The National Assembly began debating on Tuesday the Armenian government’s five-year program which Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian again portrayed as a policy framework for an “economic revolution” in the country.
Pashinian presented the 70-page program to lawmakers in a two-hour speech that was followed by a question-and-answer session. More than 50 members of the 132-seat parliament registered to ask him questions relating to the document.
“There can be no return to the former criminal-oligarchic ruling regime, and we need to rid our homeland of the last remaining bacilli of criminal-oligarchic and corrupt governance,” stated Pashinian.
“I am announcing the start of a popular economic revolution in the Republic of Armenia,” he said. “The Armenian people have prevailed in the fight against corruption, impunity and clan-based governance, and the Armenian people will also prevail in the fight against poverty, unemployment and misery.”
The program presented by Pashinian affirms the government’s commitment to a “competitive and inclusive economy” primarily driven by hi-tech industries. It says that to this end the government will significantly improve tax administration, ease business regulations, guarantee fair competition, attract foreign investment, and stimulate exports and innovation.
This, the document adds, should translate into an annual GDP growth rate of at least 5 percent in 2019-2023.
Armenia’s former government brought down by Pashinian-led mass protests last year set practically the same economic growth targets in its last five-year program drawn up in 2017. It pledged to reduce the official poverty rate, which stands at around 30 percent, by 12 percentage points by 2022.
The current government is likewise promising “substantial” reductions in poverty and unemployment. But it has set no specific targets.
Critics have pounced on an overall lack of socioeconomic targets in the program, questioning its feasibility.
In an apparent response to the criticism, Pashinian said: “The numerical parameters of the economic revolution depend on how many citizens of Armenia will respond to our appeal to become activists of the economic revolution and how many of them will decide to take up opportunities provided by this revolutionary platform.”
Ani Samsonian, a lawmaker representing the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK), suggested during the question-and-answer session that Pashinian wants to shift the blame for a possible failure of his economic policies on to ordinary Armenians.
“It is the government of Armenia which would bear responsibility for that,” insisted the prime minister.
Pashinian also declared that his administration has already “broken the spine of systemic corruption in Armenia.” He said it will now focus on putting in place “institutional” safeguards against corrupt practices. In particular, he said, it will make information about the personal assets of individuals holding or aspiring to state posts easily accessible to the public.