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March 13, 2009
1. Recognizing Opportunity: Obama visit to Turkey casts doubt on
2. Tightening Up: The reality of crisis on household `survival’
3. Whose Fault?: Public, economists look to blame authorities for
4. Capital Mayor: Yerevan chief to be determined May 31
5. Insult to Injury?: Consumers can expect 15 percent hike if
customs law approved
6. Farming Concerns: Crisis has double impact on peasant crop producers
7. Watching Dollars: Consumers anxious to see whether price rise
in goods was `panic’ or permanent
8. NKR and the Dram: Authorities/experts say no worries
9. Vanishing Legacy: Tumanyan’s library in Tbilisi shuts down
10. Creation Frustration: Animators have no outlet for cartoons
1. RECOGNIZING OPPORTUNITY: OBAMA VISIT TO TURKEY CASTS DOUBT ON
By John Hughes
The announcement last weekend that US President Barack Obama would be
visiting Turkey soon was a de facto signal to many here and in
Diaspora that recognition of the Armenian Genocide will not be a
priority of the new Washington administration.
Previously, hopes ran high that Obama would acknowledge the Genocide
during remarks on April 24 – the day Armenians around the world
commemorate their loss of family and nation.
The new US president has been an advocate of recognition since early
in his career in D.C. as a senator from Illinois.
Likewise, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who announced the
president’s visit while herself in Turkey, has spoken in favor of
recognition since 2005 while a senator from New York. Former president
Bill Clinton, however, was among several US presidents who – prior to
election – appeared ready to make recognition part of their policy,
only to renege on their promises once in office.
While in Turkey last weekend, Secretary Clinton announced that Obama
would be visiting Ankara `in the next month or so’. The trip could
coincide with his attending the G20 summit in London on April 2.
It is believed that the US may be trying to strengthen its ties with
Turkey for two strategic purposes. First, to use Turkey as a transport
base for Obama’s announced withdrawal of troops from Irag. And,
secondly, the US wants to see Turkey resume its role as third-party
negotiator in disputes between Syria and Israel.
More generally, one mandate of the Obama White House is to restore
America’s reputation with Muslim nations, following eight years of
decline in which Islamic republics (of which Turkey is one) were
routinely lumped into former president George W. Bush’s `axis of
evil’. By visiting Ankara, Obama would be making significant outreach
to the vast Muslim community.
>From its side, Turkey may parlay the Obama visit into bolstering its
image for membership in the European Union – a task that has been
hampered by criticism of Turkey’s human rights’ record. In that
regard, Turkey gaining assurance from Obama that he would not use the
term `genocide’ in April 24 remarks could carry considerable currency.
Led by the Armenian Assembly of America ( ), lobbyists
in D.C. were quick to react to news of Obama’s travel plans.
On March 10, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), joined by Representative
George Radanovich (R-CA) and the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus
on Armenian Issues, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Mark
Kirk (R-IL), sent a letter to the president, encouraging him to remain
steadfast in his support of recognition.
"During your upcoming trip to Turkey," the letter reads, "and in
discussions with your advisors over how to commemorate the events of
1915-1923, you will doubtless be counseled by some to continue the
practice of avoiding the truth in favor of short-term political
expediency. We do not minimize Ankara’s threats of adverse action when
you recognize the genocide, or when Congress takes action to formally
recognize the genocide, but we believe that our alliance is strong
enough to withstand the truth."
The letter also recalls President Obama’s record on the issue and how
he has "demonstrated time and again [his] understanding of the
importance to Armenian-Americans of formal American recognition of the
crime that was committed against their parents, grandparents and
great-grandparents." Adding that "their pain is not unlike that of
American Jews, who live each day with the memory of the Holocaust…
Whether it is today’s Sudanese government or yesterday’s Ottoman
Empire, the perpetrators of genocide, as well as the victims, must
know that the United States will not shrink from confronting the
The support of the congressmen – all representing districts highly
populated by Armenian-Americans – earned praise from Assembly
Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.
"President Obama’s upcoming trip to Turkey presents a unique
opportunity to address the consequences of genocide and its denial,’
Ardouny said in a written statement. ` We, therefore, applaud the
initiative of Representatives Schiff, Radanovich, Pallone and Kirk."
2. TIGHTENING UP: THE REALITY OF CRISIS ON HOUSEHOLD `SURVIVAL’
By Sara Khojoyan
Faced with a sudden and significant rise in prices of goods following
last weeks adjusted of the Armenian dram, plus announced increases in
utilities taking effect April 1, many Armenian families are forced to
revise household budgets.
Heghine Balyan, a 49-year old Yerevan housewife in a family of 6,
believes that soon she will need double the amount of what she spent
The former merchant is sure that prices will double soon: `If the
shops increased the prices of the goods they still had in stock in one
day, I can imagine how much they will increase the prices of the goods
that will be imported.’
`I am very angry that the prices have gone up so much, the situation
is very bad, sugar went up to 300 dram from the previous 220 (from
about 60 cents to 80 cents), flour went up from 250 to 300 dram,
vegetable oil went up from 600 to 900 drams (from about $1.60 to
$2.40). I don’t know what we are going to do . . .
