“We are convinced that doing business in Armenia will be very easy and profitable” - PM Addresses Lebanese Business Community Representatives
The second day of Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan’s official visit to Lebanon started with working breakfast held with Armenian businessmen. Issues related to Armenia’s development prospects and challenges were discussed.
The head of the Armenian government presented the current economic situation in Armenia and the positive trends in economic development. The Prime Minister stressed that one of Armenia’s key competitive assets is the strong Diaspora, our compatriots who regardless of their domicile are concerned about the future of their homeland.
Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan's next meeting was with the representatives of Lebanon’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Chamber of Manufacturers, Beirut Traders Association, World Association of Lebanese Businessmen, and the International Chamber of Commerce.
The Premier thanked the attendees for accepting his invitation to meet and noted that the meeting had the basic objective of presenting Armenia’s economic position, the advantages and opportunities available in our country, as well as to invite them to Armenia.
“During these two days, we had intensive meetings with our Lebanese counterparts and recorded that the truly friendly ties between our millennia-old countries are at a very high political level but, unfortunately, the economic potential is not yet tapped in full. Therefore, we have decided and agreed to “reboot” our relations. We decided to activate the work of the intergovernmental commission and the business contacts,” Karen Karapetyan said.
The Head of Government noted that today Armenia is undergoing exciting reforms in absolutely all spheres of public life: governance, customs, taxation, education, healthcare, exports, credit programs, subsidized loans, judiciary, bankruptcy, agricultural insurance, etc.
Karen Karapetyan expressed satisfaction with the macroeconomic indicators recorded in 2017. “In 2017, we had the following macroeconomic indicators: the year was concluded with 7.5% economic growth. This is a much higher figure than what we had planned. This 7.5% economic growth is much higher than the regional average, the highest among the CIS countries, the highest in the Eurasian Economic Union and finally, the highest in the region as compared to our neighbors.
Industry grew 12.6%, trade turnover - 14%, services - 14.4%, tourism - 24%. We were able to state a record exports level for the last 25 years: exports increased by 25.2%, imports -27.8%, while the total external trade turnover rose by 26.9%.
The January figures show that the above growth trends will be continued. This January we stated a 10.2% growth in economic activity as compared with January, 2017, along with 13.9% growth in industry, 15.2% - in services, 17.3% - in domestic trade turnover, and 19.7% in construction. Exports increased by 45.2%, imports - 48.9%, foreign trade turnover - 47.6%.
If we compare to January, 2018 with January, 2016, we can see that exports grew 197 percent, imports - 220 percent, foreign trade - 211 percent in just a couple of years. This was promoted by the reforms we have initiated and which will be continuous.
We are sure that at least over the next 4-5 years, we will have economic indices above the regional average and, why not, higher than the global benchmarks.” Prime Minister Karapetyan noted that we will have comparable figures for exports and imports if we proceed from the pure consumption framework.
Coming to the opportunities for doing business and investing in Armenia, the Premier stated in part, “Why one should come to Armenia: simply because economic growth is good? In which areas can you invest in Armenia? We are a unique country in the sense that we have been able to combine two seemingly incompatible economic platforms. I mean that while being a small country with 3 million population, we are a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and thereby enjoy privileged trade regimes with countries that have a population of 180 million altogether - Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan.
We have signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union and benefit from a GSP+ trade regime. Lebanon has a GSP regime, but ours is a bit more privileged, and we have access to the 500-million-strong European market.
We have a GSP trade regime with the United States, Canada, Japan, Norway and Switzerland, and have signed double taxation agreements with many countries. We have set up a free economic zone near the border with Iran, which allows privileged entry into Iran with a population of 82.5 million. Thus, profitable business can be set up in Armenia on the way to a marketplace with more than 1 billion population.”
Karen Karapetyan presented the spheres that can be interesting for foreign businessmen - agriculture, cattle breeding, jewelry, light industry, information technology, mining and infrastructure. The Prime Minister advised that the law on foreign direct investments is being finalized, the purpose of which is not to streamline the field, as it is already regulated and protected by means of different laws, but to combine all the applicable terms and conditions in a single document, which will serve as a compact guideline for Armenia’s potential partners.
“Our National Assembly is going to approve the law on public-private partnership in the near future. We have major projects to implement in the PPP (public-private partnership) format that relate to infrastructures, road and reservoir construction. We have tangible growth in tourism and we feel that our country is underestimated as a tourist destination. Last year, we had 24% growth in visitors and more than 18% growth in tourism industry. We are confident that either this year we will have similar figures,” the Head of Government pointed out.
The Prime Minister noticed that the Government is mindful of Armenia’s standing in international rating lists, including the Doing Business characteristics and business opportunities. “Today’s government has a firm belief in the philosophy that its main function is not to encumber business. We are confident that the State is not an effective manager in areas where there is business interest. And, on the basis of this, we give those areas to private management. Should you make up your mind - I would call it quite a logical decision - to come to Armenia and establish a business, you will find true partners in the person of the Government and the circles you may have to work with. We are confident that we will have a country where business is going to be very easy, profitable and logical.”
Karen Karapetyan’s remarks were followed by an active exchange of opinions in a question-and-answer format. The Premier answered the participants’ questions which bore on investment opportunities in Armenia, Armenia-Lebanon economic ties, the economic agenda of Prime Minister Karapetyan’s Lebanon visit.
In conclusion, the Prime Minister got acquainted with the Armenian products presented at the Armenian Corner.