RoA Corruption Should Be Eliminated.


The Armenian Observer
2 November2011

Prof. Osheen Keshishian

In his address in Beverly Hills, California, on September 25, 2011, on
the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the independence of Armenia,
President Serzh Sargsyan delivered a somewhat balanced speech to a
large crowd of Armenians and American officials.

After mentioning the difficult trek Armenia took to regain
independence, the President did not shy away by pointing out some of
the “bitterness” our Diaspora Armenians faced in Armenia. Quoting
him verbatim: “Many of our fellow Armenians have experienced the
enthusiasm of living and working in our Fatherland. Unfortunately,
some of them have experienced the bitterness of disappointment,
too….However, we must first of all openly and freely discuss the
reasons of bitterness.” Then he invited people for a dialogue on this
and other issues.

We have heard this before, and probably we will hear it again. The
President went on to point out, and I quote him. “Corruption, of
course, remains one of the greatest challenges, and we are continuing
to fight this phenomenon which was inherited from the Soviet era and
has gained shades in recent decades in virtually all walks if life,
from education to civil works, from social security to agriculture…I
do not even marginally doubt our ability to find the necessary
solutions. We have the will and the potential to do it. Thank you”.

But government statistics indicate that corruption has not diminished,
on the contrary, it has grown by leaps and bounds. (Read his remarks
one more time).

The major problem, I think, is more than that – in my view, it is
the lack of the application or enforcing the laws, starting from
officials to judges who are supposed to enforce the laws. This lack
of application of the rule of law by officials, including all phases
of justice, is rampant and no one (maybe a few) gets punished for
the injustices committed.

All this leads to corruption, monopoly, political pressure, poverty,
and particularly leads to emigration from the Fatherland. I have
written about it several times.

I don’t want to give names that have suffered great losses and have
lost their love for the Fatherland.

Just last week a Glendale, California resident, Oshin Peroomian, a
young and staunch nationalist and an educated man, moved to Armenia
with his family to live there. After going through the legal process to
defend his property and family, finally erupted and penned a lengthy
detailed article about the injustice committed against him, and
decided to go to the European Court to pursue justice. His article,
“Corruption in Armenia: Esti Hametsek” was published in several
newspapers and was placed on the internet, explaining in detail all
the horrors he went through. Just type his name and the article will
pop up. He is not the only one to burst in anger. Several months
ago, renowned philanthropist Vahakn Hovnanian complained about his
misfortunes and spoke out on television in Armenia about corruption
and particularly about the monopoly which raises prices on everything.

There are many more cases, business people losing hope and giving up.

There are people who will say “Well, there is corruption in other
countries too.” The President knows it well and said we should be
able to eliminate it.

Corruption breeds cronyism, specially monopoly, which leads people
to desperation because prices are controlled by a few, to say the
least, and automatically promotes high prices even for basic needs –
including food (e.g. a kilo of sugar doubled in price in two years,
bread and cheese similarly), without mentioning the basic needs of
a household, particularly heating, and the rates are exorbitant now
that winter is on the threshold, families are worried as to how they
will warm their homes.

Meanwhile the salaries remain the same, and if they are raised they
are raised so little that it would not make a difference. Unemployment
is getting higher and higher and thus poverty will be augmented. All
these lead people to thinking on leaving the country for greener
pastures – Russia seems to be the most enviable place because the
Russian government actually is promoting immigration into Russia
by providing jobs, homes, transportation and citizenship. Several
engineers from the Metsamor Nuclear Plant are working in other
countries for triple of their salaries.

The President, in his speech in Beverly Hills this year, spoke about
emigration and spoke very clearly and hoped that a remedy will be
found to stop or slow down the emigration.

Of course, these shortcomings in Armenia cannot be remedied overnight,
nor can they be eliminated entirely, but serious and planned efforts
should be undertaken by the government to alleviate a large percent
of these endemic problems. We need introspective thinking and powerful
medicine for the accurately diagnosed ills, otherwise rancor and anger
will be fostered. The President asked for open discussion and that’s
what we are doing. He suggested to work with the Diaspora on these
issues. All countries have similar problems (that’s not an excuse),
including the US, but the culprits are punished and changes are made.

Despite all these there are several positive improvements in Armenia.

Just to point out a few examples: external trade turnover during the
past nine months was $525.3 million, an increase of 26.7%; industrial
production was $740.8 million, an increase of 9.6%; agriculture growth
registered 18.6%; brandy production increased 17%; maternal mortality
is down; malaria is completely wiped out; Armenia is ahead of its
neighbors in the UN welfare ranking, and others too, but all these
do not justify the negative developments which are forcing people to
emi¬grate. These ills could be cured if we have the will and foresight
since we are living in a daunting period.

The President said, “I do not even marginally doubt our ability to
find the necessary solutions.”

We expect and hope that the new decade will show signs of improvements.

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