YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia’s newly formed government approved on Monday a five-year policy program that commits it to strengthening the rule of law, improving the business environment and implementing other "second-generation" reforms promised by President Serzh Sarkisian.
The new program, which was accepted during a special session of the government, will be introduced into the National Assembly Tuesday, where it will be discussed and put to a full vote.
"We have discussed the government’s program with all [four] parties making up the [governing] coalition," Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said at the extraordinary cabinet session. "We have received their commen’s and proposals and incorporated them into the program."
He said the government also took into account a number of unspecified proposals made by the Heritage party, the only opposition party represented in the parliament.
The five-year plan tasks President Sarkisian and his current cabinet with the responsibility of building a "civil society anchored in democratic values," creating an "atmosphere of trust between the public and the authority" and ensuring an "unconditional rule of law."
Among the other priorities also envisioned in the program is the government’s commitment to ensuring the country’s national security, implementing vigorous social, economic, and educational policies, the development of Armenia’s provinces, and the formulation of a system for state and local self-government.
The reduction of poverty is also a central theme outlined in the government’s new program, which seeks to increase annual pensions, while lowering poverty levels to below 11.2%, and extreme poverty levels to below 1.6%.
The government will seek to sustain Armenia’s strong economic growth by guaranteeing fair business competition and taking other measures to improve the overall investment climate, according to Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsian, who outlined the program. He said the government will also launch a "meaningful and consistent fight against corruption," he said.
Previous Armenian governmen’s, including the one headed by Sarkisian, likewise promised to launch crackdowns on corruption. However, there have been no visible signs of a decrease in bribery and other widespread corrupt practices. In particular, local businessmen continue to complain about what they see as an arbitrary nature of tax collection in the country. The new Armenian president admitted the seriousness of the problem in separate meetings with the leaderships of the State Tax Service and the State Customs Committee (SCC) earlier this month.
Sargsyan, for his part, reiterated on Monday that improved tax and customs administration will be key to the realization of his cabinet’s "ambitious" socioeconomic agenda.
"God help us, if we have a slight failing, omission or shortcoming in this sphere," the Armenian premier said as he introduced a newly appointed deputy head of the STS to top tax officials. "Given the great expectations [from the government,] that could lead to the failure of the entire government program."