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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 2,797 2,367 2,100 139
GNI per capita
 US $ 950 790 570 143
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Armenia

Update No: 315 - (29/03/07)

Death of a premier
Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan died of a heart attack on March 25th at the age of 56. 
Margaryan also was the leader of the Republican Party of Armenia.

His predecessor was assassinated in parliament October, 1999 by terrorists, along with 11 other MPs.

Various press reactions
The death of the prime minister prompted various comments from local and foreign political analysts. 

Alexander Iskandaryan, Caucasus Media Institute Director and a member of RIA Novosti News Agency's said the death of such a prominent political figure will turn things upside-down in Armenia. 

In his words, President Robert Kocharyan will have to put up a new candidate for the post just ahead of elections in May, and this will have an impact on the political situation. 

Iskandaryan also said that the situation may develop in one of two ways. "Either an interim figure will be appointed to leave the things unchanged or some strong person will be appointed to this position, and that will mean some step toward parliamentary and presidential elections", he said. Presidential elections are due next year. Margaryan was not very likely to have been a candidate here.

Tigran Torosyan, National Assembly speaker and Margaryan's fellow party member, expects no shake-up or destabilization. 

"This is a heavy loss not only to our party, but also to the entire country, since Armenia's achievement and the success the party reached in recent years are connected with his name," Torosyan said. 

Sergey Antufiev, Russian State Duma deputy chairman, said he expected no changes in the country's home and foreign policies and in its bilateral relations with Russia. 

"Armenian President Robert Kocharyan is the very person setting political priorities. That is why the PM's early replacement will have no impact on Armenia's policy, especially toward Russia. The republic's leadership considers Armenia's political, military and economic relations with Russia among its top-priority matters", Antufiev said in an interview with RIA Novosti. 

The lawmaker didn't rule out that another prime ministerial appointment can cause "some internal fluctuations" on the opposition side." He thinks accord would be reached in parliament over a new candidate.

Elections looming
Armenia is heading for parliamentary elections in May and even more important presidential ones nine months later in early 2008. President Robert Kocharian has made it clear that he will abide by the constitution, which forbids him to stand for a third consecutive term. But that does not rule out another term later.

It is a curiosity that nearly everybody is emulating the US in this regard. Not the French. Chirac could stand again, but at 74 in our ageist world would have no chance, so is wisely bowing out. It is an irony that the last US president to stand for more than two terms, indeed for four, a record, was no less a figure than Franklin Delaney Roosevelt, perhaps the greatest of them in the twentieth century. Yet few would deny that he went soft on Stalin in his dotage in 1944-5, at the Yalta conference in particular. Maybe there is a point to the rule after all, which is why the Americans amended the constitution accordingly. Even De Gaulle lost his magisterial touch in his last years in 1968-9.

Putin is abiding by the rules here, which leaves Kocharian little alternative but to do the same. He is preparing to hand over to a loyal hardliner, his own prime minister or defence secretary as likely as not, rather than anyone who would resolve the appalling problem of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

The key issue 
This remains the utterly vital issue for Armenia. It is clear that the Armenians do not have time on their side in this matter; the Azeris with their massive oil wealth do. 

They also have a strong moral case and the backing of most of the rest of the world, notably the Turks. Azerbaijan and Turkey are maintaining a blockade on Armenia that is crippling its trade and economic prospects. Neither even has diplomatic relations with Yerevan. Azeri energy and Turkish investments could transform the impoverished Armenian economy. 

It is imperative for the West to exert all its influence to see that the coming elections are fair. For most Armenians are well aware of the above facts and crave a new deal, post-Kocharian and his harking back to his glory days as the victorious president of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s.

Potential saviour?
There is a resolute and clear-sighted figure in opposition who would be far preferable as a successor than any toady of Kocharian's, namely Artur Baghdasaryan, chairman of the Rule of Law Party. He makes resolution of the territorial problem his party's number one priority. But there are other top priorities too, without which it is unlikely to happen soon.

