THE PLUNDER OF THE ARMENIAN HOMELAND
54 mins ago 28/08/15
The Karen Demirchian sports complex was recently privatized
BY HRANT APOVIAN
"When Alexander the Great wished to build a city that should serve
as a monument to his glory, his architect Dinocrates, pointed out to
him how he could build a city on Mount Athos, which place he said,
besides being very strong, could be so arranged as to give the city the
appearance of the greatness of its founder. Alexander having asked him
what the inhabitants were to live upon, he replied, "That I have not
thought of"; at which Alexander smiled, and, leaving Mount Athos as
it was, he built Alexandria, where the inhabitants would be glad to
remain on account of the richness of the country and the advantages
which the proximity of the Nile and the sea afforded them."
The plunder began with the advent of the second Republic of Armenia.
During the presidency of Levon Ter-Petrossian, entire factories were
sold, including land, structures and equipment - built during the
Soviet era - to private individuals for far less than the land value
alone. The buyers in turn sold the machinery and equipment for scrap
to neighboring countries. Thus, began the looting. Thus was terminated
all manufacturing, creating massive unemployment.
While the appetite for bargain buying did not subside, cash strapped
and unscrupulous subsequent administrations continued the "garage
sale." Historic buildings, entire hospitals - land, building and
equipment included - were sold off for pennies on the dollar. In some
instances, the buyer was exempt from repaying the debt owed by the
sold hospital. The list of divested rights, property, and national
resources and treasure is extensive; and unfortunately, the depletion
of national treasures continues unabated.
Everything was up for sale. Nothing was sacred:
- Historic buildings
- Mineral rights
- Telephone and mobile phone networks
- All energy sources
The plunder continues unabated over the last two decades. The proceeds
are not necessarily reinvested in the homeland. Foreign investment
is discouraged if not eliminated, monopolies are rampant and free
competition is frowned upon. This vicious cycle is what is wrong
with Armenia: it is what leads to the creation of "oligarchs," why
foreigners do not invest in Armenia, why and how so much foreign debt
was accumulated, why citizens of Armenia can't find local employment
and ultimately why is there massive emigration. Sadly, the oligarchs
are not yet done usurping the populace.
The latest scandal is the unfortunate saga of the Karen Demirchyan
Sports Complex or "Hamalir," as its commonly known. This ongoing saga
represents the demise of a colossal undertaking that was accomplished
by Karen Demirchian and his generation, who made countless sacrifices,
took astute maneuvering with the Soviet Government, and garnered
the help of dedicated and talented architects, construction experts
and sculptors. The project was the result of Armenian ingenuity,
innovation, persistence and a labor of love dedicated to the citizens
of the homeland.
This structure, the supposed pride of Armenia that was built at the
cost of so much sacrifice in 1983 for 35 million rubles, was first
sold in 2005 to the Moscow based construction company BAMO. It was
subsequently resold for 30 million dollars to an unknown private
investor. The buyer is apparently intent on converting it to an
entertainment center and casino. Some opposition and prominent public
figures have denounced the deal, especially because of its proximity
to the genocide monument.
According to architect Kourken Mousheghian, the sports complex was
built in proximity to the Genocide memorial as a symbol of rebirth
and he cannot imagine any changes to this historic structure. The
widow of the late Karen Demirchian came out against the conversion
and asked that her husband's name be taken off. Armenian intellectuals
also came out strongly against the proposed project.
In an article entitled "The Gradual Demise of Our Collective Memory,"
Garo Armenian laments that "[o]ne after another, everything that
rightfully belongs to our collective heritage is put up for auction
by a pathetic class of elites who are in control of our destiny." He
cites the example of the Historic House of the First Republic that
was turned into a pizza parlor.
Another ongoing fiasco is Air Armenia. Majority shareholder Arsen
Avedisian was reportedly assaulted and severely beaten by the president
of the football federation of Armenia, Ruben Hayrapetyan.
Armenia's Prosecutor General's office announced Tuesday that no
charges would be brought against him. This is not the first time; Mr.
