A senior official from the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday urged the Armenian government to make good on its latest pledge to step up the fight against corruption and significantly improve the domestic investment climate.
“I think now is a critical moment [to do that,]” said Teresa Daban Sanchez, the head of the IMF office in Yerevan. “If you have shocks like Armenia has, fighting against corruption, curtailing monopolies and improving the business environment becomes more important than before. This process needs to be accelerated.”
Daban Sanchez commented on Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s May 12 pledge to speed up reforms because of “new challenges” facing Armenia as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In particular, Abrahamian said the Armenian authorities will make tax administration less arbitrary and investigate de facto monopolies owned by wealthy businesspeople close to the ruling establishment.
The premier went on to promise that the authorities will liberalize lucrative imports of fuel and other essential commodities to Armenia that have long been effectively controlled by a handful of “oligarchs.” “Any citizen can import anything they want,” he said. “There will be no artificial obstacles.”
The IMF as well the World Bank have for years been calling for such reforms, saying that they are vital for faster economic growth in the country.
Daban Sanchez stressed that a stronger ruler of law would translate into more jobs and other economic opportunities for Armenians.
“Armenia is a small economy with a small-sized market,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “There is no room for many players. Therefore, the rules of the game should be improved so that even if there are only a few players [in a particular sector] they act in a competitive way.”