Acting on a recent speech by President Serzh Sarkisian, the leadership of his Republican Party (HHK) has told Prime Minister Karen Karapetian’s government to ensure that Armenia’s economy grows by 5 percent annually.
The HHK’s governing board headed by Sarkisian met late on Thursday to discuss the government’s new policy program that will be debated by the Armenian parliament soon. The document has not been made public yet.
According to the HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, the board “proposed” that the government commit itself to achieving faster growth and meeting other ambitious socioeconomic targets set by Sarkisian in his May 18 address to the newly elected National Assembly.
“In the course of 2016-2040 we must ensure an average annual GDP growth of around 5 percent,” the president declared in that extensive speech. He said this should result in a more than fivefold increase in Armenia’s GDP that was worth less than $11 billion last year. This requires, among other things, a further improvement of the country’s business environment, he said.
Karapetian’s cabinet expects economic growth to accelerate to at least 3.2 percent this year. It has forecast slightly higher growth rates for 2018 and 2019.
“The indicators [demanded by the HHK] are quite ambitious but we are not afraid of setting higher targets,” Finance Minister Vartan Aramian said on Friday. “In his speech, the president set the bar high for the government and we must attain it.”
“We need faster economic growth in order to solve socioeconomic problems more easily,” he told a news conference. “Ambition means efforts. Time will tell whether we will succeed.”
In Aramian’s words, the government thinks that economic growth will be stimulated by its structural reforms, greater foreign and domestic investments, and a continued rise in exports. Growth reached 6.5 percent in the first quarter of this year, the minister said.
Sharmazanov would not say whether the government will have to resign if growth falls short of the 5 percent target. “I don’t answer questions with ‘ifs,’” he told reporters. “I’m just telling you that we are optimistic. We think that with joint efforts we need to ensure that the current government and the political majority … achieve within five years the positive targets that were set.”
“Under the current constitution, this government will have to resign one year later. What kind of a [new] government will be formed? We’ll talk about that in 2018,” he said.
Sharmazanov referred to the April 2018 end of Sarkisian’s final presidential term, which will be followed by Armenia’s transition to a parliamentary system of government. Sarkisian has yet to clarify whether he plans to become prime minister, replace Karapetian by someone else or keep him in office. The premier has repeatedly indicated his desire to retain his post.