YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has pledged to markedly improve Armenia's business environment, crack down on tax evasion, and strengthen the rule of law as he laid out his government's new and ambitious reform agenda on November 18, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Speaking to the National Assembly, Sarkisian acknowledged the existence of "oligopolies" that have monopolized key sectors of the economy and grossly underreport their earnings.
He also spoke of "lessons" which the country should learn from a steep economic decline this year.
Sarkisian pinpointed the challenges facing the country as he formally presented his cabinet's draft budget for next year to parliament.
The bill, already discussed by the main parliament committees, calls for at least 859.6 billion drams in expenditures ($2.22 billion), a 9 percent decrease from the government's original spending target for 2009.
The latter has been repeatedly revised downwards in recent months owing to a serious shortfall in tax revenues.
Sarkisian spent most of his speech detailing, explaining, and defending his government's response to the economic crisis, which has been strongly
criticized by the opposition but praised by Western lenders.
He said, "The logic of our anticrisis program is clear -- to substantially increase spending on infrastructure, to improve the environment for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and to assist those companies that experience temporary difficulties caused by negative global market trends."