YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)–Rodrigo de Rato–praised Armenia for continuing "impressive" growth of its economy–which looks set to remain in double digits for a sixth consecutive year.
De Rato reiterated over the weekend the IMF’s highly positive assessment of the country’s macroeconomic indicators after what he described as "very productive" talks in Yerevan with President Robert Kocharian and other senior Armenian officials.
"Armenia’s economic performance has been impressive in recent years: double-digit growth since 2001 in an environment of low inflation; a strengthening external position; a reduction in poverty; and–more recently–a notable improvement in tax performance," he told a news conference.
"The authorities have done a commendable job in maintaining sound macroeconomic policies," de Rato said. They will therefore be rewarded with $34 million in additional IMF loans to be disbursed in the next two years–he added.
De Rato was in Yerevan to participate in a high-level conference of the so-called Dutch group of 12 countries–including Armenia–affiliated with the IMF and the World Bank. Armenian growth was a big feature during the two-day gathering that was attended by finance ministers–central bank chiefs–and other top officials from those nations.
Official statistics put the Armenian economy–still reeling from the post-Soviet slump of the early 1990s–on track to expand by more than 10 percent this year.
"Even China is not achieving that sort of growth," said Jeroen Kremers–a member of the IMF’s governing board representing the Dutch group. "That’s pretty good–I think."
According to the National Statistics Service–the proportion of Armenia’s living below the official poverty line fell from 56 percent to 34.6 percent between 1999 and 2005. The Armenian Government says this shows that the growth has benefited not only the small class of wealthy citizens but the population at large.
De Rato also spoke about key economic challenges facing Armenia–such as tax evasion. He said he urged Armenian leaders to improve tax and customs administrations in a "transparent and non-discretionary manner." Kocharian was quoted by his office as telling de Rato that his Government is doing its best to tackle the problem.
The IMF chief further praised the Kocharian administration’s monetary policies–defending the appreciation of the Armenian currency–the dram.