Armenian press review (February 18 - 24)

Armenian press review (February 18 - 24)

The coalition agreement between the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and 'Dashnaktsutyun' is in the focus of the Armenian media. The press writes about the further personnel and structural changes that are expected in the government, guesses why Russia is in no hurry to lower gas prices for Armenia, and wonders why the population continues to grow poor, in spite of the alleged growth of the economy.

Commenting on the coalition agreement between the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) and 'Dashnaktsutyun', the head of the Dashnaktsutyun parliamentary faction of the ARF, Armen Rustamyan, said: "This is a serious document which required a lot of discussions. Of course we compromised, but the issues on which we have reached agreement are sufficient for cooperation." In connection with the division of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Emergency Management, which occurs as a result of political agreements between the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation ‘Dashnaktsutyun’, the ‘Zhoghovurd’ newspaper recalls that when half a year ago the merger of the two ministries took place, the government explained it was due to the need to reduce costs and increase efficiency: "As a result of a short-sighted solution, due to a personal whim, many have lost their offices, large amounts of money have been spent, and suddenly it turns out that it was all in vain ... by the way, the Republican Party also feels the absurdity of the situation."

The information portal writes: "There is an interesting situation, when, on the one hand, the current government doesn't need the ARFD, that is, the Republican Party does not need any compromises or arrangements with the ARFD, but there is the need for such a process from a purely mechanical point of view, and there is no other force, except for the ARFD, with which it would be possible to conduct such a process in order not to discredit this power or not to be in a totally frivolous situation."

It was decided that after the appointment of a deputy from the ARFD, Artsvik Minasyan, as a minister, his seat in the parliament will be taken by the former deputy of the National Assembly (Parliament) of Armenia, Ruzan Arakelyan, the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper writes.

"Although the next candidate is Karen Shahmuradyan, the son of the murdered businessman Rafael Shahmuradyan and one of the owners of the Karckomauto company, who is in 10th place on the proportional list of the party."

Ruzan Arakelyan is 11th on the list. According to ARFD sources, Shahmuradyan doesn't want to give anyone the seat. Back in 2012, during the parliamentary elections, when the proportional lists were compiled, the information was spread that Shahmuradyan paid the ARFD a lot of money to receive a winning place. But the ARFD has brought another entrepreneur, Mikael Manukyan, to the National Assembly.

It was said that there was a dispute between Shahmuradyan and the ARFD for this reason. And now, when it's his turn, the entrepreneur is not going to abandon it.

"By the way, the head of the ARFD faction Armen Rustamyan stated that they have not yet discussed the issue of replacing Artsvik Minasyan," Haykakn Zhamanak notes.

The Hraparak newspaper reminds that it has already written that the ARFD will be also provided with deputy minister posts along with the posts of ministers and governors.

"The ARFD is going to obtain the posts of the deputy ministers of justice, agriculture, social welfare, the environment and finance. They say that they will have seven ministers. There is also information that Artsvik Minasyan expressed his desire to have one deputy from the ARFD, as the Ministry of Economy apparatus is weak. As for Ar Nranyan, they cannot decide whether to appoint him as the finance minister or to chose the Minister for International Economic Integration and Reforms, Vache Gabriyelyan, who has worked in the EEU structures with Nranyan," the newspaper writes.

On the eve of the arrival of Dashnaktsutyun deputies, the Deputy Minister of Urban Development, Ruzanna Alaverdyan, who had held this position for about 16 years, was dismissed, the Hraparak newspaper writes.

"Yesterday she did not tell us the reasons for her dismissal, she did not want to talk about it. She only replied: "I do not know". In the evening it became known that Alaverdyan was appointed the adviser to the Minister Narek Sargsyan. By the way, one of the deputy ministers of urban development is the brother of Gagik Beglaryan – Hakob Beglaryan, who was the head of the public procurement agency and was dismissed after Serzh Sargsyan's famous speech, when after inspections in the field of state purchases in 2007-2008, the Monitoring Chamber found that 230 million AMD had been 'thrown out'," the newspaper writes.

The Armenian authorities have decided not to offend the oligarchs. For this purpose, according to the new Electoral Code, the country will be divided into 10 "majority" districts, 4 of which will form the territory of Yerevan, the Zhamanak newspaper reports with reference to a source.

"In particular, the Malatia-Sebastia, Ajapnyak and Shengavit capital administrative districts will be united into a common constituency, which will be 'monitored' by Samvel Alexanyan. Erebuni, Nubarashen, Nork-Marash and possibly part of the center will be given to Mher Sedrakyan. A bigger part of the Central Arabkir district to Gagik Beglaryan and Avan, Kanaker-Zeytun and Nor Nork to Ruben Hayrapetyan," the newspaper notes.

The editor-in-chief of Aravot writes: "It is not necessary in developed countries that all the members were academics, although a few years ago I communicated with a deputy of the Bundestag (social democrat), who was a real university professor ... Let's set a high bar for ourselves, because today probably we need deputies of such a level more than the Europeans... And I suggest as a penalty to send Mher Sedrakyan for his own account to Bayreuth and make him watch Richard Wagner's tetralogy 'Twilight of the Gods' for four days," the author concludes.

