ArmInfo. Armenia's Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan said in an interview to Bloomberg that he's seeking to develop clear long-term plans over the next six months so that "from 2018 we'll have sustainable year-on-year growth".
"We're proposing the most rapid change that's possible," including measures to combat corruption by streamlining bureaucracy and a government fund to support enterprise", the Prime Minister said.
"Businesses shouldn't be obstructed'' by corrupt officials seeking payments for administrative decisions or by dominant rivals using political ties to restrict competition, said Karapetyan. "We will create an even, competitive, level playing field.''
Armenia's foreign debt is $5.8 billion with GDP at $10 billion, while growth of 3.2 percent in 2017 won't be enough to raise living standards significantly, Karapetyan said. "We also have external debt growing faster than the GDP growth and growing faster than revenues,'' he said.
At the same time Karapetyan stressed that changes in the leadership of the customs service and in the tax code are improving transparency, and he won't allow dominant players to use "administrative support that isn't available to others'' to suppress competition, Karapetyan said. "No one is immune and no one is privileged,'' he said.
While he's focused on immediate improvements, Karapetyan said he'll also form an advisory group including foreign specialists to "brainstorm how we can develop the country'' for the long term, including with tax changes and support for businesses in areas such as health care, education and agriculture.
He also touched upon Armenia's membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. "While critics say there's been no economic benefit so far, nobody knows what would have happened if Armenia hadn't joined and "the negative impact could have been much greater,'' while membership doesn't stop Armenia developing EU trade", Karapetyan said.
Armenia is also seeking to bolster trade with Iran following the lifting of international sanctions over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Karapetyan said he's ordered plans developed by December 25 to implement a free economic zone near Armenia's southern border to boost ties in areas including agriculture and food production.