ARF Leader Discusses Economy, March 1 Commission

ARF's Artsvik Minasian

ARF's Artsvik Minasian

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—Armenian Revolutionary Federation Parliamentary Bloc member Artsvik Minasian, at a press conference Thursday, slammed the government’s economic recovery efforts and announced that an ad-hoc commission set up to investigate the March 1 events would continue its probe into 2008 post-election unrest.

Minasian echoed sentiments expressed Wednesday by the commission’s chairman Samvel Nikoyan that in its upcoming report to parliament no new answers will be provided to lingering questions resulting from the investigation in to the March 1, 2008 events.

Nikoyan told RFE/RL Wednesday that the commission has failed to ascertain the circumstances in which ten people were killed in clashes between opposition protesters and security forces. In particular, he said, it was unable to determine who was directly responsible for the deaths of eight civilians and two police servicemen during its one-year work.

“With regard to the causes of their death, I consider the investigative agency’s work unsatisfactory,” Minasian said.

The ARF leader said that the commission will continue to probe the issues, despite the fact that some 2,500 pages of documents currently at the commission’s disposal do not shed light on these key issues.

In a climate where opposition members who quit the multi-partisan fact-finding group made accusations against the commission before it could issue its findings, Minasian was less than confident that any future report will reveal anything new.

“I think, our assessments were quite impartial,” said Minasian charging that “We could have been even more impartial if our opposition colleagues had been more active.”

On the economic front, Minasian said that the government should reconsider its economic recovery policy.

The criticism coincided with the release of fresh statistical data that shows a further deepening of the country’s worst economic crisis since the early 1990s. According to the National Statistical Service, the Armenian economy contracted by 18.5 percent year on year in the first seven months of this year, reported RFE/RL.

The NSS had registered a GDP decline of 16.3 percent in the first half of 2009. Armenian officials have said that the recession will ease in the second half thanks to wide-ranging anti-crisis measures taken by the government in recent months, according to RFE/RL.

Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan predicted on August 5 that the GDP will likely shrink by 12 percent in 2009. Deputy Finance Minister Vartan Aramian made a similar forecast on Wednesday.

However, Minasian predicted a full-year decline of about 20 percent.

Minasian argued that under the government’s plan, large sums were being invested in the construction sector, without the adequate assessment of demand or the Armenian consumers’ ability to purchase real estate.

As an example of what he called inadequacies in the government plan, Minasian said that in the village of Baghramyan in the Armavir region, the need for irrigation was much higher as compared to other villages. However, under the government plan, water should be equally shared by all villages.

Also during the press conference, Minasian announced plans for an ARF rally on September 2 marking the independence day of the Nagonor-Karabakh Republic.

He said the party will unveil a platform of political cooperation during the rally.

“It [the platform] will enable the people to get acquainted with our positions on all foreign and domestic policy issues,” said Minasian.

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