Economic growth in Armenia has accelerated this year thanks to a double-digit increase in exports that has boosted domestic industrial output, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian insisted on Tuesday.
“It can be concluded that despite a decrease in domestic consumption, economic growth in Armenia has been driven by foreign trade in the last 18 months, which means that we are already witnessing a qualitatively new growth,” he said at a meeting with senior government officials.
Abrahamian stood by official statistics which show that the Armenian economy grew by 4.4 percent in the first quarter of this year, up from 3 percent registered in 2015. The reported growth contrasted with a drop in retail trade primarily caused by falling remittances from Armenians working in recession-hit Russia.
According to fresh government data publicized by Abrahamian, Armenian exports rose by about 17 percent to $815 million in the first half of this year.
More detailed figures released by the National Statistical Service (NSS) separately indicate that precious metals, refined diamonds, textiles, agricultural products and alcoholic beverages generated the bulk of the export gain.
A large part of these products were sold in Russia. First-half Armenian exports to Russia nearly doubled year on year, totaling $168 million, according to the NSS.
In Abrahamian’s words, the strong growth in exports is the main reason why Armenian industrial output soared by almost 9 percent in the same period. This shows that economic growth in the country is becoming export-oriented, he said.
The Armenian government, the premier went on, must do everything to sustain this trend, including with major economic reforms. “It is extremely important today to improve the domestic business environment, minimize corruption risks and identify new competitive edges,” said Abrahamian.
Abrahamian already declared in May that the government will speed up reforms in order to confront new security challenges emanating from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He said it will toughen its declared fight against corruption, make tax administration less arbitrary and break up de facto economic monopolies.
Armenia’s main opposition parties, independent media and pundits critical of the government have dismissed the promised reform drive as a publicity stunt. They insist that the government is not serious about changing the existing economic system because many of its senior officials have used it to enrich themselves and hold on to power.