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Armenian Economic Growth Continues In First Quarter

YEREVAN -- Armenia's economic recovery continued in March as official statistics showed 5.5 percent growth for the first quarter, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The year-on-year growth rate for January-March reported by the National Statistical Service is up from the January-February level of 3.1 percent. It also beat the expectations of the Armenian government and the Central Bank.

The latest data show that economic growth in the first quarter of 2010 was primarily driven by a more-than-10 percent rise in industrial output. This resulted largely because of soaring international prices for copper and other nonferrous metals, Armenia's most important export.

The official figures also suggest a sharp decline in the domestic construction industry, once a key engine of growth that practically stopped in March.

The macroeconomic figures will give more weight to government claims that Armenia is emerging from its first major economic downturn since the early 1990s.

"I think this will be our first post-crisis year," Gagik Minasian, the pro-government chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on finance and budgetary affairs, told RFE/RL on April 21.

Minasian attributed the accelerating growth in Armenia to countermeasures taken by authorities and supported by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Vartan Bostanjian, the deputy chairman of the parliament committee on economic affairs, was more cautious in assessing what he called "positive economic trends."

"In general, the first quarter of the year is not the most characteristic one," Bostanjian told RFE/RL.

Vahagn Khachatrian, an economist affiliated with the opposition Armenian National Congress, also downplayed the positive numbers, saying they are mainly conditioned by the increased metal prices.

Khachatrian also claimed that the government had failed to act on its promises to diversify the economy and thereby make it more resilient to future crises.