`I used to spend about 150,000 drams (about $450) for our family of 6
in the worst case, and I will probably need twice as much each month
for us to be able to live. . . Once you buy sugar, you run out of
vegetable oil, you buy vegetable oil, you run out of soap, you buy
soap, and then you see you’ve run out of sugar again. And when the
prices for gas and electricity go up next month, we will probably burn
wood to heat the house, as we did in previous years.’
The increase in the prices of gas, water and electricity per unit from
April 1 seems insignificant at first sight, but many claim it will be
made at a `disastrous’ cost. The price of one unit of electric power
will go up by 5 drams (about 1 cent), one unit of gas – by 12 dram
(about 2 cents) and one unit of water outside Yerevan – by 40 dram
(about 8 cents).
`If only it were not all three together at least…,’ Balyan complains.
Her husband is a taxi driver, her elder son is a construction worker,
and her younger son is a student – he works as a guard at a CD store
at nights. The pensions of her husband’s parents, about 60,000 drams
(around $162), are also part of their monthly income.
`On those days (before crisis) it was good, Arshak (the husband)
brought home at least 5,000 drams (about $15) every day; now, if he
brings 2,500 dram (about $7), it’s great joy, but very often he brings
only 1,000 dram (less than $3), which is just enough to buy daily
bread. My elder son works at a construction site, but he hasn’t been
paid his wages for three months now. How am I supposed to get by now?’
asks the housewife.
Anush Tavakalyan, 32, a resident of the capital’s Avan community,
understands the frustration. She is the only person working in their
family of 5; she is a trader at Hrazdan shopping mall, and her
mother-in-law’s pension – 35,000 dram (about $95) – is some kind of
`I suppose our expenses will increase by 40-50 percent, (even though
the prices are not doubled yet, but along with the increased fee for
utilities) we used to spend about 150,000 dram (about $450), now
another 60,000 dram (about $160) will be necessary as well for food
and utilities, and I have borrowed some money to pay for electricity
and gas, and I don’t know, because I don’t know what to think, what
way out to look for,’ Tavakalyan says.
Anna Yeritsyan, a 45-year old mother of a family of 7, is in no less
doubt than Balyan and Tavakalyan.
She has calculated that each member of her family requires 1,000 dram
every day (about $2,7).
`They are men, all three of them smoke, and whereas before we spent
about 1,000 dram every day on cigarettes, now it’s already 1,100 dram
(about 2,9 dollars). A kilo of coffee went up from 1,800 drams to
1,900 dram (from 4,8 to 5,1 dollars), melted butter went up from 2,500
to 3,000 dram (from about 6,7 to 8,1 dollars), 1 kilo of spaghetti –
from 260 to 300 dram (about 0,7 to 0,8 dollars), everything has become
more expensive, you name it.’
`And I am not paying for grain, I still have some that I bought in
autumn, and I have preserves since summer, but when I start buying
these as well, I won’t have enough money for anything, the prices for
grain have gone up by 200 drams from 50 drams,’ adds Yeritsyan.
`Taking into account the increase in prices, my family budget should
increase at least by 30 percent. I haven’t figured out yet where I am
going to find that additional amount, the problem is that my
60,000-dram salary (about $160 dollars) was cut down by 10,000 dram
(by about $27),’ says the woman, who works at a sanitary epidemic
station. (According to a government decision the wages were reviewed
and cut prior to the crisis).
Although Yeritsyan’s salary was not an essential amount for a family
spending 240,000 dram (about $650) on food each month, according to
her calculations, she was at least able to take care of some of the
`My elder son, who works at a state institution, has not been paid his
salary for two months, my middle son has not been paid at the
construction site since December. My husband is my last hope, I hope
he’ll be invited to work in Moscow where he has been working at a
construction site for the past two years. We are waiting,’ sighs the
Concerned, she is trying to make predictions, `There have been worse
times, one can bear anything, today one can have 50,000 drams (about
$135 dollars) and not die of starvation. But this is not living, it
cannot even be called surviving.’
3. WHOSE FAULT?: PUBLIC, ECONOMISTS LOOK TO BLAME AUTHORITIES FOR CRISIS IMPACT
By Gayane Abrahamyan
Consumers who are paying higher prices with a devalued dram want to
see someone else pay for the impact of `Black Tuesday’ when the dram
dropped by 22 percent March 3. Subsequently retail prices rose, giving
buyers a double dose of world economic crisis reality.
`If today nobody is held responsible, tomorrow we are going to have
more saddening situations, the people’s buying ability suffered a
double blow, and the responsibility for all that lies on the
government,’ says economist and former MP Tatul Manaseryan.
According to the economist, the decrease of the dram should have taken
place gradually, for the state to manage to take regulating and
controlling measures to hold the prices.
`Harder days for the people are yet to come, from April 1 the prices
of gas, electricity, water are going to increase, and in this
situation there was one way out – they should have let go of the dram
earlier – then it would have landed more safely,’ says Manaseryan and
adds, `I consider it unacceptable to waste about $700 million from
reserve funds to keep the Armenian dram and fix the exchange rate.’
The downfall of the dram, according to the prognosis made by the
International Monetary Fund, will continue until it reaches 30-35
percent, or 420 dram. Economists find it hard to say how much the
prices of goods will go up in these conditions.
`In our country it is pointless to make predictions using economics
justifications, because they don’t apply here, everything depends on
the whim of the oligarchs, on their appetite, and their appetites, as
we had the chance to witness a week ago, are insatiable,’ says
economist Andranik Tevanyan.
