YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Mechanisms proposed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) to fight corruption in Armenia have been included in the Armenian Government’s program–revealed Minister of Finance Economy Vardan Khachatrian. He mentioned–however–that the establishment of a separate anti-corruption agency proposed by the ARF was turned down by the Republican Party.
"Fighting corruption would become harder if there are too many agencies involved," said Khachatrian. "The ARF dropped its proposals of establishing a special anti-corruption agency–but almost all of its anti-corruption policy proposals have been approved."
Ministers representing President Robert Kocharian and the three largest pro-presidential parties (Republican–ARF–Orinats Yerkir) approved the program at a special cabinet meeting before sending it to the parliament for vote on Thursday.
ARF Supreme Body representative Armen Rustamian said that the ARF will–nevertheless–continue to insist on establishing the agency in the future.
The program considers corruption in all its forms–as threatening not only economic reforms but also the political stability of the country.
The document has been worked out based on President Kocharian’s pre-election program and enhanced with those of the three coalition parties. The document states "guidelines for the Government’s program are development of democracy–establishment of civil society and rule of law–establishment of social justice–and the ensuring of a free market economy and the country’s security."
The strong emphasis on poverty reduction and social programs of the program reflects mainly ARF’s election platform.
"We submitted various proposals that we had prepared earlier," said Arsen Hambartsumian represented the ARF in the working group. Hambartsumian revealed that an ARF Bureau initiative to develop a socio-economic program served as a solid basis for discussions. "Considering that ARF’s proposals are well-grounded and financially realistic–most of ARF’s proposals have been included in the joint program."
The three-party coalition also vows to reduce the share of Armenian families living below the poverty line from the current 50 percent to 35 percent and double the average salary of the chronically underpaid public sector employees by 2007. The monthly wage of school teachers alone is to triple to 60,000 drams ($100).
The government also promises to raise modest state pensions–averaging 6,000 drams at present–to 11,000 drams within the next four years. A similar increase is envisaged for the state benefits paid to thousands of socially vulnerable families.
Presenting the program to the media–Minister Khachatrian admitted that it will not be easy to implement. "The government has really adopted an ambitious program," he said. "But we could not have acted otherwise."
"We hope to substantially change the existing [socioeconomic] situation in the next three or four years," Khachatrian added.
Increased social spending is tied to continued economic growth and a further growth in the government’s tax revenues. The government anticipates a steady growth rate of at least 6 percent in the years to come. The Armenian GDP growth–according to official figures–hit almost 13 percent last year and continued unabated into the first quarter of 2003.
Khachatrian revealed that the government has no plans to raise taxes and will instead be seeking to boost its insufficient budget revenues through improved tax collection. "The government does not intend to increase taxes," the minister said. "The tax rates will remain essentially unchanged."