Environment Minister Erik Grigorian said on Wednesday that about one-third of his ministry’s employees will be laid off next year.
“There are going to be quite big staff cuts, [affecting] approximately 30 percent [of the Environment Ministry staff,] around 60-70 people, if I’m not mistaken,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly pledged to downsize Armenia’s government since he swept to power in May 2018. He has said that it will operate more efficiently after the staff cuts.
Earlier this year the government pushed through the Armenian parliament a bill that reduced the number of its ministries from 17 to 12. Speaking in the National Assembly in April, then Justice Minister Artak Zeynalian said several hundred civil servants lose their jobs as a result.
In particular, the bill turned the ministries of education, culture, and sports and youth affairs into a single agency. A similar merger of the ministries of energy and local government led to the creation of a new Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures.
The Armenian opposition criticized the restructuring. Some public administration experts also questioned the wisdom of having fewer government ministries. They say that the new “super ministries” would only slow down the work of the state bureaucracy.
The Environment Ministry remains a separate government agency. Grigorian, who has headed it since May 2018, defended his track record, speaking of “revolutionary” changes made in Armenian laws and regulations meant to protect the environment.
The minister singled out the passage in July this year of legal amendments that criminalized illegal logging in Armenia. He also said that his ministry has sharply cut the inefficient use of ground water by scores of fish farms located in the Ararat Valley, the most important source of fruits and vegetables grown in the country.
The Bright Armenia Party (LHK), one of the two parliamentary opposition forces, has been very critical of Grigorian’s record. Earlier this month it tried unsuccessfully to have the parliament ask Pashinian to sack him.