Prime Minister Karen Karapetian reaffirmed his pledges to implement “serious reforms” and attract large-scale investments in Armenia’s economy as he campaigned for the ruling Republican Party (HHK) in the Armavir province on Wednesday.
Karapetian toured small towns and villages in the largely agricultural area west of Yerevan, urging local residents to vote for the HHK in the April 2 parliamentary elections. It was the former business executive’s first-ever election campaign trip.
“We all don’t like the existing situation,” he told voters in the town of Echmiadzin. “We have to change many, many things.”
Armenia has “fantastic potential” for development and it will take “terribly hard work” to realize it, he said. “Some time later, we will have a country which we will be proud of,” declared the premier.
In that context, Karapetian reiterated that his government has approved and identified sources of funding for around 350 nationwide investment projects worth a combined $3.2 billion. He said at least $850 million of that money should be invested this year. Armavir alone will likely absorb $85 million in investments and get 3,500 new jobs as a result, he added.
The government has yet to specify the sources of those investments in businesses and public infrastructure. It has said only that the projects have been proposed by private firms, various government ministries and local communities. With Armenia’s entire state budget for 2017 equivalent to less than $3 billion, the bulk of the promised investments would presumably come from private and foreign sources.
Karapetian has repeatedly pledged to improve the country’s business environment ever since he was appointed as prime minister in September last year.
Some Armavir residents complained to Karapetian about lingering hardship. One elderly man said he has trouble living off a monthly state pension of 68,000 drams ($140). Karapetian told him that while he cannot promise to raise pensions this year he believes that the socioeconomic situation will improve in the near future.
Karapetian also struck an optimistic note we met with voters in a cold conference hall in another provincial town, Metsamor. He joked about the lack of winter heating in a community which is home to a Soviet-built nuclear power plant generating more than one-third of Armenia’s electricity.
“Just smile, everything will be alright,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) after the meeting when asked whether Metsamor voters will back the HHK in the polls.
Karapetian was appointed the HHK’s first deputy chairman earlier this year. HHK representatives have said that he will play a more active role than President Serzh Sarkisian in the ruling party’s election campaign.