As he put it in a recent article (The Wall Street Journal Europe, February 21st, 2007): "My country suffers from an undemocratic political system and widespread corruption. The citizens of Armenia are not free. Our media is state-controlled and TV airtime for opposition parties during the parliamentary campaign is severely limited. Our citizens are poor; the majority of the national wealth is in the hands of a few oligarchs. Privatisation was accompanied by massive corruption. "

Hence his party's emphasis on the rule of law. Naturally it also stands for close ties to the EU and NATO. So ironically does Kocharian. The West has leverage here. It must exert the maximum pressure possible to ensure fair elections, mobilizing the huge Armenian Diaspora, which is generally enlightened. Armenia needs a new dispensation; and so does Azerbaijan.

The crunch cometh
As Baghdasaryan sums it all up: "We need a strong government in Armenia to carry out the necessary reforms, which above all means a legitimate government supported by the people. The next election in Armenia must be free and fair. Our citizens deserve better living standards and more incentives to stay in the country. We keep losing our brightest who are discouraged by the poor prospects at home.

"The way to resolve the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is through elections that produce legitimate governments - first in Armenia but eventually in Azerbaijan as well. This popular legitimacy will give the next governments the authority to make the necessary concessions…..That's why we need international election monitors. The OSCE mission in Armenia must be supported so that it can do its job." 

The West should take note.

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GDP grows by 11.9% in January

The growth of Armenia's GDP in January of 2007 totalled 11.9 per cent, as compared to the same period of 2006, New Europe reported, citing the National Statistical Service of Armenia. 
The GDP volume in January of 2007 totalled 83771.4 million drams. The volume of industrial production in the former Soviet republic in January of 2007 stood at 45038.4 million drams, having increased by four percent, as compared to the same period of 2006. The foreign trade turnover of Armenia in January of 2007 totalled 94.76 billion drams or US$260.3 million, having increased by 57.4 per cent as compared to the same period of 2006.

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Gazprom ups ArmRosGazprom stake to more than 57%

Russia's Gazprom increased its interest in Armenia-based gas utility ArmRosGazprom to just over 57 per cent as the result of a share issue, Interfax News Agency reported on February 27th. 
ArmRosGazprom has boosted its charter capital 40 per cent, to US$391.8 million from US$280 million with the issue, worth US$111.8 million, Shushan Sardanian, the company's spokesman, told Interfax. Gazprom increased its interest in the company to 57.59 per cent from 45 per cent as a result of the share issue. The Armenian government's stake decreased from 45 per cent to 34.7 per cent and that of Itera fell from 10 per cent to 7.71 per cent.

Iran-Armenia pipeline launched

The Iran-Armenia gas pipeline was launched on March 19th, Interfax News Agency reported. 
Armenian President, Robert Kocharian, and Iranian President, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, took part in the launch ceremony. "The fact that today, despite the bad weather, the president of Iran is with us at the opening of the pipeline, shows the high level of cooperation between out two countries," Kocharian said at the ceremony. Saak Abramian, CEO of High Voltage Power Networks, told the press on March 19th that a total of US$33 million have been invested in the project, 15 per cent of that amount by the Armenian side, the rest - as a loan from the Iranian side. Ashot Ovsepian, chief engineer of ArmRosGazprom, has said investments in the second section of Iran-Armenia gas pipeline will amount to US$150 million. The investment will be made at the expense of the company. He added that the construction of the second 100-kilometre long section from Karajan to Ararat has begun. Gas will be supplied along the first 40-kilometre section of the pipeline from Megri to Kajaran. By 2008 Armenia may receive up to 450 million cubic metres of gas per year. In the future, with the increase in the capacity of the pipeline from Kajaran to Ararat, supplies of Iranian gas may increase to 2.3 billion cubic metres. The total length of the Iran-Armenia pipeline is 141 kilometres. The Iranian side provided Armenia with a loan of US$28.2 million to build the first section, to be repaid within five years of the pipeline's launch. Armenia will pay for gas supplies with supplies of electricity, at the rate of three kWh per cubic metre of natural gas. The pipeline will be operated by the Armenian-Russian company ArmRosGazprom, which is currently working to increase the pipeline's capacity.

