Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian believes the draft state budget for next year submitted to the parliament has a “social orientation” and aims to combat tax evasion by large businesses.
Speaking at the National Assembly at the start of budget discussions on Tuesday, Abrahamian emphasized that nearly half of the 2015 budget’s spending pattern is envisaged for social and cultural spheres.
The draft budget calls for an equivalent of nearly $2.9 billion in revenues, with expenditures standing at over $3.1 billion. According to the head of the government, the gap is manageable.
“We do not have a magic wand that can instantaneously do away with the corrupt practices that have been formed over years. But we have the will and determination to do that step by step, sector by sector,” he emphasized.
A quarter of the budget is to be spent on the defense sphere, on maintaining public order and national security. A sum equivalent to about $110 million will be allocated to Nagorno-Karabakh as an intergovernmental loan.
Next year’s budget revenues are projected to be 4.3 percent higher than this year’s. Abrahamian said that the modest rise reflected the possibilities of the government and called on the lawmakers to refrain from “populism” during the upcoming discussions.
“My request is that we stay away from unnecessary politicization during the budget debate. I don’t want you to bring the street passions into this chamber,” the prime minister said, apparently addressing his words to opposition lawmakers, many of whom are currently involved in a new wave of anti-government rallies.
Abrahamian emphasized that next year the government will focus on combating tax evasion by large businesses. Government-proposed amendments aimed at alleviating the tax burden of small and medium-sized enterprises that were introduced in the sales tax law earlier this year sparked large-scale street protests by small traders, who complained about a number of new related regulations that would make them more accountable in regards to purchases from larger companies. The government later decided to postpone the changes until next February, in the meantime settling all the disputes connected with the legislation and introducing relevant amendments.
“If our separate steps aimed at making large businesses more accountable are taken by small and medium-sized enterprises as attempts of pressure, we ask for your patience and support. I am sure that time will put everything in its place,” Abrahamian said. “We consider small businesses to be a source of employment and will create favorable conditions for their work. Our target is big business where we are going to reduce untaxed revenues. We will be consistent, patient, but also determined in doing that.”