The Armenian government pledged to speed up economic growth and significantly reduce poverty in the country in its new policy program which Prime Minister Karen Karapetian presented to lawmakers on Wednesday.
The National Assembly began debating the five-year plan of actions more than two months after parliamentary elections won by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The program’s almost certain approval by the parliament would amount to a vote of confidence in Karapetian’s cabinet.
The more than 100-page document covers all major areas of government policy and the economy in particular. It commits the government to ensuring that the Armenian economy grows at an average annual rate of around 5 percent on the back of soaring exports. It says that the projected faster growth will cut Armenia’s poverty rate, which currently stands at roughly 30 percent, by 12 percentage points.
Karapetian said the government will strive to achieve these objectives by improving the domestic investment climate, assisting export-oriented manufacturers and combatting corruption. He pointed to a number of anti-corruption measures that have been taken in recent months. Those include the impending creation of a special government body that will scrutinize personal incomes of top state officials and monitor possible conflicts of interest among them.
The prime minister stressed the importance of establishing an “atmosphere of justice and trust” in the country. “Without that it will be impossible to ensure the country’s development and our citizens’ welfare,” he declared.
For that purpose, Karapetian went on, the government will strive to make Armenian court more independent and impartial. It will propose corresponding amendments to the Judicial Code later this year, he said.
Karapetian already promised a tougher fight against corruption, better tax administration and “equal conditions” for all businesses in October shortly after being appointed as prime minister by President Serzh Sarkisian and forming his cabinet. Opposition politicians dismissed that reform agenda as a publicity stunt.
The premier insisted on Wednesday that reforms initiated by the government are already bearing fruit. Citing official statistics, he reported double-digit increases in Armenian industrial output and exports recorded in the first five months of this year.
Despite mapping out its policies for the next five years, Karapetian and his ministers will have to resign when Sarkisian completes his final presidential term and Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic in April 2018. The president has yet to clarify whether he plans to become prime minister, replace Karapetian by someone else or keep the current premier in office.
Answering questions from opposition lawmakers, Karapetian reiterated that he stands “ready” to stay on as prime minister after April 2018.