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IMF Shares World Bank Concern About Monopolies In Armenia

Nienke Oomes, the IMF's resident representative to Armenia

Nienke Oomes, the IMF's resident representative to Armenia

YEREVAN -- A senior International Monetary Fund official says the IMF agrees with the World Bank that the Armenian economy is dominated by monopolies and other "oligopolistic" structures that hamper the country's development, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Nienke Oomes, the IMF's representative in Yerevan, told RFE/RL that Armenia has made a lot of progress and "a lot of market mechanisms are now working in the economy. But there is a lot to do."

Oomes said she is in agreement with a warning made by World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during a recent visit to Yerevan that Armenia cannot achieve prosperity as long as the most-lucrative sectors of the economy are controlled by a handful of government-linked

Oomes said more competition is needed "in a lot of sectors," which she said are "dominated by one or two large companies that have a monopoly or oligopoly."

The Armenian government has said it is committed to implementing reforms.

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has repeatedly said that better tax and customs administration are essential to improve the country's business environment.

Sarkisian declared early this year that large companies will be "the No. 1 target" of his government's crackdown on tax fraud.

The Armenian parliament recently passed a bill that allows the State Revenue Committee (SRC) to deploy permanent "tax representatives" in major firms suspected of underreporting their earnings.

Oomes reaffirmed the IMF's disapproval of that extraordinary measure, saying that it only "opens the door to even more corruption" among tax officials. She also noted a "very slow" pace of reform within the SRC.

The head of the tax collection agency, Gagik Khachatrian, has long been dogged by corruption allegations from opposition politicians and media.