Armenia’s Chief Taxman Quits After Kocharian Criticism

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian minister for state revenues–Gagik Poghosian–step down on Monday following strong criticism from President Robert Kocharian over the tax authorities’ failure to secure the projected amount of government revenues. The head of the government staff–Andranik Manukian–was named to succeed him.

Kocharian blamed the government last Thursday for the "lack of political will" to collect taxes–promising to take "appropriate measures" to remedy the situation. Only 60 percent of projected budget revenues were collected as of the beginning of last month. The ministry of finance and economy expects that the shortfall coupled with the delay in the release of deficit-funding World Bank loans will lead to a staggering 55 billion-dram ($102 million) extra gap by the end of the year.

Poghosian attributed his decision to quit to his inability to bring 32 billion drams to the state treasury in the next two months. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said his successor will be sacked if he fails to meet the tax target set by the cabinet. Presenting Manukian to the ministry staff–the premier praised Poghosian–saying tax collection has improved considerably during the latter’s five-month term in office. But he said the increase has been insufficient for preventing the budget crisis. Poghosian admitted that despite his efforts to fight widespread tax evasion the informal sector of the economy is prospering.

Manukian–46–is an economist by training and ran the Ararat-Lada car-dealing firm before joining the current cabinet in May. He has been elected to all three post-Communist Armenian parliamen’s. He ran as a candidate of Markarian’s Republican Party in the 1999 legislative polls.

Manukian miraculously survived after sustaining heavy wounds in last year’s terrorist attack on the National Assembly.

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