Much has been achieved, yet much remains to be done" />

Separating business from state: A look at Armenia’s economy during Pashinyan’s first 100 days

Much has been achieved, yet much remains to be done

The first 100 days of Nikol Pashinyan as prime minister of Armenia will be remembered for the number of corruption schemes that were uncovered as well as the high-profile arrests that took place.

But these front-page stories and scandalous events were only a part of the new economic programme of the ‘revolutionary’ government of Armenia. The new Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan came to power in Armenia as a result of the ‘velvet revolution’ in April 2018.

His first one hundred days have ended. What economic reforms have been launched, what has been achieved, and what direction is the new government moving in? JAMnews offers a detailed look at the new Armenia through the comments of experts.

Stabilising the economy 

Armenia posted 8.9 per cent economic growth in the first six months of 2018. Last year, this indicator was 6.1. The national currency, both during the days of the revolution and after, did not change significantly.

However, some economic indicators did take a tumble. For that reason, the first priority of Pashinyan’s government was to stabilise the economy.

Armenia’s former cabinet of ministers, headed by Karen Karapetyan, forecasted 4.5 per cent growth for 2018. After the first six months, it was clear that this indicator would be significantly higher. Specialists have predicted a minimum growth of 6.5 per cent for Armenia this year.

Hrant Mikaelyan, economist:

“The economy was stressed by the revolution, as usually happens in such situations. However, the impact was not very deep. I’d assess the losses at 2.5 per cent of the overall GDP growth.”

Bagrat Asatryan, economist:

“The velvet revolution gave rise to difficulties on financial markets, and there was an outflow of money. In April 2018, Armenia’s international reserves were depleted by 200 million dollars. 

“However, the economic decline has already been corrected.

The year was also a successful one for the agricultural sector. Although the results still have to be calculated, the data as of July shows that fruit and vegetable exports grew some 70 per cent. Significant growth was also recorded in other spheres.”

Hrant Mikhaelyan, economist:

“As of now, there is solid growth in both the service sector and commerce, including construction to some extent. This is connected to the overall positive environment around Armenia. Armenia has integrated into the Eurasian Economic Union, but the GSP and GSP+ policies with the US and the EU are also in force. There is also a trade agreement with Georgia.

The fight against market monopolisation 

The new government announced a fight against artificial monopolies on its first day in power. PM Pashinyan stated that every citizen must have the ability to freely import any and all products to Armenia.

It also came out that a number of companies in Armenia had not been paying taxes for years, including Yerevan City, a large supermarket network. All these companies later ‘returned’ their arrears to the state treasury and are now working in accordance with the new laws. Not one company was shut down.

Hrant Mikhaelyan, economist:

“The new government is trying to introduce an acceptable policy, without extremes, even against large monopolies, and so far [these policies] are justifying themselves – all players have remained on the market, but in different [operating] conditions.”

Separating business from the state

The goal of separating business from the state was also announced as one of the government’s main priorities. Nikol Pashinyan has already partially achieved this goal. There is not a single oligarch or high-profile businessman in his new cabinet who would be capable of using their power for their own aims.

Criticism

Despite the generally positive trends in the country and societal support, there has also been a fair bit of criticism of the new government.

The main reason is that there are no numeric predictions in the economic programme, and no long term economic development programme as a whole has been presented.

Bagrat Asatryan, economist:

“The fight against corruption, and the divorce of business from the state are the most important parts of the [new] structural changes. However, this cannot be called an economic policy. Direct changes in the country’s policy are necessary, which would then attract investments not only from abroad but also domestically. The economic model must be such so as to realise long-term projects.”

Summary

Experts assess the economic indicators of the last three months as positive. However, they note that the most important and main steps that need to be taken are still ahead, because the old economic model continues to be in play in Armenia. It is namely the new economic strategy which will show whether or not Pashinyan’s government is capable of providing a real boost in the economy, something which Armenia has long been awaiting.

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