In a move clearly related to regime change in Armenia, the head of the country’s State Revenue Committee (SRC), Vartan Harutiunian, resigned on Thursday after 18 months in office marked by improved tax collection.
The resignation was announced and accepted at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. He said Harutiunian informed him about his decision to step down when they met the previous evening.
“We decided by mutual consent that that decision will be made at today’s government’s meeting,” Pashinian told ministers. He thanked Harutiunian for his work and announced that the SRC will now be run by Deputy Finance Minister Davit Ananian.
Harutiunian is a figure very close to former Prime Minister Karen Karapetian. In line with Karapetian’s economic reform agenda, he pledged to crack down on widespread tax evasion and corruption among tax officials after being named to run the SRC in October 2016.
The International Monetary Fund praised the Armenian authorities’ “efforts to improve tax administration” already in June 2017.
The improvement was particularly visible in the Armenian customs service, which has long been reputed to be one of the country’s most corrupt government agencies. Import duties collected by it soared by over 23 percent last year.
The total amount of taxes and customs duties collected by the SRC rose by more than 7 percent in 2017, helping the government to cut the state budget deficit to 3.3 percent of GDP. The SRC reported an even faster rise in state revenue in the first quarter of this year.
Incidentally, it was Karapetian who appointed Harutiunian’s successor, Davit Ananian, as deputy finance minister in October 2016. According to his official biography, Ananian, 46, worked as a tax inspector in the 1990s and ran a private tax and accounting consultancy from 2006-2016.