Gagik Tsarukyan is President of the Prosperous Armenia Party, which is a member of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe.
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 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.
The Prosperous Armenia Party greatly values the strong bond that has developed between us and the Conservative Party since we joined the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE) in 2010.
As a relationship founded on a shared set of values, we watched with admiration when the Conservative Party won the 2015 general election. Your example has served to guide us as we fight to foster greater prosperity, fairness, and pride in our own country.
The UK is a case in point of how, if allowed to flourish, small and medium sized enterprises can form the backbone of an economy. Their activities are the largest share of private sector business. They are the main driver of an economy and what creates jobs and prosperity.
If Armenia is to thrive, we must offer a more favourable environment for our SMEs. That is why the Tsarukyan Alliance, comprising Prosperous Armenia and several smaller parties, proposes to exempt small and medium sized businesses from all taxation for three years should it win this Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
Setting our SME’s free 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, homogeneous society by focusing solely on the business sector. Nor, despite my support for many excellent charitable causes in Armenia that try to help those most in need, can we 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 January 1st, 2018. The modern Armenia must not leave anyone behind.
Armenia cannot today provide what the UK provides to its citizens, but with sensible policies, a reasonable tax regime, and a concerted effort, we can make big steps in the right direction.
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 per cent of respondents saying they would support us. We have worked hard to identify the areas where we could make the reforms needed to improve the living standards of all Armenians, and this is a clear indication that the voters have noticed.
We remain hopeful about the future of our great country. With improvements in governance and the elimination of corruption, there is no reason why, with strong and democratic political leadership, the people cannot unite behind a modernising programme that can attract the investments and expertise we need lead Armenia to growth and prosperity.
Should the Tsarukyan Alliance win the upcoming parliamentary elections, we will work tirelessly to put in place a government that understands the modern world and the challenges we face, and offers a meaningful way forward. Despite the geographic and security constraints our proud country is bound by, there is little that stands in the way of Armenia and what it can achieve.