YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The head of Armenia’s National Statistical Service seemed mystified on Thursday by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that the Armenian economy grew by 10 percent last year thanks to becoming part of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Putin cited the growth rate contradicting official Armenian statistics during and after his talks with President Serzh Sarkisian held in Moscow on Wednesday.
“The republic has already felt benefits of its membership in the union,” he told a joint news conference with Sarkisian. “In 2015, like I said at the start of our meeting, Armenia registered a more than 10 percent growth of its GDP.”
In his opening remarks at the talks, Putin attributed that growth figure to unspecified official “documents.”
“I hope that this positive dynamic will remain,” he told the Armenian leader.
According to the National Statistical Service, Armenia’s GDP increased, in real terms, by only 3 percent in 2015.
The head of the government agency, Stepan Mnatsakanian, was therefore at a loss to explain the much faster growth claimed by Putin. “I can’t tell,” Mnatsakanian told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
“Ask them,” he said, referring all inquiries to the Russian government.
“Maybe someone did some calculations for the first quarter [of 2016],” the National Statistical Service chief added vaguely when pressed about Putin’s claims.
The National Statistical Service reported earlier that economic growth in Armenia accelerated to 4.4 percent in January-March 2016.
Its latest macroeconomic data also shows that Armenian exports to Russia nearly doubled in the first half of this year after plummeting by 27 percent in 2015.
Sarkisian emphasized this sharp increase in his opening remarks at the meeting with Putin. He said Armenia’s accession to the EEU is one of the main factors behind it.
Alcoholic beverages, prepared foodstuffs and fresh agricultural products account for the bulk of Armenian exports to Russia. Putin on Wednesday hailed their increased shipments to the Russian market, which solidified Russia’s status as Armenia’s number one trading partner.