YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia chairman Armen Rustamian Thursday responded to former President Robert Kocharian’s criticism of the Armenian government’s economic policies and his calls for continued government support for the domestic construction industry.
In an interview with the Mediamax news agency released on Tuesday, Kocharian rejected a widespread view, shared by pro-government politicians, that the Armenian economy contracted sharply last year because it had grown too dependent on the once booming construction sector.
He insisted that the construction boom, which came to an end in late 2008, was driven by objective factors. Kocharian also claimed that the government could have averted the 2009 slump in construction had it maintained “huge” demand in new housing and office space.
Rustamian said Kocharian presented “irrefutable facts” and suggested a correct remedy for bringing the country out of the economic crisis. “He is telling the truth,” Rustamian told RFE/RL. “Those are the real figures. Are the current authorities denying that? No.”
“True, not every person can afford to buy an apartment. But there was demand and it was used,” he said. Kocharian is right to urge the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian to support housing demands and take other measures that would boost the construction sector, added Rustamian.
The sector was a key driving force behind Armenia’s double-digit economic growth that preceded the crisis. The current government, opposition forces other than the ARF, and Western donors believe that its renewed robust growth hinges on, among other things, a greater diversification of the Armenian economy.
Rustamian also insisted that the ARF is not plotting to return to government together with Kocharian, as has been speculated by certain media outlets.
“We absolutely don’t condition our policy and our steps with that,” he said. “It is up to Kocharian to decide what to do. We decide our actions on our own and will carry them out on our own.”