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Armenian PM Welcomes Opposition's Economic Blueprint

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian
YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has welcomed the economic program unveiled last month by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Sarkisian told RFE/RL the HAK manifesto and his government's economic program have "numerous common points." But he said the opposition document also contains provisions "unacceptable" to the Armenian government, without elaborating.

Sarkisian said it is "important" that the opposition has come up with a program and is urging the public to participate in discussions of its provisions.

The 15-page program was drafted by a team of economists led by former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian. It lists 100 policy measures which the HAK believes would end the monopolization of key sectors of the Armenian economy, improve the country's business environment, and ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth among its citizens.

The HAK, which is led by former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, specifically wants to shift the main tax burden from small and medium-sized enterprises to a handful of "oligarchs" with close ties to the authorities, whom it accuses of "strangling free enterprise" in the country. This would be done through the introduction of a progressive income tax scale, as well as sharp increases in other taxes paid by the wealthiest Armenians.

The program also calls for a substantial toughening of Armenia's antitrust legislation and a strict separation of business and politics.

Sarkisian has repeatedly pledged to implement sweeping economic reforms since taking office almost two years ago. Addressing the Armenian parliament in November, he stressed the need to improve Armenia's business environment, crack down on tax evasion by the rich, and strengthen the broader rule of law.