Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reiterated on Friday that the number of officially employed people in Armenia has increased by more than 50,000 since last spring’s “velvet revolution” that brought him to power.
In a recent speech delivered at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), Pashinian spoke of 51,000 new jobs created in the country after the dramatic regime change. Critics accused him of misdealing the domestic public and the international community. They said that some Armenian companies have simply stopped underreporting the number of their employees for tax evasion purposes, rather than hired new workers.
Pashinian did not deny this when he insisted on the credibility of the jobs numbers in a live Facebook broadcast.
“Yes, the first theory is that these jobs were in the shadow economy and were simply brought out of the shadow after the revolution,” he said. “But of course this figure also includes newly created jobs. We need a more in-depth analysis to differentiate between these numbers.”
“These nuances are not important at this point,” he went on. “What matters is that the number of jobs registered in Armenia in January 2019 was up by 50,141 from January 2018.”
Pashinian vowed a tough crack down on widespread tax evasion when he was elected prime minister in May last year. The Armenian government’s tax revenues rose by over 14 percent in 2018.
Mane Tandilian, a senior lawmaker representing the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK), welcomed the major rise in the number of registered workers but downplayed its impact on economic growth or even the government’s overall tax revenues.
Tandilian, who served as labor minister in Pashinian’s cabinet from May through November, argued that greater proceeds from employee income tax collected by the government will be offset by less profit tax paid by private firms.
“In essence, they cannot be considered new jobs,” she said, commenting on the employment data touted by Pashinian. “They are having no impact on economic activity because [workers newly registered with tax authorities] receive their wages and spend them in the country like they did before.”
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Tandilian also claimed that despite its anti-corruption efforts the government has yet to create a more favorable investment climate in Armenia. In particular, she pointed to repeated delays in the introduction of major tax cuts promised by Pashinian.
The Armenian economy grew by 5.2 percent last year, down from 7.5 percent reported by the country’s Statistical Committee in 2017. The government has forecast a similar growth rate for 2019.