Hairapetyan's bodyguards severely beat three army medics killing one
of them with complete impunity to Mr. Hairapetyan. The incident raises
questions as to the efforts to reorganize and revive Air Armenia. This
kind of attempt at intimidation may jeopardize the emergency infusion
of 68 million dollars by the East Prospect Fund, a Ukraine based
investment group, who is poised to re-invest in Air Armenia.
With the over-dependence and reliance on big brother Russia, energy
is yet another area of contention. The head of the Solar Technology
lab, Jozef Panosyan, has accused Armenian authorities of impeding
the development of solar energy in the country without elaborating
on the reasons why. The advent of solar energy would clear the way
towards energy independence for Armenia, but would be detrimental to
the energy monopoly.
It is a sad commentary on the state and the future of the Armenian
homeland. When does the looting of national treasures stop? When do
the pilferers and abusers of the system quench their thirst for what
truly belongs to the people of Armenia?
There was a time when revolutionary organizations knew how to stop
those who usurp the people. The movement against a hike in electricity
rates was a sign that the young generation is still attached to the
homeland. Theirs was an attempt to reclaim what rightfully belongs
to the people. Maybe all hope is not lost. However, only proper
organization, push back and popular uprising can stop the endless
looting by oligarchs and government officials.
CORRUPTION IN ARMENIA IS OF SYSTEMIC NATURE, OSCE YEREVAN OFFICE HEAD
Posted 29 August 2015 - 10:04 AM
THE PLUNDER OF THE ARMENIAN HOMELAND
Posted 28 September 2015 - 09:50 AM
Armenia's Oligarchy's Corrupting Influence on the Diaspora
Dr. Berge A. Minassian, Armenian Renaissance, Toronto, 16 September 2015
In my last essay (`Debate and Decision', Keghart, August 9, 2015), I
asked whether there is any good reason to select oligarchy as our
system of governance of Armenia. The only valid reason I had heard
was that Russia itself is oligarchic, and would not countenance a
democratic Armenia in its fold. I went on to make the case that while
this may be a valid argument it is wrong. The comments in response to
my article agreed on this point. The bottom line is that it is time
to decide to reject the system we have and move into the modern world.
A much more expert economist than me, Prof. Daron Acemoglu, uses the
more precise terms of `extractive' for `oligarchic' and `inclusive'
for `democratic'. Another term he expounds on in fantastic detail in
his ground-breaking book `Why Nations Fail' is `creative destruction'.
The latter describes one of the processes through which stagnant
countries with extractive rule, break out into modernity and success
with some new invention or approach that destroys the hold by the old
oligarchy on the economic levers of the country.
A classic example of an aborted attempt at creative destruction that
Acemoglu recounts is presentation by a modest Englishman to Queen
Elizabeth I, of a machine that would automate weaving. Despite her
many otherwise enlightened decisions (her reign established England's
Renaissance), in this case she refused to give the inventor a patent,
because such a machine would be too revolutionary and would destroy
the English nobility's hold on power. Here I explore whether the
leadership of the Armenian Diaspora is `inclusive' and whether
processes such as `creative destruction' are possible in the Diaspora.
If not impossible, it is extremely difficult to imagine a
democratization of the Diaspora because of the ever-presence of the
`opt-out' option. Unlike a Diaspora a country can be likened to a
group of friends in a sailing boat in the middle of the sea. One way
or another they have to agree on which way to direct the boat. They
have to go together and do not have the option of each going his own
way. If they decide to do it democratically, the majority's direction
will be adopted, for better or worse, but at least the boat will move.
In the Diaspora, each person or group has historically gone its own
way, because they can. It is unlikely that this behavior will change,
because the opt-out option will always be there. The space of this
essay does not allow a full elaboration of the many other reasons why
a democratic Diaspora is extremely difficult to achieve, not the least
of which is the definition of who is Armenian. Let us take today's
Diaspora in Canada as a snapshot of the history of the Diaspora. Who
are the leaders of the Diaspora?
