Finance Minister Vartan Aramian declined to clarify on Monday whether he considers realistic President Serzh Sarkisian’s latest forecast that Armenia’s per capita income will triple, in dollar terms, in the next “several” years.
In a weekend speech, Sarkisian said that the country’s GDP per capita, which currently stands at roughly $3,500, will reach $10,000. He set no specific dates for meeting that target.
A long-term strategy for socioeconomic development adopted by the Armenian government earlier set such a target for 2025. It also predicted that GDP per capita will rise to $4,200 by 2017.
Aramian was reluctant to comment on Sarkisian’s remark when approached by journalists. He suggested that the president simply made an “appeal” to the government to the effect that “you must make efforts in this direction.”
“Now you want the finance minister to come out and say, ‘Dear people, that $10,000 [target] is not possible,’” Aramian complained. “Will you give me time to make calculations and answer you accordingly?” he added when pressed on the subject.
In its five-year policy program approved by parliament in June, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian’s cabinet pledged to ensure that the Armenian economy grows by around 5 percent annually. It expects economic growth to exceed 4 percent in 2017 and accelerate in 2018.
Asked whether such growth rates would be enough to triple GDP per capita in the near future, Aramian said: “It’s hard to tell.”
Opposition representatives, meanwhile, dismissed Sarkisian’s forecast as unrealistic. Sergey Bagratian, a parliament deputy from the Tsarukian Bloc, said that the authorities will fail to quickly improve living standards in the country unless they break up economic monopolies and ensure fair competition. He insisted that they are not committed to “liberalizing the economy.”
Aram Sargsian, a leader of the Yelk bloc, agreed. “I don’t see any evidence that the current authorities have a desire to change ways or are taking steps to change ways,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The president famously stated in 2013 an Armenian government failing to achieve a growth rate of at least 7 percent must step down. Economic growth in Armenia has since fallen well short of that figure.