September 30
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A two-day meeting of the Economic Policy Council chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan continued at the Central Bank's Dilijan Training and Research Center on August 7.

According to the press service of the Armenian Prime Minister, the second day of the meeting discussed issues related to the sustainable development of the agricultural and food system, increasing the competitiveness of agriculture through land reforms. Deputy Minister of Economy Arman Khojoyan delivered a speech.

The deputy minister touched upon the government's vision of sustainable development of the food system, which is aimed at the development of agriculture producing products with high added value. Strategic goals, priorities, challenges and current programs were presented. He noted that in 2021 the volume of gross production of agriculture was 933 million drams and the growth was fixed. The efficiency of the state program of leasing of agricultural technique was emphasized, within the framework of which the technique is renewed by 2% per year. There are more than 26000 units of agricultural technique in Armenia today, and the successful course of this program is also conditioned by the increase of the productivity in some directions, for example in the export of fruit and vegetable canned food. The efficiency of the programs of creating intensive gardens and insurance of agricultural risks was also noted.

There was a discussion around the government's agricultural reforms and productivity stimulation tools. Issues related to the tax rates applied to food products were touched upon and comments and suggestions were made.

On another issue, the concept of increasing the competitiveness of agriculture through land reforms was presented. It was noted that it is aimed at overcoming the problems of fragmentation of land, low access to irrigation water and financial resources, poorly developed infrastructure, complexity of property transfer process. To this end, there are already programs of state support: creation of agricultural cooperatives, subsidizing interest rates on agricultural loans, etc. It is also planned to implement a pilot project in 4 settlements using land consolidation, support of the legal registration processes through an online platform and other tools.

Prime Minister noted that the root cause of the non-use of land is a lack of land market, and land reform should be primarily aimed at its formation. Views were exchanged on the concept presented. Possible measures and variants of solution of existing problems in the direction of development of irrigation infrastructures, increase of agricultural productivity and increase of land use level were discussed.

After the discussion of the issues on the agenda the meeting of the Economic Policy Council adjunct to the Prime Minister of Armenia was over. Summing up the discussion, Nikol Pashinyan said:

"Dear colleagues,

Mr. President,

We have to sum up the results of our work, and first of all I would like to thank all of you for the active participation. This is, in fact, a preliminary meeting of our Economic Policy Council, the results of which we had to determine, first of all, the future course of our work in this format. We actually have discussions like this quite often, and what new component do we see in this format? First of all, it is the formalization and approval of the name, and secondly, it is the participation of invited experts in this work. I want to thank them again for their willingness to participate not only in this session, but also in future work.

We had a short working discussion this morning, and our basic desire is to have an independent panel of experts who are not politically or otherwise affiliated with the government or the authorities, and who will accompany the government's economic reform agenda as an independent and impartial body. That's the first thing.

And second, we want the Council to become a bridge between the government's reform agenda and, figuratively speaking, the international expert community, because we may need expert opinions on some specific topics, and the members of the Economic Policy Council will help us find experts who can best advise the Armenian government in this area.

We have agreed that the Center for Economic Perspectives Foundation under the leadership of Mr. Javadyan will take the organizational role of carrying out the work and communication within the framework of this council, which is very important.

Did I draw a specific working conclusion for myself personally from these discussions? I have to say, when I thought about what specific working conclusion was drawn from our discussions, I wanted to go back to the discussion we had at the end of yesterday that began with a discussion of priorities, but I'll rephrase it a bit. I came to the following conclusion as a result of the discussions: all of our industry programs are actually multi-component, consisting of many areas.

It is very important that we are able to identify the areas that should receive more attention because they are locomotive. What's a figurative example to illustrate that? I roughly thought that if the horse, the yoke, and the carriage were figuratively placed in different parts of one large program, they can certainly provide some movement, but they cannot provide a process. To do this, it is very important that the horse, yoke, and wagon be placed in the right order, and the process will be provided.

We have many programs, for example, where we provide some movement but no process. And I would not be ashamed to admit that the brightest such example is the digitalization agenda in the Republic of Armenia, when we recorded that in fact a lot of effort has been invested in the digitalization sphere, huge resources have been spent in the last 20 years, work has been done, but nothing has happened in terms of digitalization. We want to understand why so many resources have been spent, but the Republic of Armenia is actually at a very initial stage in the field of digitalization.

It turned out that the same problem is here: we have not solved the issue of the horse, the yoke and the cart. We decided to enlist the help of experts to understand how to turn movement in this area into a process. And when the experts came, they were able to help us understand that, so to speak, there are landmarks or process engines, and we have to pay more attention to those engines, which are what will further the process. Even with much less effort, with fewer resources, with the right organization we can ensure a fast process.

As a result of this discussion, for example, I would give this very instruction to the government and the public administration to look again at our programs and see which ones need more streamlining and which ones need to be brought to a higher level of the agenda to ensure that they move forward, thereby ensuring that both the sectoral programs and the general administration programs are implemented.

Mr. President, let me thank you very much again for your participation. We have agreed that we will continue discussions in this spirit.

Once again, I want to thank our invited experts for their very important work. The work of these two days makes me optimistic that we are on the right track. That said, I want to say that we thought about this expert task for a long time in the same logic, but we constantly saw that something did not work out for many reasons, beginning with the fact that sometimes we cannot get out of politicization, which initially creates a very serious problem, and we hope that we found some model that gives answers to all of our questions.

Thank you again. We will agree on the next meeting and the schedule in general in working order. I wish you all the best of luck."

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