Armenian Revolutionary Federation member, MP Artsvik Minasyan is
convinced that to avoid further shake-ups, citizens should demand
information about those who enjoy business monopolies here.
`Information must be provided to the public concerning the groups that
have monopolist positions and the people who have certain amounts of
money, who, benefiting from this abrupt wavering in the exchange rate,
increased their wealth by about 30 percent,’ economist and MP Minasyan
Almost all economists and international experts claim that the
devaluation of the dram was unavoidable, but the process should have
started much earlier.
The center for political and economic analysis Policy Forum Armenia
also came up with a statement about the incorrect policy of the
government and made a number of proposals on March 7 concerning how to
remedy the situation.
In the December 2008 report Policy Forum Armenia warned about the
noticeable growth of foreign economic and financial pressures,
suggesting that the government should adopt the policy of a gradual
devaluation of the Armenian dram.
`It was necessary to avoid excessively positive assessment of the
global crisis and the depth and the duration of the factors affecting
RA economy, taking into account the possible harms to be brought about
by not taking any action, and to revise this assessment as soon as
possible,’ the statement reads.
The cornerstone in settling the situation, according to Policy Forum
Armenia experts, must be `the reestablishment of trust in the policy
and proper management of public expectations,’ that is, `the Central
Bank must be honest about the controversial problems it has piled up
since autumn of 2008, as well as with regard to the mistakes that may
have fostered the creation of the current situation.’
Among the suggested remedial measures is also `the implementation of
convincing political methods directed at minimizing price monopolies
of the main importing companies and rapid steps to limit the
well-known obstacles hindering economic activity.’
However, a speech by Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan last week
demonstrated that the government continues to pursue, as economists
define it, an `ostrich policy.’
`As a result of the global economic and financial crisis our economy
found itself in a state where it was necessary to move on to the
devaluation of the national currency, and it was necessary to have a
transition period, it was impossible to immediately transport the
organism from hot temperature to cold temperature,’ Sargsyan said in
an interview to TV companies on March 4.
According to Sargsyan, the increase in the exchange rate of the dollar
that went from 305 to 400 drams in an hour was not immediate, and,
according to him, the banks were well prepared, and the 25 percent
increase in prices in one day was not a transition from hot
temperature to cold temperature.
Afterwards the Prime Minister gave hope to his fellow citizens, saying
that everything is going to be all right, as they are going to get
their pensions and salaries on time.
`We announce that we will give preference to pensions, social security
benefits, salaries, so that there are no delays and our pensioners get
their pensions on time,’ the Prime Minister said, stressing that
pensions have gone up by 14 percent.
However, the average 15,000-dram pensions, which were increased by 14
percent, turned into dust against the background of the 25-percent
increase in the prices of goods, gas, water and electric energy.
Meanwhile, in a report published on March 4 by International Monetary
Fund, Armenia is included in the list of the 26 countries that are in
for a humanitarian disaster. Armenia is named along with such
countries as Nigeria, Mongolia, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and
In the report the IMF appeals to international donors to provide at
least $25 billion of additional funding with the aim of preventing
humanitarian disaster in these countries.
4. CAPITAL MAYOR: YEREVAN CHIEF TO BE DETERMINED MAY 31
While discussions over the globe economic crisis rage, Armenian
political forces are preparing for a crucial election scheduled for
May 31 to elect the Mayor of Yerevan.
This will mark the first time a mayor has been elected, rather than
appointed by the President of Armenia. Based on a new Law on Local
Administration of Yerevan City, the mayor will be determined according
to City Council elections. If one party participating in the elections
gets more than 50 percent of the Council member seats, than the first
person mentioned in the list of that party’s candidates is considered
to be an elected mayor.
On March 17-22 the parties must submit all the necessary documents to
the Central Electoral Commission. The polling stations and electoral
centers will be formed till April 16. The pre-election campaign will
start on May 2, and it will end on May 29.
Contenders to the post are expected to be current mayor Gagik
Beglaryan – appointed last week by President Serzh Sargsyan — of the
ruling Republican Party of Armenia and current Minister of Healthcare
Harutyun Kuskyan (Prosperous Armenia Party).
The Republican Party also nominated Taron Margaryan (former Prime
Minister Andranik Margaryan’s son), Head of Avan Community, for the
position of the Deputy Mayor. The Republicans will participate in the
elections alone, without coalition counterparts.
This month the oppositional Heritage Party expressed its negative
attitude towards the appointment of the Mayor.
`Currently we carefully examine the constitutionality and legitimacy
of fact of the current change of the Mayor, and we consider that
change to be deliberate, and the authorities, probably, in this way
try to show that Beglaryan’s choice was decided beforehand, putting
under his disposal the whole administrative resource of the city,’
says Larisa Alaverdyan from Heritage Party.
According to Anahit Bakhshyan, Chairwoman of the Heritage Party
Executive Board, the appointment of the Mayor was a means to falsify
the process of the upcoming elections.
`There is no constitutional violation. The law allows; there is no
contradiction. And as for the administrative resource, Beglaryan had
that resource long before,’ says Razmik Zohrabyan from the Republican
Party. `Why do they see contradictions? Whom do they suggest to
appoint? Why not our candidate? We are a Presidential country; the
President has the right to make decisions individually.’