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World Bank provides fresh loans to combat poverty

The World Bank recently announced that it has approved 72.5 million Euro in fresh loans to Armenia as the government has shown considerable progress in its efforts to combat poverty and maintain high rates of economic growth, a press release reads. The largest of the three loans disbursed by the bank's governing board is worth 28 million Euro and is part of a four-year World Bank programme to support implementation of the Armenian government's Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). Most of the fund would be utilised for the state budget, New Europe reported. 
"The credit will support measures to strengthen public management and governance, expand the public provision of basic education and health, and improve equitability of access to those services, especially for the poor," Saumya Mitra, head of a World Bank team in charge of the programme, said in a statement. Unveiled in 2003, the PRS set an ambitious goal of reducing the proportion of Armenians living in poverty to 19 percent by 2015. The government claims to be successfully implementing the plan. Official statistics show the national poverty rate declining from 50 to 33 per cent between 1999 and 2004. Both the government and the World Bank say the rate has since shrunk further due to continued double-digit growth. A separate World Bank statement said this "impressive" macroeconomic performance is enabling Armenia to enter the ranks of middle income countries. Donna Dowsett-Coirolo, the bank's country director for Armenia, said the former Soviet state has come a long way over the past few years and is proud of its accomplishments. 

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Poland ready to share experience with Armenia

Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anna Fotyga, arrived in Armenia on February 25th for a two-day visit. Talks with Polish Foreign Minister, Anna Fotyga, were constructive, Armenian Foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, said at a meeting in Yerevan, Interfax News Agency reported. 
He said that February 26th marked 15 years of diplomatic relations between the two states. "We have discussed bilateral political and strategic cooperation, energy issues as well as economic relations in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. We also touched upon the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement and the Armenian side briefed the Polish Foreign Minister on the negotiation process," Oskanian said. 
Special attention was paid to participation of Armenian peacekeepers within a Polish battalion in Iraq, he added. Citing the successful experience of cooperation with Armenia, Fotyga said that Poland intends to develop active cooperation with Armenia. "I am glad to be in Armenia on the day marking the 15th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between our states. We have mastered the way to the European Union and we are ready to share our experience with Armenia. A memorandum on cooperation was signed in Yerevan. Contacts should be established at various levels, including public, economic and cultural ties," Fotyga said.
15 years ago on February 26th Poland recognized Armenia's independence, she said. "We welcome the adoption of the Armenia-NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), Armenia' Euro integration process, Armenia's participation in the "New Neighborhood" European policy and we are ready to share our 12-year experience of Euro integration," Poland's Foreign Minister said. Fotyga pointed out that Poland intends to develop economic, trade, cultural partnership with Armenia, as well as cooperation in the energy sector. "Poland is interested in the sovereign and independent Caucasus," she said. During her visit, she also met Armenia's President Robert Kocharian, the Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin the Second, Armenia's Prime-Minister Andranik Margarian and Armenia's Parliament Speaker Tigran Torosian. The Polish delegation headed by Fotyga also visited the Matenadaran Armenian Depository of Ancient Manuscripts and paid a floral tribute to the Memorial of Armenian Genocide in Tsitsernakaberd. N.V.

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Georgia-Armenia trade increases

Armenian Ambassador Grach Silvanian recently announced that data from the last three quarters of 2006 revealed that trade turnover between Georgia and Armenia exceeded US$90 million, up from the same period in 2005, The Messenger reported. 
"These data are really impressive, and this is the only beginning of deep cooperation in the future between our two countries," Silvanian said. Georgian imports to Armenia went up by a whopping 154.3 per cent, and Armenian imports to Georgia increased by 119.4 per cent, The Messenger reported. The two countries also collaborated on the economic front. For instance, both sides are involved in the building of the new 400-kilowatt electricity transmission line. After the constriction works are finished, the Georgian and Armenian electrical systems will be able to work in parallel. Georgia and Armenia have also agreed to closely collaborate in solving the social and economic problems existing in the Armenian populated Javakheti region of southern Georgia. Armenia will help restore and develop social infrastructure in the area. The Industrialist and Entrepreneurs Union of Armenia intend to open wholesale trade centres in Tbilisi and Batumi where Armenian industrial and agricultural products will be sold. The Armenian business sector is especially interested in Adjara. An Armenian Consulate is soon to be opened in Batumi, and this city and Armenia's Vanadzor have recently signed a Friendship Agreement. 

