Opposition members in Armenia have criticized Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian for failing to make any significant changes during the first 100 days in office, but representatives of the ruling party consider the period to be too short for making definitive conclusions.
Abrahamian assumed the post of independent Armenia’s 13th prime minister last April succeeding Tigran Sarkisian, who had headed the government for six years and often became a target for harsh criticism from opposition groups accusing him of mishandling the country’s economy and failing to solve its numerous social issues.
A hundred days after the change of the prime minister critics still see no significant change in the situation. They claim this lack of progress proves that only systemic, political changes can lead to real changes.
Economist Vahagn Khachatrian, who represents the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), believes that the experience of the Abrahamian government proves that solutions to problems in Armenia should be sought in the political rather than economic domain. “It takes political solutions to find a way out of the current situation,” Khachatrian said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am).
The HAK representative said that concrete actions, such as the new government’s stance on the pension reform and its failure to honor its own promise that the element of compulsion would be removed, show that no change has taken place in the way the executive works. “You cannot show any change during these 100 days due to which it would be clear that this government had won the trust of Armenain citizens... On the contrary, both the population and the business community feel disappointed,” the opposition member claimed.
In appointing the new prime minister, President Serzh Sarkisian mentioned “restoration of people’s trust” as one of the major requirements from the new government.
Head of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Financial-Credit and Budgetary Affairs Gagik Minasian, meanwhile, believes that 100 days is too short a period for evaluating the activities of the new government.
“The government’s programs are not implementable within just 100 days, they require a longer period of time,” said Minasian, a member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). “As for the steps that have been made during this 100-day period, I think they inspire one with great hopes that these serious problems will, however, be solved in our country.”
To the critics who see political changes as the only way of solving other problems in Armenia the HHK member said: “We do not separate political problems from economic ones. Steps are being taken towards solving these internal political issues, and in this sense we are always open to consultations and ready to discuss any sound proposal no matter what political party makes it.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abrahamian himself today spoke about successful efforts of his government to encourage large companies to end the practice of understating their revenues and paying less in taxes.
The call on major taxpayers to stop evading taxes was one of the steps that Abrahamian made after assuming office on April 14. In particular, his government gave economic agents until July 1 to ‘come clean’ or face a tougher crackdown by tax authorities.
“Let them work properly and sleep well at night,” the prime minister said while paying a working visit to Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri.
Meanwhile, ordinary citizens gave different assessments to Abrahamian’s premiership so far.
“Goods are similarly getting more expensive, prices for everything are high. Let’s see what happens next,” said one woman, adding that she hasn’t seen any essential changes yet.
But one man in Yerevan approached by an RFE/RL’s Armenian Service correspondent said: “I don’t like praising anyone too much, but I must say that I am pleased with his [prime minister’s] work. I see that this man is thinking, he is trying to find a way.”