It is already clear that President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan is trying to create a situation in the country's government system in which young specialists, involved by him in the public administration, will become his backbone, Zhoghovurd writes.

"This process, obviously, should be regarded as the youth wing's program to take over all the power. When in 2013 Serzh Sargsyan suggested appointing Gevorg Kostanyan as the Prosecutor General, then a program to move forward the youth wing still looked unrealistic. Furthermore, imperious veterans' attacks against 'youth' claiming to take their positions became more active. However, after the appointment of Gevorg Kutoyan as the director of the National Security Service, it became clear that veterans have little chance of winning in the ongoing confrontation, because Serzh Sargsyan has decided to rule, being surrounded by younger figures, and has provided all possible advisory positions for others.

The current developments require that the youth wing of the authorities will soon get the position of the head of the police as well. Why? It will be difficult for Vladimir Gasparyan to discuss arrangements directed at the preservation of the authorities with people of his child’s age. On the other hand, the youth will probably not consider him as one of them. So we can predict that Armenia will have a new head of police in a few months. Who will get the position, time will tell,” Zhokhovurd states.

According to Zhokhovurd, during a discussion of receiving orders on the activity of the Armenian Healthcare Ministry in 2015 by the Premier of Armenia Hovik Abrahamyan, the Health Minister Armen Muradyan was criticized for complaints on providing healthcare on the state order.

Chorrord Ishkhanutyun reports: “Russia published a list of weapons which it may export to Armenia on account of a loan of $200 million. The BM-30 Smerch and the TOS-1A "Solntsepyok", the 9M113 Konkurs, tank engines, radio stations, and others are included on the list. The list has been published at a time when the possibility of local Russian-Turkish fighting is high; and Armenia is intensively discussing the possible participation of the country in the conflict. Fortunately, the Armenian authorities show moderation and carefulness on the issue. Probably it was for this reason that Armenia didn’t obtain the 9K720 Iskander. If that is so, it is for the best that it hasn’t been sold.”

Zhamanak noted that Armenia requested Russia to decrease gas prices; but being a closer partner of Iran, it isn’t taking any steps to negotiate on gas with Iran to purchase cheaper gas and make Russia decrease its prices. “Armenia which is situated near Iran is holding ‘cool’ negotiations, while Georgia is conducting intensive talks. The reason is quite simple: Georgia is able to provide an independent policy, as it is not the property or a beneficiary of Gazprom. However, Armenia has turned into a branch of Gazprom or a department of Gazprom. It has asked and now is waiting in a humble way, because Gazprom can not only reject the request, but can also increase gas prices,” the newspaper reports.

The editor-in-chief of Aravot states that measures on reducing risks of corruption and prevention of illegal turnover are steps which in fact encourage the emergence of new risks of corruption. “It was decided to toughen medical product trade, eliminate corruption risks, shadow trading, illegal turnover, make medical products more available and so on. The real subtext is the following: “So many medical drugs are sold; what about our share?” And impossible things are imposed on drugstores – having an insert in the Armenian language on each drug package. Experts have counted that there are 120 million packages at the moment in Armenia. Can you imagine what a drugstore’s work will look like in case of implementation of the law?... In other words, it is nonsense and demands which cannot be fulfilled. They were developed to encourage corruption among ‘inspectors.’ Lao-tzu said 26 centuries ago that the more laws exist, the more thieves and robbers thrive.”

Aykakn Zhamanak reports: “The purchasing power of the Armenian population continues to fall; this indicates a growth of poverty in the country. This is confirmed by official data published by the National Statistical Service of Armenia. According to the published data, volumes of trade reduced by 1.7 percent in January 2016 in comparison with indices of January 2015. Therefore, people bought fewer goods than they did a year ago. It is interesting that during the last year the purchasing power of the population fell in the context of a significant growth in all spheres of the economy, according to the official statistics. The same picture can be observed in the first month of this year: growth is registered in all economic spheres; average salaries have grown; but poverty is growing.”

“Everything is possible, but not in Armenia” Zhamanak reports. “The Hungarian airlines WizzAir stated that it would provide flights from the Georgian city of Kutaisi to Berlin, Munich, Milan, Dortmund, Salonika, Larnaca, and Sofia twice a week.

According to Shagen Petrosyan, the “open sky” policy actually completely closes the way for airlines which are interested in Armenia, as prices for airport services are too high, and the services themselves are poor. It should be noted that according to the data of the US Agency for International Development, monthly payments which are paid by airlines in Armenia are 20 percent higher than in Georgia or European countries,” the newspaper reports.

“Even though the owner of Tashir Group Company, Samvel Karapetyan, has many times stated that the cost of purchase-and-sale of the ESA is a commercial secret and wouldn’t be announced, the report of the company for 9 months makes some details of the issue clear,” Aykakan Zhamanak reports.

“According to the report, Karapetyan’s company paid $8.25 million for 25 percent of the stock. If we quadruplicate the sum, 100 percent of the stock will cost $33 million. Plus, we should remember about the ESA's debts, about $220 million, which must be paid by the new owner. As a result, the general cost of the purchase is $253 million,” an expert of the Anticorruption Center Transparency International, Artak Manukyan, told us,” the newspaper reported.