The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is likely to pose significant challenges to the Armenian economic in the short term, Economy Minister Tigran Khachatrian has said, adding that the possible overall economic impact is yet difficult to assess.
Still, speaking at a press briefing late on Thursday, Khachatrian sought to put a brave face on the difficulties, revealing his government’s optimistic approach to existing economic opportunities.
“These challenges will help us be more responsive to our long-term development goals and find better opportunities,” the minister said.
Khachatrian said the Armenian government intends to provide what he described as substantial financial support to those businesses that are likely to find themselves in difficult conditions due to the pandemic-related crisis.
Earlier, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced that his government would allocate at least 150 billion drams (over $300 million) to support the economy in the time to come. The aid package, according to Pashinian, will be made available in the form of subsidizes on loans that businesses borrow from local commercial banks in the national currency to pay salaries to employees and fulfill tax and other financial obligations during the downturn.
Part of the state funding will go for the modernization of the economy and readjustments on the market to be better suited for post-crisis realities, as well as for social assistance, the government said.
Khachatrian explained that the social aid package will help people who find themselves in dire straits because of the negative consequences of the pandemic. “If someone loses their jobs and finds themselves in difficult economic and social conditions, then the tools formulated by the government, which are yet to be finalized, will provide them with opportunities," he said.
The minister said that the first blow of the coronavirus pandemic has been delivered against the country’s tourism sector and some export-oriented companies.
He assured the public that there are no delayed investment projects in Armenia because of the current national emergency.
Armenia declared a 30-day state of emergency on March 16 to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. To this end the Armenian government has put restrictions on international travel and ordered closures of schools and some other public institutions. All sorts of public gatherings have also been banned in the country.
Armenia’s health authorities say there are 136 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country as of March 20 morning, with one patient having recovered.