image of Armenia, nor does it support the business environment,” said head of the EBRD Yerevan Office Valery Razlogov at a press conference on Tuesday answering an RFE/RL’s question.
The EBRD is known to hold a 25 percent stake in Armeconombank in which Saribek Sukiasian chairs the board. The international bank is also engaged in a number of spheres of Armenia, including the banking sector.
EBRD representatives in Yerevan on Tuesday presented the Bank’s Transition Report, which also deals with the economy of Armenia.
Regarding the matters of improving the business environment in Armenia, Political Counselor at EBRD Franklin Steves said that both in the case with Sukiasian and in all other such cases it is “vital that legal investigations and prosecutions are carried out in a manner that is and seems to be impartial, transparent and accountable.”
Citing the most essential features of the Armenian economy in the period of the global economic crisis, the EBRD representatives repeated the estimations earlier given by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, adding that they expect Gross Domestic Product in Armenia to grow by about two percent this year.
“For Armenia, in particular, we are at this point are expecting growth of about two percent for this year. It could be a bit lower or a bit higher,” said EBRD Chief Economist Helena Schweiger.
The EBRD report, in particular, says that the global financial crisis has highlighted Armenia’s financial dependence on the construction sector heavily funded due to transfers from abroad. The transition to a free-floating currency rate and the subsequent devaluation of the national currency, according to the report, removed the inadequacy of the exchange rates and stimulated the competitiveness of exporting businesses. Nevertheless, according to the EBRD, the business environment of Armenia needs improving to attract direct foreign investments to a wider scope of the economy, including through a more effective application of anti-monopoly mechanisms and reduced administrative costs for small and medium-sized enterprises.