RFE/RL Armenian Report – 10/04/2018

                                        Thursday, 

Snap Elections Good For Armenian Economy, Says Tax Chief

        • Sargis Harutyunyan

Armenia - Davit Ananian, head of the State Revenue Committee, arrives for a 
news conference in Yerevan, 13 July 2018.

The Armenian economy will suffer if snap parliamentary elections sought by 
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian are delayed until next year, the head of the 
State Revenue Committee (SRC), Davit Ananian, said on Thursday.

“In places where the situation is not stable in the political sense business 
takes a back seat and waits to see what kind of political solutions there will 
be,” Ananian told reporters. “So the prime minister is definitely right.”

“The longer this wait-and-see situation persists, the worse for the country,” 
he said.

Vahagn Khachatrian, an economist affiliated with former President Levon 
Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) party, agreed. “Business loves 
stability,” Khachatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Pashinian began pushing for the holding of such elections in December 
immediately after his political alliance won municipal polls held in Yerevan on 
September 23. He has argued, among other things, that political uncertainty 
resulting from his team’s modest presence in the current Armenian parliament is 
hampering badly needed investments in the domestic economy.

The Republican (HHK) and Prosperous Armenia (BHK) parties, which control the 
two largest parliamentary factions, want the elections to be held in May. A 
senior BHK lawmaker on Monday challenged Pashinian to name those investors who 
are reluctant to expand or set up businesses in Armenia before the polls.

Meanwhile, Pashinian’s chief adviser, Arsen Gasparian, said on Thursday that 
“pre-term parliamentary elections have absolutely nothing to do with 
investors.” “Pre-term elections are first and foremost the people’s demand,” he 
said.

“In August and September many investors from various parts of the world visited 
my office,” Gasparian told reporters. “I must say that entrepreneurs regard the 
political changes that have occurred in Armenia as very positive.”




Moscow Encouraged By Armenian-Azeri Talks


RUSSIA – MOSCOW, AUGUST 3, 2018: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria 
Zakharova holds a weekly press briefing. Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

The Russian Foreign Ministry praised on Thursday the latest high-level contacts 
between Armenia and Azerbaijan aimed at reviving the Nagorno-Karabakh peace 
process.

“We welcome the positive trends that are apparent,” said the ministry 
spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova. “It is now important to build on them and not to 
harm them with careless rhetoric which has unfortunately happened lately.”

“From our part, we will provide necessary support to these positive trends,” 
Zakharova told a news briefing in Moscow.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev 
spoke with each other during a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States 
held in Tajikistan on September 28. Pashinian said afterwards that they agreed 
to stop ceasefire violations in the conflict zone which had intensified in 
recent weeks.

A top aide to Aliyev also gave a positive assessment of the conversation as 
well as a fresh meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers held 
in New York on September 26.

According to the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk 
Group, Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Elmar Mammadyarov “confirmed 
the importance of taking measures to intensify the negotiation process and to 
take additional steps to reduce tensions.”

“The Ministers agreed to meet again before the end of the year,” they said in a 
joint statement.

Pashinian and Aliyev were first introduced to each other by Russian President 
Vladimir Putin when they attended in June the opening ceremony of the 2018 
football World Cup hosted by Russia. They have held no formal negotiations yet.




Armenian Public Debt To Rise Further In 2019

        • Sisak Gabrielian

Armenia - Finance Minister Atom Janjughazian speaks at a news conference in 
Yerevan, 4 October 2018.

Armenia’s public debt will rise by about 3 percent to $7.3 billion next year, 
Finance Minister Atom Janjughazian said on Thursday.

Janjughazian downplayed the anticipated increase, saying that the debt will 
fall as a share of Gross Domestic Product. The debt-to-GDP ratio is projected 
at around 55 percent for this year.

In Janjughazian’s words, Armenia’s government and Central Bank will owe a total 
of $7.1 billion to mainly foreign creditors in December, up from almost $6.9 
billion in January 2018.

Their combined debt rose by $863.5 million in 2016 and by 832.5 million in 
2017. It totaled just $1.9 billion before the 2008-2009 global financial crisis 
that plunged the county into a severe recession.

