04, 2008

Today President Serzh Sarkissian held a working meeting with the leadership of the State Tax Service.

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Present at the meeting were also Prime Minister Tigran Sarkissian, Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Territorial Administration Armen Gevorkian, Head of the Presidential Staff Hovik Abrahamian, Minister of Finance Tigran Davtian, Minister of Economy Nerses Eritsian, other officials.

The President of Armenia said that he doesn’t wish these meeting, which will be taking place at the Presidential Palace rather frequently, to be perceived as an occasion for insulting or firing anyone.

According to Serzh Sarkissian, the objective is very clear: in the last twelve months both parliamentary and presidential elections took place in our country. During that period the pre-election programs were presented to our people. “It is time that those programs translate into real actions. The main idea, the core of these programs is that in the last seven years a potential has been accumulated which gives an opportunity to start the second-generation reforms,” he said and added that his presently his purpose is to find out whether the state structures are ready to launch those reforms, and if yes, then we have to move forward together.

As to why the work should start with the tax and customs bodies, the President of Armenia said that the answer is obvious: any reforms should be accompanied by the economic growth and rising standard of living. “We have no right to tell, “Dear people, tighten your belts and wait for another three, four or five years untill we have concluded the second-generation reforms, and then you will be living better,” the President stressed in his speech.

Noting that tax and custom administrations are the main bodies responsible for the economic growth, improvement of competition as well as for the completion of the budget, Serzh Sarkissian inquired of the existing problems of the structures, how the leadership is intended to address them, as well as asked about the unacceptable occurrences and the best ways to fight them.

The President of Armenia expressed confidence that “the activities of the State Tax Service should correspond to its name and real meaning, and if there is a problem with that, we should solve it. We all must realize that tax services are called upon to serve our society, state structures and businesses. If we are able to do it, in my opinion, we will have the problem solved. We should also understand that tax collection is not a 20th century issue, but rather of 19th. We should not be guided by the perception that everyone is trying to avoid paying taxes, whereas we, representative of the authorities, demand them to be paid. We should also realize that we are partners with businesses and, to put it bluntly, we are the stakeholders and our shares are the taxes. We must be interested in the growth of businesses so that our share could grow too, giving the opportunity to re-allocate the budget. All the rest is stemming from this notion: if we are able to achieve this goal –good for us, if not – then we will be compelled to hire others to do the job, “ Serzh Sarkissian underscored.

Head of the Tax Service Vahram Barseghian and the directors of a number of divisions presented the planned activities for the reduction of gray economy, fight against corruption, tightening of the tax administration, noting these activities will be conducted through both the legislative amendments as well as through the improved procedures. Among priorities Vahram Barseghian mentioned the establishment of a proper organization of paper work, which will allow to reveal the real data. Otherwise the fight against corruption will be ineffective. Among other anticorruption measures were mentioned the necessity of structural changes and introduction of electronic governance.

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkissian said that a significant improvement of the tax administration should be this year’s priority and the cornerstone of the reforms.

Concluding the meeting the President of Armenia tasked the tax administration officials to display equal and fair attitude toward all businesses, to fight corruption and nepotism aggressively. According to Serzh Sarkissian the successful implementation of the ambitious programs presented to the public is conditioned first of all by the competitiveness of the tax structures. If they are not competitive our economy will not be competitive either. Serzh Sarkissian said that activities of the tax and customs bodies and resolution of the raised problems will remain in the center of his attention.

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