As Armenian Recession Deepens, Prime Minister Curbs Holidays For Top Officials

parliamentmembers (Large)

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan told Armenia’s top government officials on Thursday not to take long summer vacations, citing the need for more intensive government efforts to tackle the ongoing economic recession.

Sargsyan also effectively banned them from spending their holidays abroad. “The individuals occupying the most important positions have no right to be absent from Armenia,” he told ministers.

“Many high-ranking officials are filing applications for vacations,” Sargsyan said, opening a weekly session of his cabinet. “I am amazed by the fact they are all submitting applications for one-month vacations, as if nothing extraordinary has happened, we have already overcome our economic and financial crisis and hard work does not await the government.”

Senior government officials can only go on short holidays within Armenia, stressed the premier. “Please do not submit one-month applications and tell your deputies that they are not going to get one-month vacations this year,” he said.

“Our economic indicators are not good this year, and 2009 will be the most difficult economic year for our government,” he added. “So we have to be on our guard.”

None of the ministers and other top officials present at the meeting objected to Sargsyan’s unprecedented order. Some of them told RFE/RL that the measures is justified. “I have mainly spent holidays in Armenia,” said Environment Minister Aram Harutiunian.

“If we go abroad on vacation, it means we don’t trust our infrastructure,” said Transport and Communications Minister Gurgen Sargsian. “That’s not right. Naturally, we must set examples.”

The global recession caused Armenia’s economy to contract by 9.7 percent in the first four months of this year. The country’s construction sector and export-oriented mining industries have been hit particularly hard by the downturn.

“This summer season will be one of hard work for the government because our indicators are still continuing to deteriorate,” said Sargsyan. He said minimizing a major shortfall in tax revenues must be “the number one objective” of various government agencies. He complained that many of them have so far been “very indifferent to that objective.”

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