Passed: Armenian parliament approves 2013 state budget

The National Assembly on Wednesday approved the 2013 state budget by a vote of 71 to 37, with all minority factions voting against the bill.

The budget calls for 1.15 trillion drams (some $2.84 billion) in spending, with a deficit projected at around 120 billion drams.

According to government projections, the budget deficit will be equivalent to 2.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product which is expected to grow by 6.2 percent in 2013. The government is supposed to cut the deficit through a more than 13 percent rise in tax revenues.

The four minority factions represented in the National Assembly, including the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), the Armenian National Congress (ANC), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Heritage criticized what they described as a “flawed” financial document, saying that it failed to address the major socio-economic challenges facing the country.

PAP, which has the second largest faction in the National Assembly and considers itself an “alternative” to the current government, in particular believes that the government could have cut some of its own expenses to provide for social spending.

This year’s budget does not provide for any increase in pensions and public sector salaries.

“This budget will enable us to do our utmost,” Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan told journalists after the parliament session. “I want to disagree with evaluations that this is a step backward, that this budget doesn’t solve issues. This budget will solve very big and serious problems facing our state.”

Opposition lawmakers dismissed these explanations, saying that the authorities should collect more taxes from economic monopolies owned by government-linked entrepreneurs. Some of them also accused the government of deliberately keeping living standards in the country low.

“The Republican Party is openly saying that the people must be poor because the only way they can win elections is vote bribes,” said ANC lawmaker Hrant Bagratyan.