Janjughazian defended the current government’s plans for more borrowing, saying 
that it is needed to finance the state budget deficit which is projected to 
fall to 2.2 percent of GDP in 2019. “We borrow not to take care of our current 
expenditures or to please a part of the society but to create more output which 
can generate new capacities,” he told a news conference.

“When we say that we are going to borrow that creates the impression that we 
are making the situation worse,” complained the minister. He insisted that the 
situation will actually improve because the debt burden will ease in relative 
terms next year.

The draft state budget for 2019 approved by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s 
cabinet last week sets aside 85 billion drams ($176 million) for debt 
servicing. The sum is equivalent to roughly 5 percent of overall budgetary 
expenditures planned by the government.




Three New Armenian Ministers Appointed


Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian arrives for a cabinet meeting in 
Yerevan, 4 October 2018.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Thursday replaced three of the six government 
ministers fired by him following the collapse of his power-sharing agreements 
with the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun parties.

Pashinian announced the sackings on Tuesday as he accused the BHK and 
Dashnaktsutyun of cooperating with Serzh Sarkisian’s Republicans (HHK) in 
trying to prevent fresh parliamentary elections in Armenia.

Both parties denied the accusations, saying that they only want the elections 
to be held next year, rather than in December, as is demanded by Pashinian. 
Dashnaktsutyun said it itself has decided to withdraw from the de facto ruling 
coalition formed after Pashinian came to power in May in a wave of mass 
protests.

Dashnaktsutyun was represented in the government by two ministers, while the 
BHK had four ministerial posts. Six provincial governors affiliated with these 
parties were also dismissed.

In separate decrees, President Armen Sarkissian formalized the appointment of 
the new ministers of energy, transport and emergency situations handpicked by 
Pashinian. Their predecessors represented the BHK.

The newly appointed Emergency Situations Minister Felix Tsolakian held senior 
positions in the administrations of former Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and 
Robert Kocharian. A former KGB officer, Tsolakian served as a deputy director 
of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) from 2007-2013 after heading the 
national tax service from 2003-2007. He governed the northwestern Shirak 
province before being elected to the parliament on the HHK ticket in 2017.

Tsolakian, 66, broke ranks to vote for Pashinian’s becoming prime minister in 
May. He went on to leave Sarkisian’s party.

Hakob Arshakian, a 33-year-old member of Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, was 
named to run the Armenian Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information 
Technology. Arshakian served as first deputy minister of transport until now.

The post of energy minister was given to Garegin Baghramian, a 41-year-old 
technocrat not affiliated with any party. He worked as deputy minister before 
the appointment.

“I want to thank the former ministers for their cooperation,” Pashinian said at 
a cabinet meeting held earlier in the day. “The staff changes were made in view 
of the known political events, and I want to wish all of our colleagues 
success.”




Press Review



“Zhoghovurd” reports that President Armen Sarkissian may not sign a 
controversial bill adopted by the Armenian parliament on Monday into law. In 
that case, Sarkissian will have to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the 
bill’s conformity with the Armenian constitution. An article of the 
constitution gives the parliament two weeks to elect a new prime minister in 
case of the current premier’s resignation. The bill says the two-week period 
must not cover possible disruptions of parliament sessions by protesters. The 
paper suggests that the Constitutional Court could validate the bill not least 
because its members were appointed by the former authorities.

“The National Assembly must be dissolved,” writes “Aravot.” “We need a new 
parliament. The sooner the better. That [new] National Assembly will not 
necessarily have more decent, let alone more competent, members. But the new 
parliament will be trusted by the majority of Armenia’s citizens, at least 
during the first one or two years of its tenure. And that is extremely 
necessary for Armenia. Besides, this uncertain period will come to an end, 
which will allow our state to address pressing internal and external issues.” 
The paper says that the current parliamentary majority will not dare to appoint 
a new prime minister in the event of Nikol Pashinian’s tactical resignation.

“Zhamanak” criticizes the leading parliamentary forces -- the Republican Party 
(HHK), Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun -- for saying that the 
elections must be held in May. The paper dismisses their arguments that 
political groups need more time to properly prepare for the polls. “A force not 
prepared for elections in December will not be prepared in May either,” it 
says. “In essence, a few more months [of preparation] would change nothing in 
terms of the readiness of political forces or their competitiveness. These 
objections are only designed to win time.”

(Lilit Harutiunian)

Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2018 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS