President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday promised to substantially reduce widespread poverty in Armenia if he wins a second five-year term in office.
“The poverty rate will drastically fall thanks to economic development,” Sarkisian told an election campaign rally in Vanadzor, the capital of the northern Lori province.
“We have already reached the path of economic development,” he said. “Rich people and a large middle class. This is the description of a secure Armenia which we can jointly create.”
Sarkisian already promised economic betterment when he first ran for president five years ago. The official poverty rate in the country stood at 24 percent at the time. It soared to 36 percent following the 2009 global financial crisis that plunged the Armenian economy into deep recession.
The economy resumed its growth in 2010. Government data shows that the number of Armenians living below the official poverty line has only slightly fallen since then.
In his statements made in Vanadzor and elsewhere in Lori, Sarkisian did not set any concrete poverty targets for his widely anticipated second term. He said only that many socioeconomic problems will be solved in case of his reelection.
Campaigning in the town of Stepanavan, Sarkisian shrugged off pledges by one of his main challengers, Raffi Hovannisian, to create 180,000 new jobs and double the Armenian state budget. “One of the famous people of the world said that lies spread during a pre-election period are more numerous than at any other time. The Russians have a nice saying, ‘It doesn’t hurt to want,’” he said, answering a question from a local resident.