Karapetian vows large-scale investments in 2017

By Asbarez | Wednesday, 22 February 2017

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Prime Minister Karen Karapetian reiterated on Wednesday his government’s pledges to help inject hundreds of millions of dollars into Armenia’s economy and public infrastructure this year.

Karapetian said the recently reshuffled government has received 471 investment proposals from private firms, various government ministries and local communities across the country. The government considers 345 of those projects worth a combined $3.2 billion to be “realistic” and thinks that at least $830 million of the required sum can be invested in 2017, he said.

“Those programs have sources of funding and partners,” Karapetian told students at Yerevan State University. “They will be financed from different sources, including the Armenian state budget, community budgets and the private sector.”

He did not specify those sources or single out major beneficiaries of the planned investments.

“I also want to inform you that apart from those [projects worth] $3.2 billion the government is now considering 79 other projects worth $5.3 billion,” added the premier. “We are paying special attention to this issue because there is an impression that it is impossible to invest, make money, seek profits in Armenia.”

With Armenia’s entire state budget for 2017 equivalent to less than $3 billion, the bulk of the large-scale investments repeatedly promised by Karapetian in recent weeks would clearly come from private and foreign sources.

The issue was apparently high on the agenda of his January 25 talks in Moscow with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Karapetian said after the talks that Medvedev backed his proposal to create a Russian-Armenian “investment fund” that would finance business projects in Armenia.

Karapetian, 53, lived and worked in Russia from 2011-2016, holding senior positions in Russian subsidiaries of the Gazprom state-run energy giant. He had previously managed Armenia’s gas distribution network owned by Gazprom.

During his visit to Moscow, Karapetian also met with more than three dozen Russian businesspeople of Armenian descent. In an ensuing joint statement, the entrepreneurs expressed readiness to “participate in joint initiatives and business projects with the Armenian government.” They also voiced “full support” for “profound reforms” planned by Karapetian’s cabinet.

The signatories included the Armenian-born billionaire Samvel Karapetian (no relation to the prime minister) who already has extensive business interests in Armenia.

Foreign direct investment in Armenia has rapidly declined in the last few years. According to the National Statistical Service, it shrunk by almost half in January-September 2016, to $93 million.