YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The newly appointed Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian pledged to revamp his ministry and adopt a more hands-on approach to Armenia’s struggling agriculture as he officially assumed his duties on Monday.
“Rest assured that within a short period of time our ministry will become one of the exemplary and best ministries in the republic,” Karapetian told Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan while being introduced by the latter to the Agriculture Ministry staff.
“I’m a man of action and primarily evaluate people with the work done by them, their dedication to the country and honest performance of duties,” he said, addressing ministry officials. “I urge all of you to close the ranks, become a single fist, work diligently and not tarnish our and our ministry’s reputations.”
Speaking to journalists afterwards, Karapetian did not rule out the possibility of personnel changes within the ministry. “I have my programs, my requirements. Those who meet these requirements will definitely keep working, while those who don’t, won’t be working,” he said without going into details.
Karapetian, 62, managed one of Armenia’s largest food-processing companies before taking up the ministerial position late last month. His predecessor, Gerasim Alaverdian, resigned under pressure from his Orinats Yerkir Party, a junior partner in Armenia’s governing coalition. The Orinats Yerkir leadership attributed the move to a steep decline in agricultural production mainly resulting from poor weather.
Armenian agricultural output shrank by more than 10 percent last year mainly due to unfavorable weather conditions. The sharp fall significantly slowed down the country’s recovery from recession.
Sargsyan referred to the new minister, who sources said joined Orinats Yerkir only last month, as a “knowledgeable man” who “knows, in effect, all the problems” facing Armenia’s mostly low-income farmers. He said “serious work” is needed to sort out a sector still heavily dependent on good weather and a lack of cheap credit to farmers. The premier did not elaborate.
Karapetian likewise did not specify steps which he plans to be taken in the coming months. “I am well aware of the problems existing in villages,” he told reporters. “We will strive to remedy the existing shortcomings.”
“In the first instance, communication between farmers and the ministry needs to be restored,” he said. “That communication seems to have been disrupted a little.”