YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The National Assembly approved on Thursday the Armenian government’s draft 2017 budget calling for a major reduction in public spending strongly criticized by the parliamentary opposition.
The budget commits the government to spending a total of 1.36 trillion drams (about $2.9 billion), down by almost 17 billion drams from the 2016 nominal target. Prime Minister Karen Karapetian said in September that budgetary expenditures will actually decrease by as much as 100 billion drams ($210 million).
The government is to collect 1.21 trillion drams in taxes and other revenue in 2017. The 2016 budget calls for a state revenue of almost 1.19 trillion drams. Karapetian said that budgetary revenue will rise by as much as 70 billion drams in real terms next year.
This means that the recently reshuffled government will fail to meet the 2016 budgetary targets because of worse-than-expected tax collection. Finance Minister Vartan Aramian predicted recently that the shortfall in tax revenue will total approximately 80 billion drams.
Aramian defended the spending cuts as the parliament began debating the proposed budget on November 17. He said Armenia urgently needs to cut its growing budget deficit which is projected to reach almost 6 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2016. The government plans to bring the deficit down to 3 percent of GDP in 2017.