In response, Heritage said in a public announcement that: `It is
necessary to eventually provide legitimacy, freedom, justice, and
transparency during the elections of Yerevan’s Mayor and at the
pre-election period. It is also necessary to create public trust
towards the electoral systems, which is not possible without revealing
the authors of the falsifications of the Presidential Elections 2008,
and Local Self-Government Bodies, as well as the murderers of the
March 1 events, the instigators and those who gave directions.’
The oppositional political forces have not announced the names of
their candidates yet. Armen Martirosyan, from Heritage says that they
continue the discussions with the Armenian National Congress (ANG) so
to submit a united list.
This week Armen Ashotyan, from the Republican Party predicted that the
Heritage Party and the ANG will together get 25-30 percent voices.
Hovsep Khurshudyan, from Heritage says that it is necessary to
differentiate the real results of the elections from the
falsifications, adding that his party coalition would be 60 percent of
votes if the election were held now.
In any case, the City Council is expected to be in place by June 7 and
will consist of 65 members, elected to four-year terms.
5. INSULT TO INJURY?: CONSUMERS CAN EXPECT 15 PERCENT HIKE IF CUSTOMS
Reeling yet from price increases brought on by the devalued dram,
residents of Armenia can expect further cost of living hikes if the
National Assembly approves legislation next week to raise import
customs by 15 percent.
Since March 3 when the dram dropped and prices rose, consumers here
have been faced with increases of 20 percent or more while authorities
assure that price adjustments have not been out of line.
`The price enhance was logical, we have not registered violations,’
announced Ashot Shahnazaryan, Chairman of the State Commission for the
Protection of Economic Competition, clarifying that only four-five
products became more expensive and only by 10-12 percent.
Visits to shops, however, show another situation, and as economist
Narine Minasyan says, `Either Shahnazaryan looks at the reality
through rose glasses, or he is simply defending the interests of
oligarchs, which is not allowed at all.’
Nevertheless, Shahnazaryan envisages further `subtle’ inflation.
`When a few months later our reserves are reduced, and it will be
necessary to have new imports, it is possible that a four-five
percent-inflation will be registered, but no more. It will be done
within the framework of the realm based by economic factors; we will
not allow more,’ assures Shahnazaryan.
Meanwhile, economists warn that prices will greatly enhance, taking
into consideration the new law submitted by the Government.
`The National Assembly will most probably adopt the draft of the law
on raising the customs duties, since experience shows that the
National Assembly became not an institution developing and discussing
laws submitted by the Government, but rather rubberstamping them,’
Armen Martirosyan, head of `Heritage’ faction, told ArmeniaNow.
Due to the new law on raising the customs duties, it will be
obligatory to pay 15 percent more customs for almost all types of
food, including the necessaries of life – oil, flour, sugar and meat.
The prices of importing shoes and clothes will also be raised.
According to RA Minister of Economy Nerses Yeritsyan, the initiative
is carried out mainly to `promote domestic production.’ But that says
nothing for the bulk of imports that are essentials with no equivalent
domestic brand – including home appliances and automobiles.
Armenia imports four times more goods than it exports – creating a
trade deficit of about $4 billion. Economists worry that the new bill
would be a crushing blow.
Nevertheless, members of the Government and some NA deputies try to
allay concerns saying that `this is the only way to support local
Gagik Minasyan, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee
on Financial-Credit, Budgetary and Economic Affairs, insists that the
Armenian authorities have to encourage local producers: `The change in
customs duties settles this issue on the legislative level,’ says
He says `reasonable’ price increases will eventually be good for
consumers, although is does not elaborate how.
He presents two scenarios of the consequences of raising the customs duties:
`Either the importer, taking into consideration the situation in the
market, should reduce his/her income, and he/she will keep on selling
the products by the price it would be sold, or the local producer,
under such conditions, will get an opportunity to produce similar
goods, which will be less expensive as compared with the imported
products,’ says Minasyan, from ruling Republican Party of Armenia.
Raising customs duties is expected to generate about $3 million
annually to the State Budget.
Minister of Economy Nerses Yeritsyan told ArmeniaNow that: `This is a
type of solution which may not only promote domestic production but
also settle many problems connected with the budget.’
`Is the budget or people important,’ counters Andranik Tevanyan, Head
of `Polit-economy’ Research Center. `Now the Budget became a hyper
goal. And they are ready to do everything possible and impossible to
reach it and collect it; even during such crisis they want to raise
the customs duties.’
Tevanyan, along with Doctor of Economics Tatul Manaseryan and many
other economists favor a budget reduction.
`We do not plan such a thing yet, maybe when the time comes some
reductions will be done,’ Edward Sharmazanov, Spokesman of the
Republican Party told ArmeniaNow.
Critics, though, point to budget items that appear extravagant, in
wake of the crisis, including; 30 billion drams ($83 million) is
planned to be assigned to the police for buying Jeeps and other cars;
one billion drams (about $3 million) – for renovating administrative
buildings, and almost the same amount is planned for business trips.
6. FARMING CONCERNS: CRISIS HAS DOUBLE IMPACT ON PEASANT CROP PRODUCERS
Jora Petrosyan, 64, prunes the sprouts of his grapevines. His wife,
60-year-old Gyulnara Petrosyan grows tomatoes, pepper and cucumber
seedlings in plastic-covered greenhouses.
