YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday appointed the first six members of Armenia’s new government which is being formed by Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan.
Four of them are new figures that have not held ministerial positions in the past. They will run the Armenian ministries of finance, energy, agriculture, and transport and communications.
The newly appointed Finance Minister Vartan Aramian was until now the first deputy chief of Sarkisian’s staff. He had previously worked as deputy finance minister.
The new Agriculture Minister Ignati Arakelian, Energy Minister Ashot Manukian and Transport and Communications Minister Vahan Martirosian are also technocrats, having held senior executive positions in enterprises involved in their respective new areas of responsibility.
The two members of the outgoing Armenian cabinet who retained their posts are Deputy Prime Minister Vache Gabrielian and Davit Harutiunian, the chief of the government staff who has a ministerial rank. Gabrielian will also continue to serve as minister for international economic integration and reforms.
Sarkisian stressed the importance of speeding up economic reforms in Armenia when he announced his decision to replace Abrahamian by Karapetyan later on that day. The president singled out the need to improve Armenia’s business environment.
Speaking in the National Assembly on September 14, Karapetyan said that he will embark on “systemic changes” to try to improve what he called a “very grave” economic situation in the country. The new premier his government’s key economic priority will be to put in place “maximally favorable conditions for those who create added value.”
Government Signals New Economic Policy
Armenia needs a new “model of development” in order to successfully address its socioeconomic problems, Deputy Prime Minister Gabrielian said on Tuesday.
Gabrielian commented on the newly appointed Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan’s remark that “systemic changes” are required to improve what he called a “very grave” economic situation in the country.
“In my view, Mr. Karapetyan stressed that the previous development resource is exhausted and new approaches, new resources are needed for ensuring further growth,” he told journalists.
Karapetyan’s gloomy assessment contrasted with official statistics showing that annual economic growth in Armenia averaged 4 percent from 2010-2015 and continued into this year, despite knock-on effects of a recession in Russia.
“It’s not that there has been no economic growth,” explained Gabrielian. “It’s not that [official growth] figures are not real. We are talking about a model of development that has existed until now and are saying that we need a new approach that will be presented by the prime minister soon.”
Gabrielian declined to elaborate on the “systemic changes” prioritized by Karapetyan. He said that the premier will detail them when he submits his policy program to the Armenian parliament for approval after forming his cabinet.
Commenting on his economic priorities on the parliament floor on September 14, Karapetyan put the emphasis on making it easier for entrepreneurs to do business in Armenia. The former business executive also said he is “very determined” to combat widespread tax evasion.
Karapetian mentioned the kind of reforms that have long been advocated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The latter have also been urging the authorities in Yerevan to ensure fair competition.