Armenian Parliament Approves 2000 Budget

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–After a three-month delay caused by political turmoil and resulting uncertainty–Armenia’s parliament on Tuesday approved the state budget for this year.

The National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to pass the government’s draft–which is only slightly different from last year’s budget and is acceptable to international lending institutions.

The 2000 bill calls for around 252.7 billion drams ($482 million) in net public expenditures and 202 billion drams in revenues. The projected deficit will be equal to less than 5 percent of Armenia’s forecast GDP and will be almost fully covered by Western loans and gran’s.

Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan–who has faced a wave of criticism from opposition groups over the extremely small volume of the budget–insisted that he set the most realistic fiscal targets. The Sargsyan cabinet is backed by the parliament majority. Out of 131 deputies–77 voted for and 12 against the document–while 21 lawmakers abstained. The others were absent from the session.

Two left-wing factions–the Communists and Right and Accord bloc–overwhelmingly voted against it. Most deputies from the other minority factions–the National Democratic Union–Country of Laws and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation abstained. The Communists control two and the NDU one ministerial portfolio in Sargsyan’s recently reshuffled cabinet.

The budget is based on officials expectations that the Armenian economy will expand by 6 percent this year–up from a 3.7 percent GDP growth registered last year. Annual inflation is to be kept within single digits.

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