`We started the process, yet we do not know how we will manage to sell
our agricultural products in case reprocessing enterprises refuse to
take them,’ says Jora. `This year the crisis knocked at our door,
Sahak Kirakosyan, from the same village, says that he has not done any
work in his privatized two-hectare land because he’s not sure if his
efforts would be profitable – or wasted.
`We are still waiting, we are worried now. I used to grow tomatoes,
and I delivered my harvest to reprocessing plants, but currently even
they are not sure whether they can take it or not,’ he says.
Agriculturist Garnik Petrosyan says that the shocking situation in the
country’s economy creates stress in agriculture, too. The sphere is
very sensitive towards the fluctuation in the market, and of course,
the consequences of the crisis will be greatly emphasized in
`Spring is in its element in Ararat Valley, farming has started, and
currently, under such situation, in each sphere everyone is waiting. A
peasant is not sure whether to grow vegetables or not, to sow potatoes
or not,’ says Petrosyan. `Reprocessing plants also have problems. The
locomotive of the agricultural production is the sphere of
reprocessing, if that sphere were not stable the other side would have
problems connected with selling the agricultural products,’ he adds.
According to Petrosyan, it is essential that more attention be paid to
the impact of Armenia’s economic crisis on agriculture.
The tariffs of water, gas and electricity will be raised on April 1
and will have an immediate influence upon not only the reprocessing
enterprises but also peasant households. Villagers who rely on selling
produce for their livelihood do not know what prices will be offered
Kirakosyan says that if they knew the prices beforehand, they would be
able to do the calculations of their expenses in advance.
`We would at least know if their price is or is not profitable for us
to grow this or that plant. Otherwise we might lose our products
later,’ he says.
Deputy Director of Noy Brandy and Wine Factory told ArmeniaNow that
the contracts signed with local farmers will be renewed in a week.
However, he is not sure what initial deposits or prices in general
`At the moment it is hard to say anything for sure, since the
situation in the market is rather unstable. The processes are still
ahead, and nothing is clear yet. Last year concrete columns (for
posts) were given to them instead of initial deposits. Vine-growers
used them in vineyards,’ says Apyan. Local farmers usually get some
amount of initial deposit (if they ask for it), otherwise they get the
whole sum after production, in autumn.
Sardarapat Cannery’s (the cannery is situated in Armavir Province)
Yerevan office informed ArmeniaNow that the cannery is already closed,
and it would probably stop running, taking into consideration the
global economic crisis. Last year it processed tomato, apricot and
According to Petrosyan, if it is more or less possible to bear this
situation in other spheres of the economy, and to return the loss by
means of additional investments, then it is probably already too late
to interfere in the sphere of agriculture; and as they say, `the train
is already gone.’
Margarita Harutyunyan, from Ararat Province has a hectare of apricot
trees. She says that last year, during this period, private exporters
came to their village, paid initial deposits, but this year they have
not appeared yet.
`They say that we are having a crisis; probably they would not take
our apricots. And if canneries do not take our harvest, we will be
lost. And what if we have a rich harvest, how are we going to sell
Prices of fuel are already higher in the market. Along with the rises
in tariffs, cost prices of natural food will also rise. However,
Petrosyan believes that there will not be a subsequent rise in the
cost of domestic products in the market. If they do not manage to
export the products there would be stagnation in the market, and hence
the prices would fall.
`This is good for townspeople, but if we look at the situation from
the other side, peasants will either have little income, or they will
work at a loss. And this can be considered catastrophic,’ Petrosyan
Artsvik Minasyan, NA deputy from `Armenian Revolutionary Federation’
(ARF) Factions says that the subsidy program approved by the RA
Government, and the investments which will be done in the sphere, will
promote the development of agriculture in Armenia.
He does not think that there would be essential price enhances of
diesel fuel, which could hinder this sphere. If there is limitation of
such an opportunity, then the State must review the amount of its
subsidy including these price increases, too.
Petrosyan mentions that local farmers have always been in a hard situation.
`It is always hard to produce farm products. If in other spheres money
turnover may be done within a few months, and people involved in them
can get profits very fast, then peasants put everything inside the
soil and wait. And later the outcome might be subtle. Of course, here
the role and support of the State are very important,’ he says.
7. WATCHING DOLLARS: CONSUMERS ANXIOUS TO SEE WHETHER PRICE RISE IN
GOODS WAS `PANIC’ OR PERMANENT
By Siranuysh Gevorgyan
The 22 percent fall of the Armenian dram last week sparked an
immediate panic shopping as consumers reacted to the unexpected and
`People helped the creation of that panic. Everyone ran to shops
hoping to buy a bit less expensive food. The situation was such that
during a day the demand surpassed the volumes of supply by several
times. Under such conditions the sellers took advantage of the
opportunity and dictated their own speculative prices,’ says Gagik
Melikyan, Member of the Republican Party and National Assembly deputy.
The deputy may be right that the over-reaction opened the door for
price gouging, but it appears that consumer concerns over `floating’
prices along with the `floating’ dram have been well founded.
And while the dram drama has subsided somewhat the sense of insecurity
created by the sudden change remains – especially for those for whom a
few drams increase can be a make or break situation.
Sisters Evelina, 70, and Lida Matchkalyan, 74, who carefully follow
every event taking place in Armenia, and later discuss them with
neighbours and relatives, `got infected’ by the panic and ran to do
shopping. They spent great part of their pension buying flour, sugar,
oil and butter for a whole month.
