The modern Armenia must leave nobody behind

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.com PLC.

The parliament building in Yerevan, Armenia's capital. [Vahe Mertirosyan/Flickr]

Armenia has come a long way since regaining its independence in 1991. Years of steady growth following the collapse of the Soviet Union have significantly raised the living standards of Armenians, writes Gagik Tsarukyan.

Gagik Tsarukyan is leader of the Tsarukyan Alliance – a coalition of political parties competing in Armenia’s parliamentary elections on Sunday 2 April 2017. The senior partner in the Tsarukyan Alliance is the ACRE member the Prosperous Armenia Party.

In 1994, Armenia was the first among the former Soviet republics to return to growth. This economic revival was a remarkable achievement, especially when one remembers that the country was still recovering from the devastating 1988 earthquake that killed over 25,000 people and that armed conflict had broken out in Nagorno-Karabakh and other parts of the Caucasus at that time.

However, the Armenia of today also remains crippled by the legacies of the past and our inability to fully adapt to the modern global economy. These shortcomings threaten to exclude many of our entrepreneurs and businesses from being able to compete at the regional and international level.

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of all economies. Their activities are the largest share of private sector business. They are the main driver of any economy and what creates jobs and prosperity.

If Armenia is to thrive, we must offer a more favorable environment for our SMEs and that is why the Tsarukyan Alliance proposes to exempt small and medium sized businesses from all taxation for three years, should it win this Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

Setting free our SME’s from the shackles of overbearing taxation can provide a stimulus to our economy that will encourage innovation, investment and growth.

But you cannot build a strong, homogenous society by focusing solely on the business sector.

There are many excellent charitable causes in Armenia that try to help those most in need, but we cannot build a country on charity alone. The state must assume the responsibility of providing certain basic provisions for its people.

To address these injustices, should the Tsarukyan Alliance gain the support of the voters this weekend, we will raise the average pension by 25,000 drams (€48) and index it periodically. We will also raise the minimum salary to 80,000 drams (€153) from 1 January 2018.

The modern Armenia must not leave anyone behind.

We are happy to note that our manifesto appears to be resonating with the Armenian people. The Tsarukyan Alliance recently topped a VTsIOM poll with 26% of respondents saying they would support us.

This is a clear and promising indication. We have worked hard to identify the areas where we could make the reforms needed to improve the living standards of all Armenians.

We remain hopeful about the future of Armenia. With improvements in governance and the continued elimination of corruption, there is no reason why, with strong democratic political leadership, the people cannot unite behind a new modernising programme that can attract much needed investments and expertise and lead Armenia to growth and prosperity.

Should the Tsarukyan Alliance win the upcoming parliamentary elections, we will work tirelessly to put in place a technocratic government that understands the modern world and the challenges we face, and offers a meaningful way forward.

There is little that stands in the way of Armenia and what it can achieve, despite the geographic and security constraints our proud country is bound by.

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