1) The Church. It derives its power from God and is certainly not
`inclusive', i.e. its decisions are not based on a majority of the
people's will. The church is a classic example of how `creative
destruction' fails in a non-democratic structure. In the two arms of
the Armenian Apostolic Church there is not a single disagreement on
doctrine or dogma, yet the church is unable to unify, even though this
is the wish of the great majority of Armenians. Unification would be
`creative destruction' of the powers of the clerical leaders (the
ruling catholicoi and bishops) who would have to relinquish power.
They thus resist, and because they have the opt-out option, remain
divided. The situation is compounded by the direct participation of
the leadership of the Armenia based church in the extractive oligarchy
ruling Armenia. That oligarchy, like all nobility, fights to
perpetuate itself. With the church leadership in its fold, the
oligarchy directs the church to behave in such a way as to confer to
it `divine' support. Like all nobility, the oligarchy abhors creative
destruction, including reunification of the mother church of the
Armenians. Incidentally, the Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia
recently called Mr. Gagik Tsarukyan, the Armenian oligarch par
excellence the `sun', because the latter donated $ 500,000 to the See
and to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). How can the
catholicos not know where this money comes from, and how can he in
future call the `sun' a lost sheep?
2) The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). The organization is
not inclusive in its decision-making. Usually, one has to belong to
the financial elite to join its leadership. Being non-inclusive, AGBU
chapters derive, ostensibly, legitimacy from the oligarchy in Armenia,
including the church. They revel in medals from the extractive
regime, and thus have their official mouths sealed from criticizing
the regime. This does not mean that the AGBU, or any of the four
groups in this list, does not do good. I am simply pointing out the
non-democratic nature of the leadership of the Diaspora and the
resultant unholy and unhealthy alliances that organically rise in
3) The All-Armenian Fund. The head of this organization is the
president of the country and the head of the ruling oligarchy. The
other board members include church leaders (non-inclusive), AGBU
(non-inclusive), political parties (non-inclusive) and famous
personalities. There need not be any further discussion of
inclusiveness in this arm of the leadership of the Diaspora, since it
is in fact headed by the non-inclusive extractive regime ruling the
4) The ARF ` While the ARF has internal democratic modes of election,
it also has democracy-quashing powers in its echelons all the way to
the top. Local leaders can evict from the party anyone they wish. As
a result, the Toronto ARF, for example, has been led by the same
family, relatives and friends for decades. Likewise, the ARF bureau
voids any local election or decisions it does not like. As such, the
bureau, based in Yerevan, has absolute power on the ARF in the
Diaspora. The bureau is near-totally in line with the ruling regime
in Armenia on all important issues, except the erstwhile protocols
signed with Turkey. The ARF was a regime partner until recently, and
when they left that coalition still accepted important ambassadorial
posts, and today are the chief supporters of the constitutional
changes devised by the regime to perpetuate its rule. The ARF, which
has a massive influence in the Diaspora, is generally silent on the
misrule in Armenia. It stood by the regime during the March 1, 2008
massacre and obtained a number of ministerial rewards, and more
recently openly called for imprisonment of civic activists. Finally,
major ARF figures in Armenia are part and parcel of the oligarchy.
Space does not allow further elaboration, but any serious
retrospective of the last decade clearly shows that the ARF
essentially toes the regime line.
Returning to the main topic of Diasporan governance, a very recent
case highlights the damaging consequences of non-inclusionary,
non-accountable leadership. One of the authors of policy and platform
initiatives for the Liberal party of Canada, Mr. Viken Attarian,
presented himself for investiture in his riding, the first step
towards participating in the present federal elections. Mr. Attarian
is well known in the community as one of its greatest thinkers, and a
person of unimpeachable integrity and abilities. The ARF worked
tirelessly to ensure the defeat of Attarian. The story is long
(`Montreal Armenian Disunity the Big Winner', August 23, 2015) but the
downstream effects were also the loss of two other Armenians' strong
chances of occupying seats potentially in the governing party of
Canada. While one cannot know directly why the ARF was so worried
about Attarian in parliament, four facts are clear. He would have
been a leader of the trio of Armenian parliamentarians. He had in the
past criticized the ARF for actions he did not consider right (as he
had other parties). He would most certainly have worked to do what
could be done from Canada to bend rule in Armenia towards inclusive
governance. Finally, he would have quite possibly reached the highest
places of power in Canadian government, including even foreign
ministerial position. The ARF's relentless attack to prevent a
uniquely qualified Armenian from reaching Canadian government position
is another typical example of the age-old dread that non-inclusive
leaderships have of creative destruction.