`You do not even know what to expect from this State. They say they
did something good, however, we do not feel those good things,’ says
`Now we do not have any money, we do not know what to do, at least we
managed to buy some food,’ adds Evelina.
The RA State Commission for Protection of Economic Competition, which
was insisting yet in the middle of last week, that nothing disturbing
was happening in the market, announced at the end of the week that it
is investigating the recent market developments for four types of
`Those are oil, butter, home appliances and medicines. Currently in
different shops a product which, lets say, was previously sold for 270
drams, now is sold for 350 drams. What is the argument?’ asked
Chairman of the Commission Ashot Shahnazaryan at a press conference.
Due to the preliminary estimations of the RA State Commission for
Protection of Economic Competition staff, the price enhances in the
shops of those markets, being under monitoring, are even higher than
they should be because of the recent economic factors. Investigations
will be held not only in the markets having predominant position, but
also other entities.
`This is the first phase of filing investigative cases; and because
there are some data about enhancing prices in bread, meat and other
markets, the monitoring is continuing, and it is possible that next
week, depending on market developments, investigative cases will be
filed in other markets, too,’ says Shahnazaryan.
On March 9 the RA State Commission for Protection of Economic
Competition sent the data of those trade points to the RA State
Revenue Committee, where unjustified rise of prices for several
necessaries of life goods, as if due to the dollar exchange rate
fluctuation, was registered. The list was sent to the State Revenue
Committee asking to take into consideration the fact of consuming
goods with higher prices while checking up in those trade points.
Shahnazaryan also stated that the situation is still alarming in
provinces, where the level of prices is even higher as compared with
the same shops of the capital city. Shahnazaryan mentioned that the
Commission is cooperating with the State Revenue Committee to regulate
`We give the list of the shops which had unreasonable increase of
prices to the Committee for checking their taxation obligations,’ says
Abgar Yeghoyan, Head of `Consumers’ Rights Protection’ NGO
(non-governmental organization) believes that it would be possible to
evade such situation if the Central Bank gradually raised the dollar
`In that case there would have been a more or less balanced reaction,’
Majority of the economists thinks that price enhances are entirely
unjust, since the prices of the food imported by the `less expensive’
dollar were raised. Consequently, several importing companies had
`Raising of prices could happen only if an entity bought a new group
of commodity by higher prices,’ says Yeghoyan.
However, there are people who see positive tendencies in this
situation. Vazgen Safaryan, Head of Armenian Manufacturers Union
believes that the dram becoming weaker against the dollar will promote
the development of local production.
While others watch anxiously for a sign of how to plan family budgets,
some 30-45 percent of the population who receive remittances from
sources abroad can breathe easier over higher foreign exchange.
Stocked up on goods as a result of last week’s panic, but low on cash,
the Matchkalyan sisters eagerly await a phone call from the nephew who
lives in Greece. They expect him to send 200 euros, which before last
Tuesday would have been worth 77,000 drams but now has 92,000 drams
buying power. They, like others here, though, worry whether the buying
power will `float’ away on higher prices.
8. NKR AND THE DRAM: AUTHORITIES/EXPERTS SAY NO WORRIES
By Naira Hairumyan
Armenia’s reaction to the devalued dram is being mirrored in Nagorno
Karabakh, where the dram is also the national currency. In both
places, citizen consumers have adjusted to the rate adjustment,
begrudgingly for most, but with resignation that comes from having no
`I have long wanted to buy a mobile phone, an inexpensive one. I
didn’t have enough to buy a phone that cost 22,000 drams (about $66).
Today it already costs 27,000 ($75),’ said Ara Narinyan, near a shop
Last week Karabakh Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan announced his
dissatisfaction that some trading facilities suspended their work,
causing panic among the population.
The Prime Minister said that the dollar exchange rate, as it was
expected, increased by 15-20 percent and the corresponding increase in
prices can only apply to a number of imported goods. He announced that
there will be no considerable increase in prices and delegated the
bodies involved in taxation and economic competition to take the goods
market under strict control.
Economist Susanna Harutyunyan, from Karabakh National Statistical
Service, also believes that the authorities have the situation under
control and have corrected everything beforehand. `From January
salaries and pensions increased by 18-20 percent, there is no new
downsizing of employees, the dollar exchange rate will be kept at the
present level. Imported goods will be in demand despite the increase
in prices. On the other hand, the demand will increase for cheaper
consumer goods,’ Harutyunyan said.
Anahit Grigoryan, a 40 year old housewife, says people were queuing up
for sunflower oil at the shop. `Many were buying 5 bottles each. They
were saying the prices would almost double.’
As the Prime Minister pointed out, the process of generating prices
will be controlled by the tax service and the committee on regulating
public services and economic competition. `The step taken by the
Central Bank of Armenia was necessary for our further development, and
also from the point of view of financial policy. Apparently, in the
coming month or two the prices will settle, if the exchange rate
remains the same,’ Prime Minister Harutyunyan said.
A decrease in the volumes of imports is predicted in Armenia as a
result of the devaluation, and there are hopes for the export volumes
to increase. In Karabakh it is mostly the copper-mining enterprise
`Base Metals’ and a number of alcohol producers who do exports.
According to economist Harutyunyan, these enterprises had problems
with export at the end of 2008, which was connected with the dropping
of the prices for exported goods. `The alteration in the dollar
exchange rate will not affect exports. There will be no decrease in
imports either, because the country imported as many goods as the
market demanded,’ the economist said.