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Investments in Armenian IT sector to reach tens of millions

In 2007 the amount of investments in Armenia's IT sector will reach tens of millions of dollars, ARKA News Agency reported on February 19th.
Deputy Minister of Trade and Economic Development, Tigran Davtyan, reported at the fourth International economic forum Bridge 2007 that these figures are showcasing the high economic indicator, especially considering the fact that a few years ago the investments in this sector totalled US$100,000-200,000. He reminded that in the previous year, the Armenian government signed three agreements with the three largest companies Alcatel, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett Packard, and with Microsoft at the beginning of 2007. "These four companies will be seriously and widely represented in the Armenian market in 2007," he said.

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Armenia starts prospecting uranium deposits

Armenia has started to prospect potential uranium deposits, Energy Minister, Armen Movsisian, said in the country's parliament, Movsisian said, Interfax News Agency reported.
Armenia needed uranium to fuel its nuclear power plant, which gets through around 150 tonnes of nuclear fuel a year. "There's every sign that the country can not only accomplish this task itself but also export uranium," Movsisian said. Armenia currently relies heavily on external sources of nuclear fuel. Movsisian said many countries were experiencing nuclear fuel shortages. Armenia, he said, was one of few countries with a surplus of uranium, according to data obtained by Soviet geologists. Movsisian said Armenia would not be processing any uranium it mines. 

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Iberian resources invests 10m in mining industry

Australia's Iberian Resources has invested around 10 million Euro in Armenia's mining industry in the last 18 months, Manvel Bagratian, the head of the company's Armenian office said, Interfax News Agency reported.
Most of the money was invested in the exploration of the Terterasar gold deposit in the Siunik district and the nearby Lichkvaz-Tei deposit. Bagratian said the company planned to increase investment in Armenia following its merger with Australia's Tamaya Resource on February 28th 2007. Tamaya Resource develops gold and copper deposits in Chile.Bagratian said that the merger would expand Iberian's projects in Armenia and grant it access to Tamaya's gold and copper projects in Chile. Iberian could participate in other projects in Armenia, besides Terterasar and Lichkvaz-Tei. Management at Iberian Resources had not altered as the result of the merger. The company's market cap is now 200 million Euro. Iberian Resources and America's Global Gold Corporation (GGC) have formed the 80 per cent/20 per cent Aigedzor Mining Company to implement the Terterasar and Lichkvaz-Tei projects. Aigedzor Mining Company is the sole owner of the Sipan-1 mining enterprise, which holds the licences to these fields. Iberian Resources consolidated full ownership of the joint venture after buying the remaining 20 per cent from GGC on December 19th 2006.

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Telecom companies boost revenue in 2006

Telecommunication companies in Armenia posted revenue of 126.16 billion dram in 2006, up 36.9 per cent, the National Statistics Service said, Interfax News Agency reported recently. 
Revenue from the sale of telecom services to the population surged 52.4 per cent to 538.5 million dram. Revenue increased seven percent to 36.07 billion dram for fixed-line services and 89.5 per cent to 63 billion for mobile phone services. Revenue from postal and delivery services amounted to 2.52 billion dram, data transfer revenue totalled 3.76 billion and TV and radio broadcasting revenue was 2.93 billion dram.

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Armenia ranks 74th in world tourism rating

According to information provided by the Armenian Economy and Values partner of the organisation, Armenia is placed 74th of 124 states in the international tourism rating list. Armenia is the third most popular tourist site among the Commonwealth of Independent States after Georgia (the 66th) and Russia (68th), Interfax News Agency reported. 
The competitiveness of countries in the tourism sphere is defined by three main parameters - corresponding legislation, business area and infrastructures and human, culture and natural resources. Armenia has considerable advantage in legislation (rated 65), natural, human and culture resources (rated 62) but lags behind in business area and infrastructures (rated 96). Armenia entice tourists with high sanitary and hygiene conditions, the security of tourists and the native people's welcome for them, as well as reasonable prices. Armenia's competitiveness mainly suffers from visa regime with the states whose citizens go touring most frequently, problems with nature protection, lack of local air and vehicle transportation infrastructures.

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