The 44-year-old businessman, Vahan Kerobian, is the sixth new cabinet member named by Pashinian over the past week. The five others are the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, labor, emergencies and education.
Pashinian announced the cabinet shakeup on November 18 amid anti-government demonstrations sparked by significant Armenian territorial losses suffered during the war. He has since continued to reject opposition demands for his resignation and snap parliamentary elections.
Kerobian set up the Menu.am company together with his wife and a friend in 2012. He previously managed an Armenian supermarket chain that went bankrupt and was purchased and rebranded by other investors.
Kerobian has publicly supported the current government and Pashinian in particular. Still, he criticized government policies during the prime minister’s meeting with a group of entrepreneurs held this summer.
Pashinian recalled this fact when he introduced Kerobian to senior Ministry of Economy officials on Friday.
“He now has an opportunity to carefully listen to business and the private sector and not only raise the sector’s problems with the government but also personally address them,” said Pashinian.
Kerobian said, for his part, that the war and the continuing coronavirus pandemic have created new economic challenges for Armenia. He also said that the Armenian economy could grow by 10 percent annually in the near future, an ambitious target set by Pashinian earlier this year.
The economy is now projected to shrink by about 7 percent in 2020 after three consecutive years of robust growth. The government forecast a less drastic GDP contraction before the war with Azerbaijan that broke out on September 27 and was stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.
In its budget bill submitted to the Armenian parliament early this month, the government said economic growth will resume and reach a 4.8 percent rate already next year. The International Monetary Fund offered last week a less optimistic outlook for the Armenian economy.