According to statistics service data, during the first 9 months of
2008 the volume of exports was 13,830 million drams ($45,355), and
imports reached 50,932 million dram ($166,743). Compared with the same
period in 2007, exports decreased by 17.1 percent; imports increased
by 30.1 percent. There are no data yet concerning the changes in the
foreign trade balance in the last quarter of 2008 and the first two
months of 2009.
The Dean of the Department of Economy of Artsakh State University
Ruzan Mangasaryan pointed out that Karabakh is a consumer country, not
a producing country. `Imported goods are paid for in foreign currency.
That is why it is natural that the increase in the dollar exchange
rate will lead to the increase in prices for a number of imported
goods,’ Mangasaryan said.
The government is taking certain measures to combat the crisis. A
billion drams ($2,857,142) will be allocated to Artsakh investment
fund to implement development projects for small and medium businesses
and to partly compensate for the credit interest rates of the projects
using credit resources for implementation. Besides, 150 million drams
($441,000) were allocated for the creation of a reserve fund of
essential goods. The public sale of Artsakh Hydro-Power Station shares
became one of the anti-crisis steps. This is the first large
investment project in Karabakh, into which public finance is being
solicited. The cost of one share is 1,050 drams (about ($3).
9. VANISHING LEGACY: TUMANYAN’S LIBRARY IN TBILISI SHUTS DOWN
By Karine Ionesyan
Special to ArmeniaNow
>From Tbilisi, Georgia
The Hovhannes Tumanyan Library in Tbilisi has stopped operation since
the beginning of this year. The library, named for one of Armenia’s
most beloved writers, has been housed in his former residence since
Georgian businessman Archi Lejava, who in 1997 acquired the premise
for $162,000 from the municipality of Tbilisi now decided to empty it.
Tumanyan (1869-1923) is the author of favored poems, lyrics, ballads,
stories, fairy tales. `Anoush’ and `Almast’ Operas based on Tumanyan’s
poems continue to be staged internationally.
The building housing the library is situated in the historic Tbilisi
community of Sololaki. Authorities in the Georgian capital gave the
apartment to Tumanyan in 1921 as a gesture of appreciation for his
art. According to the mandate given by the municipal authorities, it
was not subject to confiscation or any change.
In 1949, after the writer’s death, Tumanyan’s wife, Olga Matckalyan,
convinced Tiflis Municipality authorities to turn four of the
apartment’s seven rooms into a children’s library, using the other
rooms as family residence.
Until 1949 Tumanyan’s family continued to live in the apartment. In
1949 the apartment was divided into two parts: one was turned into a
library, and Tumanyan’s family continued to live in the other. In the
same year, all Tumanyan’s belongings were taken to the Tumanyan Museum
in Yerevan. A similar apartment can been found in the museum there.
Tumanyan’s great-granddaughter – Yelena Kolesnikova lives in the
portion of the Tbilisi apartment that has not been sold. The only
Tumanyan relative who continues to live in Tbilisi, her family
consists of seven cats. Other family members live in Yerevan or
`Of course, I was brought up listening to stories about Tumanyan,’ the
great-granddaughter says. `They say that when he was 50, a group of
his fans gathered under this very library, and he talked to them from
the balcony. The writers from `Vernatun’ (literary club) kept on
gathering in this apartment. It was in this apartment that Tumanyan
and composer Armen Tigranyan decided to write `Anoush’ Opera based on
Tumanyan’s famous poem.’
Kolesnikova says that in the 1990s, when Georgia, like Armenia, faced
crisis, there was no means for maintaining the library or others in
Tbilisi. The municipality of Tbilisi decided to borrow money from
different businessmen to keep their libraries open.
`And so when the time to pay back the debts came, they had to give
away dozens of libraries instead of the money, and this library was
among them,’ tells Kolesnikova.
She says that she cannot blame the authorities, since otherwise the
library would not be kept so long. However, she does not have the same
viewpoint about the closure of this one for children: `Children’s
parents are complaining, because there is no other library close to
this territory. Lejava was wrong to close the library.’
Armenia’s ambassador to Georgia Hrach Silvanyan tried to negotiate
with the owner of the premise to buy it back, but Lejava refused the
offer. Lejava has already replaced the library doors by new ones and,
according to Kolesnikova, is getting ready to turn the library into
Levon Ananyan, president of the Writers Union of Armenia believes that
neither his union nor that of Georgia can do anything; the issue can
be settled only on a governmental level.
`Yet in 2004 I turned to then Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan for
help, however, nothing was done. Later, at Tumanyan’s 140th
anniversary (last February) all of us suddenly woke up, and we started
talking,’ he says.
Arnold Stepanyan, head of `Multinational Georgia,’ says that the
closure of the library was foreseeable, since the RA foreign policy
has shortcomings. Another reason is the weakness of the Armenian
community in Tbilisi: `Our organization cannot carry out an activity
to settle the issue, since it is not involved exclusively in the
problems of Armenia.’
In the opinion of the Armenian community in Georgia and various
Armenian intellectuals, the dismantling of the library is symptomatic
of a general `anti-Armenian’ sentiment currently expressed in Georgia.
