Economic growth in Armenia will practically grind to a halt this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Economy Minister Tigran Khachatrian said on Friday.
The Armenian economy grew by 7.6 percent last year and continued to expand robustly in the first two months of this year. However, the situation changed dramatically last month as the government put the country under lockdown to fight against the spread of coronavirus. With the number of coronavirus cases continuing to rise, the economic shutdown is expected to continue in the weeks ahead.
In a report released earlier this week, the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) forecast a 0.7 percent GDP growth rate for 2020.
Khachatrian agreed with this projection. “This year our economic indicators will be substantially down from what was forecast early this year,” he told a news conference.
The minister argued that the Armenian economy will also be affected by coronavirus-related economic disruptions in other countries and Russia in particular. Russia is Armenia’s main export market and the principal sources of remittances from Armenians working abroad.
Khachatrian insisted at the same time that Armenia will quickly recover once the global health crisis is over. “Despite the difficulties of 2020 we will quickly restore our economic activity and potential,” he said.
The CBA report says that economic growth in the country will accelerate to 7.2 percent already in 2021.
The Armenian government approved last week a multimillion-dollar stimulus package designed to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic on businesses and ordinary people. The plan makes most Armenian firms as well as farmers eligible for financial assistance or credit subsidies.
In particular, creditworthy firms and individual entrepreneurs will receive grants worth $500 million ($1 million) if they pledge to use that money to pay their workers’ wages, buy equipment or raw materials or pay taxes. The scheme will not apply to Armenian banks, insurance companies and casinos. The government will instead subsidize the banks to provide cheap credit to farmers across the country.