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In Armenia, Perception Matters For Tax Reforms

Jean-Michel Happi's picture

Would you be more willing to pay taxes if you didn’t have to spend hours doing it, or if you see that money being used in the right way? Well, you are not alone.
 
Armenians, like people around the world, feel the same. According to the recently conducted Tax Perception Survey in the country, easier tax compliance and more visible link between taxes paid and public services received was found to be particularly important.


















Between 66 percent and 75 percent of respondents said they would be more willing to pay more taxes if the procedures were easy and less time-consuming, if they saw more useful social and other public services, or if they saw less corruption.

Over 95 percent of respondents felt the tax burden is heavy or very heavy, while almost 50 percent reported that evading tax payments was not justified under any circumstances.
 
About 57 percent noted that high taxes or desperate financial situations were the main reasons for avoiding or evading tax payments.
 
The data unveiled by the latest Tax Perception Survey,  carried out with USAID support and World Bank Group technical assistance covered around 1,500 households and 400 business taxpayers.  The analysis strengthened the need to modernize the tax system, which has remained a major challenge for Armenia. Despite Armenia’s ranking as 37th in Doing Business, the taxation system, at 103rd on the list, still requires a lot of work.
 
To be sure, there have been some improvements to the system in the past few years. They include the introduction of electronic filing of tax returns, e-government applications, risk-based audit principles, and taxpayer service centers and appeal system. These achievements contributed to increasing the tax to GDP ratio from 19.5 percent in 2010 to 22.8 percent in 2013.
 
But much remains to be done to further streamline and simplify tax procedures, modernize the tax administration, and enact a tax code.

From Risky to Responsible Business

Jean-Michel Happi's picture
Also available in: Русский

Responsible Mining in ArmeniaIf I had to pick one critical source of exports and a key driver of economic growth for Armenia, I would pick mining.
 
But mining is a risky business and is fraught with hurdles. Exploration often comes up empty. Investments are very large, in excess of hundreds of millions dollars. Commodity prices can change dramatically and governments can change policies and taxes. Moreover, there can be large environmental and social risks associated with things like tailings, dams, and resettlement policies.
 
A risky business does not, however, mean that mining is or should be an irresponsible business. Many of these risks can be mitigated or eliminated. This requires proper policies, laws, regulations, careful implementation, and planning for life when the mine closes – all of this even before the mine opens.  Supporting policies, such as easy access to updated geological information and predictability in transferring licenses, reduce the risk in exploration.

Dreaming about a better future in Armenia

The World Bank recently interviewed several families in Armenia to depict the hardships people face when they cannot earn more than $5 a day per person. The country faces long, harsh winters and paying to stay warm and eat enough to survive the cold can quickly eat into the poor's meager incomes.

The Face of Poverty package aims to show how tough life can be for these families and their belief that education is the singular way out of poverty for their children.

Watch the full documentary here.

Creating Jobs in Armenia

Ulrich Bartsch's picture

 

Tim Richards, Mine Manager of the Amulsar Gold Mine explains the mine lay-out to Chris Sheldon, Sector Manager of Mining at the World Bank
Tim Richards, Mine Manager of the Amulsar Gold Mine explains the mine
lay-out to Chris Sheldon, Sector Manager of Mining at the World Bank.
Armenians love beach vacations. The problem is, their local options along the shore of Lake Sevan are not always good enough. Armenia being  a landlocked country,  reaching other beaches involves a long drive to the Georgian coast on the Black Sea, or at least two flights—one to reach Moscow or a European hub, and the next to get to an actual  beach. The latter option has another snag: flying out of Armenia is expensive, and offers little flexibility when it comes to choosing routes and departure times. 

Until recently, Armenia was not only landlocked, but also policy locked: a restrictive aviation policy limited options and increased prices for passengers and cargo coming in to or leaving Armenia’s Zvartnots airport outside of Yerevan, the capital. The  government had granted exclusive rights to a private, Armenian-owned airline, Armavia, for ten years starting in 2003, and therefore restricted competition from foreign airlines. So, even a regular holiday  sometimes started with a long road trip to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi to connect with cheaper flights there.
 

 

Thriving Cities Will Drive Eurasia's Growth

Souleymane Coulibaly's picture

Cities have always been the driving forces of world civilizations. What Niniveh was to the Assyrian civilization, Babylon was to the Babylonian civilization.  When Peter the Great, third in the Romanov Dynasty, became Russia’s ruler in 1696, Moscow’s influence began to expand. Peter strengthened the rule of the tsar and westernized Russia, at the same time, making it a European powerhouse and greatly expanding its borders. By 1918, the Russian empire spanned a vast territory from Western Europe to China.

As Peter the Great and his successors strove to consolidate their reign over this empire, major social, economic, cultural, and political changes were happening in the urban centers. Moscow led these changes, followed by St. Petersburg, which was built as a gateway to filter and channel western civilization through the empire. By fostering diversification through connectivity, specialization, and scale economies, these cities started the structural transformation of the Russian empire away from depending on commodities and limited markets in a way that more effectively served local demand.

The Soviet era altered this dynamic.

Will the Real Small Business Please Stand Up?

Munawer Sultan Khwaja's picture

Browsing through a large departmental store in Yerevan, I selected a tie, pair of trousers and a shirt to make up for having arrived in the city before my suitcases did. The store manager pointed me to three different cash counters for the three items I had purchased.  “But isn’t this all one store,” I asked in my inadequate Russian, that never fails to amuse native speakers. “Perhaps,” she smiled. “But never mind; these are different otdels (units).”

While governments around the world try to use simplified regimes to decrease the compliance burden of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it also opens the door wide open for larger businesses to abuse these regimes either by hiding as a small business, or splitting a larger business into smaller units. This is particularly true when there are few checks on firms entering the simplified regime. Think aforementioned department store!

Women in the Workforce – a Growing Need in Emerging Europe and Central Asia

Sarosh Sattar's picture

Emerging Europe and Central Asia (ECA) is an interesting region because what you expect is not always what exists. Since this is written in honor of International Women's Day, discussing women’s labor market participation seems appropriate. The standard indicator used for this is the “female labor force participation” (LFP) rate, which is the proportion of all women between 15-64 years who either work or are looking for work. 

Since much of the region has a common socialist legacy, you would expect to see similar labor market behavior among women. However, the proportion of women who work ranges from a low of 42 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 74 percent of adult women in Kazakhstan. And it wasn’t 20 years of social and economic transition that led to this divergence. Even in 1990, the range was about the same. The exception was Moldova which saw a 26 percentage point decline.

It’s Arithmetic – even in Armenia!

Souleymane Coulibaly's picture

At a time when all decision-makers around the world can think about is the state of their country’s economy, debt, spending and fiscal stability, one phrase attempts to sum it all up: it’s arithmetic.

In Armenia, it is all about arithmetic too.

Despite the volatility of Armenia’s economy in the twenty years since the country gained independence, effective government reforms led to double-digit growth rates from 2001 to 2007. That ended with the global financial crisis in 2008.