`The Georgian authorities pretend to be friends with us `externally,’
however, `internally,’ they gradually destroy all Armenian cultural
values (in Georgia),’ says Samvel Muradyan, who has made a career of
studying Tumanyan’s literature. `But no matter how hard our brother
Georgians try, they would never manage to make Tumanyan’s memory
vanish from Tbilisi, since it was thanks to Tumanyan that literature
developed in this city.’
Head of Tbilisi’s Armenian Theater Armen Bayanduryan says something
different. He states that Armenian readers were not attending that
library for almost 25 years – a general trend that he blames on
`Besides, all libraries are optimized in Tbilisi. Currently there are
30, but soon they will be centralized in one library,’ says
He also mentioned that there were 380 Georgian and 400 Russian books
in the Tumnyan Library, while only 180 Armenian books there.
`I took the Armenian books and moved them to the library in the
Theater, which has 3,000 Armenian books,’ he says.
The delegation of the Foreign Minister of Georgia arrived in Armenia
last week; however, there were no talks about re-buying the library.
News of the library issue raised controversy in Yerevan mass media,
from which mis-information spread, including the erroneous report that
it had been Tumanyan’s private library that had been sold. (Meanwhile
his private library is in Armenia; hence it could not be sold in
Tbilisi.) Also there was a statement saying that the building
belonging to `Vernatun’ literature club, established in 1899, was
`Tumanyan rented `Vernatun”s building and lived there for a while,
but it was never his property. It was sold long ago, and a Georgian
woman currently lives there. And at the end of 2008 the apartment,
where Tumanyan lived during the last years of his life (1909-1923),
was sold,’ clarified Narine Tukhikyan, the director of the Tumanyan
museum in Yerevan.
`We woke up late, when it is impossible to do something. We lost the
only apartment which belonged to Tumanyan,’ she adds.
10. CREATION FRUSTRATION: ANIMATORS HAVE NO OUTLET FOR CARTOONS
Special to ArmeniaNow
Armenian animators, who created dozens of animation films for years,
no longer have commercial outlets for their creativity. Even though
more cartoons are created now as compared to the Soviet period, they
rarely make it off computers and into production, largely because
Armenian TV channels aren’t interested in buying new cartoons.
`Nobody is aware of those animation films created by private
animators, because later investors cannot make enough profit to cover
expenses,’ says Armenian animator Robert Sahakyants.
He says that depending on the software used, it costs from $50,000 to
$160,000 to produce a 4-5 minute cartoon.
`Before the films used to be shown at cinemas, on TVs, at the special
halls where we were discussing them with our audience,’ remembers
another animator, Gayane Martirosyan. She is the author of the puppet
cartoon based on Hovhannes Tumanyan’s `Stupid Man’ tale. This cartoon
was frequently shown on TV in the Soviet times.
National Cinema Center of Armenia is mainly in charge of cartoon
production. Since 2005, annually it gets 100 million drams (about
$330,000) from the State Budget for making cartoons.
Over the past five years the Cinema Center has turned out: `Sasuntsi
Davit’ (David of Sasun – eight episodes), `Road Taking Home’ (four
parts), `Dragon-carpet’ (three parts), `Time Machine,’ `Cocoon,’
`Mumi-Troll,’ `Aurora,’ `Bitlis,’ and others.
The heads of TV programs departments say that they know that there are
people in Armenia involved in animation films production and that is
all. Narine Hovhannisyan, head of the programs department at `Shant’
TV Company, heard for the first time that animations films for
children are being created in Armenia. She thinks that they probably
have either political or social nature.
`They should offer us their animation films, and if they have high
quality, and if we have enough money, we will buy them, why not,’ says
Nona Matevosyan, head of `Yerkir Media’ TV Company’s programs
`We offered signing a contract to broadcast our animation films to all
TV companies, yet currently we have contracts with only H1 (Armenian
Public Television), `Armen-Hakob,’ and `Hay TV.’ ),’ says Gevorg
Gevorgyan, head of Armenian National Cinema Center. `According to that
contract, they are to show our cartoons once-twice a year, and they
pay a symbolic 10,000-20,000 drams (about $30-60) for it.’
The only TV Company in Armenia specialized in broadcasting animation
films – `Hayrenik’ (Homeland) channel does not show Armenian cartoons
at all. Gevorgyan says that once he turned to the owners of that TV
Company, and asked to for help to finish the works on Arman Manaryan’s
`David of Sasun’ full-length animation film based on the Armenian
Epos, and later it would have an opportunity to show it free of
`We also turned to other individuals; however, none of them gave a
positive answer to our offer,’ says Gevorgyan.
This is the reason the creation of `David of Sasun’ lasted eight
years; 300 million drams (about $1 million) was spent on making it.
Currently the last touches on the animation film are being done.
`Any film, after being shot, has to participate in different festivals
for at least two years. That is why we are already consulting with
Russian producers famous in this sphere. We expect this cartoon to be
profitable,’ says Gevorgyan.
Another institution is also meant to be in charge of animation films
production – former `Hayfilm’ (Armenian film), currently it is called
`CS Films.’ They must shoot at least five animation films annually.
The `CS Films’ also has the copyright to use the cartoons produced by
`Hayfilm’ before 2005. Now some part of them is digitized and
broadcast only on `Armenia’ and `TV5′ TVs. And they do not even speak
about producing a new cartoon. Currently the above mentioned TV
companies shoot soap operas in the studios belonging to the former