BY LUSINE MUSAYELIAN
STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)—Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan sounded optimistic about Nagorno-Karabakh’s near-term economic prospects at the start of a two-day visit to the Armenian-populated territory on Monday.
Echoing statements by the Karabakh Armenian leadership, Sargsyan said the local economy will grow faster in the coming years.
“The existing indicators give us reason to hope that in the coming years Nagorno-Karabakh’s economy will enjoy a steady pace of development,” he told journalists. “The rates of growth registered in recent years are also quite impressive.”
“The accumulated potential is such that we can say there will be a steady development of the economic system both this year and in the next three years,” he said.
According to official statistics, Karabakh’s Gross Domestic Product, mostly generated by agriculture and food processing, increased by 5.5 percent in real terms to 118 billion drams ($330 million) last year. The rate of economic growth accelerated to 9.7 percent in the first quarter of this year.
Sargsyan, who was accompanied by Armenia’s ministers of justice and agriculture, spoke to reporters after holding talks with Karabakh’s President Bako Sahakian and Prime Minister Ara Harutiunian.
A statement issued by the Armenian government’s press office said the talks focused on socioeconomic issues. It said “special attention was paid to the agricultural sector and the implementation of joint projects.”
“I find such meetings extremely important because we manage to clarify everything,” said the Armenian premier.
Sargsyan also visited two manufacturing enterprises and a big cattle farm in Karabakh’s eastern Askeran district. He is expected to meet with farmers and inspect Karabakh Armenian army bases on Tuesday.
Karabakh has grown closely integrated, both politically and economically, with Armenia since winning de facto independence from Azerbaijan in the 1991-1994 war. Despite rebuilding much of the local war-ravaged infrastructure and sharply increasing tax revenues over the past 17 years, the authorities in Stepanakert remain heavily dependent on annual budgetary subsidies from Yerevan.
According to the Armenian Ministry of Finance, the subsidies totaled over 19 billion drams in the first half of this year.