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.
In 1994, Armenia was the first among the former Soviet republics to return to growth. This economic revival was a remarkable achievement, especially when I recall 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 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 create jobs and prosperity.
I believe that if Armenia is to thrive, we must offer a more favourable environment for our SMEs and that is why, if the Tsarukyan Alliance wins the 2 April elections, we have promised to exempt small and medium sized businesses from all taxation for three years.
Setting free our SME’s from the shackles of overbearing taxation will, we believe, provide a stimulus to our economy that will encourage innovation, investment and growth.
But our focus isn’t solely on helping the business sector.
I have personally, over many years, given back to the Armenian people from the fruits of my own commercial success. I have supported many excellent charitable causes in Armenia that have sought to help those most in need.
There are lots of people in need in Armenia, but I do not think you can 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 we gain the support of the voters next week, 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 January 1st, 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.
I remain very hopeful about the future of my great country. With improvements in governance and the elimination of corruption, I see no reason why, with strong democratic political leadership, we cannot unite the country behind a new modernising programme that can attract investments and expertise and lead Armenia to growth and prosperity.
It is my intention, should the Tsarukyan Alliance win the upcoming parliamentary elections, to work tirelessly to put in place a technocratic government that understands how the modern world functions and offers a meaningful way forward.
With a strong popular mandate, 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.