YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia will develop much faster if its government puts in place equal and fair conditions for all businesses, the head of a semi-governmental body charged with making the Armenian economy more competitive said on Wednesday.
Pegor Papazian, the Armenian-American director of the National Competitiveness Foundation (NCF), stressed the importance of having an adequate investment climate that would make the domestic market “open to all investors.”
“That is not a reality in Armenia today,” Papazian told journalists. “The Armenian market should be more open to investments, with more equal conditions and more transparent rules of the game,” he said.
Papazian singled out the need to eliminate widespread tax evasion among large companies, saying that would give a massive boost to economic growth and the government’s tax revenues. “The tax and customs system is the most important source of state revenues,” he said. “It can bring the state much greater revenues if all taxpayers — and especially, large businesses — pay taxes in full.”
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have likewise been pressing the Armenian authorities to crack down on “oligopolies” that control lucrative sectors of the domestic economy. They are also unhappy with a low level of taxes collected by the authorities.
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan has repeatedly acknowledged the problem and its adverse impact on the economic situation in the country. Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, he again described fair business competition and tax administration as a top economic priority of his government. Sarkisian said enforcing competition would diversify the Armenian economy and make it less vulnerable to global crises.
The premier also claimed that government efforts to improve the business environment already produced a “positive result” last year. He said Armenia scored higher in an annual World Bank survey on the ease of doing business around the world.
Papazian, whose foundation was jointly set up by the Armenian government and foreign business leaders in 2007, avoided commenting on the effectiveness of the stated efforts. Government critics dismiss them as insignificant.