Middle East and Central Asia > Armenia, Republic of

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International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
The Armenian banking sector is recovering from the 2014 economic slowdown, aided by additional capital injected by shareholders, several mergers, and improved regulation and supervision. However, banks, including the largest ones, are vulnerable to external shocks because high levels of dollarization expose them to FX-related credit and liquidity risks. These risks can be mitigated with the adoption of a stressed debt service to income ratio limit, the gradual introduction of reserve requirements in foreign currency for liabilities denominated in foreign currency, and the adoption of the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) and Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) in domestic currency and in United States dollars (USD). The introduction of the capital surcharge for domestic systemically important banks is also needed.
Ara Stepanyan, Agustin Roitman, Gohar Minasyan, Ms. Dragana Ostojic, and Mr. Natan P. Epstein
In the face of sharply lower oil prices and geopolitical tensions and sanctions, economic activity in Russia decelerated in late 2014, resulting in negative spillovers on Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and, to a lesser extent, on Baltic countries. The spillovers to eastern Europe have been limited. The degree of impact is commensurate with the level of these countries’ trade, remittances, and foreign direct investment (FDI) links with Russia. So far, policy action by the affected countries has focused on mitigating the immediate consequences of spillovers.
Mr. Mark A Horton, Hossein Samiei, Mr. Natan P. Epstein, and Mr. Kevin Ross
Since late 2014, exchange rates (ERs) and ER regimes of the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) countries have come under strong pressure. This reflects the decline of oil and other commodity prices, weaker growth in Russia and China, depreciation of the Russian ruble, and appreciation of the U.S. dollar, to which CCA currencies have historically been linked. Weaker fiscal and current account balances and increased dollarization have complicated the picture. CCA countries entered this period with closely managed ER regimes and, in many cases, currencies assessed by IMF staff to be overvalued. CCA central banks have price stability as their main policy objective, and most have relied on ER stability to achieve this objective. Thus, the first policy response involved intervention in local foreign exchange (FX) markets, often with limited communication. In this context, the IMF staff has reviewed ER policy advice and implementation strategies for CCA countries.
Ara Stepanyan, Agustin Roitman, Gohar Minasyan, Ms. Dragana Ostojic, and Mr. Natan P. Epstein
In the face of sharply lower oil prices and geopolitical tensions and sanctions, economic activity in Russia decelerated in late 2014, resulting in negative spillovers on Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and, to a lesser extent, on Baltic countries. The spillovers to eastern Europe have been limited. The degree of impact is commensurate with the level of these countries’ trade, remittances, and foreign direct investment (FDI) links with Russia. So far, policy action by the affected countries has focused on mitigating the immediate consequences of spillovers.
Raja Almarzoqi and Samy Ben Naceur
In this paper, we use a bank-level panel dataset to investigate the determinants of bank interest margins in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) over the period 1998–2013. We apply the dealership model of Ho and Saunders (1981) and its extensions to assess the extent to which high spreads of banks in the CCA can be related to bank-specific variables, to competition, and to macroeconomic factors. We find that interest spreads are affected by operating cost, credit risk, liquidity risk, bank size, bank diversification, banking sector competition, and macroeconomic policies; but the impact depends on the country.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes scope for further de-dollarization policies in Armenia. High financial dollarization makes Armenia more vulnerable to external shocks and limits its capacity to respond. The de-dollarization strategy is broad and comprehensive, and has achieved a reduction of deposit dollarization during the past few years. Additional efforts should focus on reducing inflation volatility and external imbalances, using prudential regulations to increase foreign currency liquidity in the banking system, and strengthening the monitoring of currency mismatches. International experience suggests, however, that further reductions in dollarization are likely to occur only gradually.
International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

The Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) evaluation on International Reserves: IMF Concerns and Country Perspectives was discussed by the Board in December 2012. This evaluation examined the IMF’s analysis of the effect of reserves on the stability of the international monetary system and its advice on reserve adequacy assessments in the context of bilateral surveillance. In the multilateral context, the evaluation acknowledged the IMF’s broader work stream on the international monetary system but noted that this work had not sufficiently informed the analysis and recommendations regarding reserves. The IEO evaluation of The Role of the IMF as Trusted Advisor was discussed by the Board in February 2013. This evaluation found that perceptions of the IMF had improved, but that they varied markedly by region and country type. Recognizing that there will always be an inherent tension between the IMF’s roles as a global watchdog and as a trusted advisor to member country authorities, the evaluation report explored how the IMF could sustain the more positive image it had achieved in the aftermath of the recent global crisis. The evaluation found that among key challenges facing the IMF were improving the value added and relevance of IMF advice and overcoming the perception of a lack of even-handedness.

International Monetary Fund
The introduction of inflation targeting in 2006, together with important economic developments such as dedollarization, marked the beginning of a new macroeconomic framework in Armenia, which is likely to have changed the effectiveness of monetary policy. This paper is the first attempt to analyze whether the transmission mechanism in Armenia has been subject to a structural break by employing a Markov-Switching VAR framework. Results support the existence of such a structural break around the time inflation targeting was introduced and reduced levels of dollarization were observed. Results from introducing a threshold variable into this framework furthermore show that reduced levels of dollarization are an important determinant of the effectiveness of monetary policy.
International Monetary Fund
This paper discusses key findings of the First Review under the Stand-By Arrangement for the Republic of Armenia. In light of the large increase in Armenia’s financing needs, the authorities have requested an augmentation of IMF resources in the amount of 180 percent of quota. The revised program maintains the original objectives of responding to the external outlook, strengthening confidence in the domestic currency and the banking sector, and protecting the poor, but would also allow an easing of monetary and fiscal policies to mitigate the severity of the crisis.
International Monetary Fund
This paper discusses Armenia’s request for a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with exceptional access of 400 percent of quota. Given the urgency of the situation, the request is being considered under the Emergency Financing Mechanism. The new program aims to achieve the necessary external adjustment, restore confidence in the domestic currency and the banking sector, and protect the poor. The authorities have also committed to a set of policies in the exchange rate, monetary and financial, and fiscal areas as well as on maintaining its ongoing structural reform program.