Donors Pledge $620 Million in New Aid Package to Armenia

PARIS (RFE/RL)–Armenia will receive $620 million worth of fresh loans and assistance over the next three years after promising to continue the decade-long reforms of its struggling economy–Western governmen’s–lending institutions and aid agencies announced on Wednesday. Representatives of nearly 30 donor states and international organizations made the announcement at the end of a two-day conference in Paris attended by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and other Armenian officials.

Juddy O’Connor–a World Bank regional director–said the hefty aid package was approved after the donors noted progress in the Armenian government’s implementation of recommendations made at the previous such conference held in Yerevan last October. Those recommendations called for continued macroeconomic stability and improved investment climate in the country.

The bulk of the badly needed funds will be provided by the World Bank–the International Monetary Fund and the United States government. Armenia will–in particular–receive a total of $120 in fresh loans from the bank which will allow it to continue to cover a considerable part of its budget deficit.

"We are satisfied with the results of the conference–it lived up to our expectations," Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian said at a news conference in Paris. In a speech earlier in the day–Khachatrian said the authorities have managed to ease a severe fiscal crisis that led to large-scale wage arrears in the public sector late last year. But he admitted that Markarian’s cabinet is still unable to clear all of its budgetary debts.

The promised aid is linked to the successful implementation of a three-year government program on reform and poverty reduction. Markarian told the conference on Tuesday–that his cabinet will seek to raise low living standards primarily by achieving higher rates of economic growth. That–he said–will be done through a stricter enforcement of business competition rules and a comprehensive reform of the civil service. The premier also repeated his pledge to combat rampant corruption in Armenia.

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