Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told Armenians on Wednesday to brace themselves for months of economic hardship resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The crisis is only just beginning and we note that we will have a coronavirus crisis for at least one year, until May 2021,” he said, speaking in the Armenian parliament.
Pashinian insisted at the same time that his government has managed to keep economic disruptions caused by the pandemic “manageable.” He again touted wide-ranging measures taken by it since the first cases of the virus were registered in Armenia in early March.
The stimulus measures have included cash handouts to various categories of the vulnerable population as well as loan subsidies and grants to businesses and farmers. Also, Armenian banks suspended in late March loan repayments for hundreds of thousands of individual borrowers and businesses
Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian put the total amount of the government assistance allocated so far at 62 billion drams ($130 million). He said it has benefited 360,000 individuals and 24,000 businesses.
Opposition lawmakers questioned, however, the effectiveness of the government’s aid program and cited delays in their implementation during a parliament session on Tuesday. Some of them claimed to have received complaints about inaccuracies in the lists of people eligible for the aid.
One deputy, former Labor Minister Mane Tandilian, also complained that restaurants and cafes in Armenia have to pay local taxes despite the fact that they have not operated for nearly two months due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Viktor Yengibarian, a lawmaker representing Pashinian’s My Step bloc, defended the government efforts to ease the socioeconomic hardship. “I’ve been receiving phone calls from our compatriots living western European countries,” he said. “They are really envious of the situation that exists in Armenia in terms of the spread of the virus and in the economic sense.”