I wish those who would like to democratize the Diaspora well, of
course, but I consider that task of Sisyphean difficulty, in
particular because of the inextricability of the opt-out option from
the nature of Diaspora. On the other hand, it is eminently possible
to transform the governance of Armenia. Acemoglu's sweeping
historical review in `Why Nations Fail' shows example after example of
how this happened elsewhere and how countries move from stagnation and
failure to success and thriving, or vice versa. I suggest that saving
the motherland is priority, is doable, and will be supremely
consequential on the future of the Diaspora. Imagine a day when the
hands from Armenia meddling in the Diaspora are not wily ones of those
wishing -at all cost- to preserve and expand personal power and
wealth, but the honest, firm and gentle hands of the genuine Armenian
people shaping the only future there is for the Armenian nation.
Posted 19 November 2015 - 11:00 AM
INFURIATED CITIZEN TELLS ARMENIAN PRESIDENT TO 'CHANGE YOURSELF, NOT THE CONSTITUTION'
11.18.2015 13:09 epress.am
On Wednesday morning an elderly man blocked Armenian President Serzh
Sargsyan's car in front of his mansion in Yerevan, demanding Sargsyan
speak with him.
A video published by Aravot.am shows the man telling the president
that "courts do not function properly in Armenia," to which Sargsyan
responds, "Perhaps." When the annoyed citizen asks, "What do you mean -
'perhaps'," Sargsyan says "the Constitution is currently being changed
so that the courts would function."
"You should change yourself, not the Constitution! Half of my family
has fled [the country]; what should I do? Do you want to turn us into
terrorists? [...] I have nothing to lose," the man says.
Serzh Sargsyan got into his car and drove away, while law enforcement
officers tried to calm the indignant man down. "How can I calm down?
[...] They have stolen my country!"
Posted 23 November 2015 - 11:34 AM
`Hayastan' All-Armenian Fund Executive Director Confesses to Fund and
November 22, 2015 Add comments
Sarkis Kotanjian, Executive Director `Hayastan' All-Armenian Fund
(interviewed on Horizon TV, 2011)
`You know, all kinds of things have occurred in the Fund's history.
Again, very frankly, openly I'm talking to you: they've stolen money,
eaten it, and what not. It has happened,' confessed Sarkis Kotanjian,
Executive Director of `Hayastan' All-Armenian Fund U.S. Western
Region, in a private conversation, which took place at a restaurant in
Glendale, on December 17, 2010, and which I have decided to publicize
today, on November 22, 2015.
Before or after making statements that exposed his own lies carefully
manufactured to misguide public opinion, this high-ranking Armenia
Fund official was repeatedly asking me not to publicize the content of
our conversation. `I know that your heart is good. If I knew that you
werejust bashing the Fund just for bashing, I wouldn't meet with you,'
he said to me.
Mr. Kotanjian admitted that the quality of road construction
undertaken by the Fund is subpar: `For example, if you dig the
Yerevan-Sevan highway, removing the asphalt, you'll find concrete
underneath. That's called a first class road. Those roads, which we
build in Armenia or Karabakh are not first class. There's no concrete
About Armenia's government officials and illegitimate President Serzh
Sargsyan, who form the majority of the Presidium of `Hayastan'
All-Armenian Fund, Mr. Kotanjian had the following to say: `All of
these guys, Ara, keep pocketing, like there's no tomorrow.' He also
passionately shared with me his vision of the savior-president: `It's
gonna be a guy with balls. We're talking about BALLS. The only thing
that is needed is a guy with BALLS, who will come and say: `Fuck your
mothers, have pity on our people. As much as you've eaten¦ Enough is
I still chose to honor his multiple requests of privacy even after he
fiercely opposed to my suggestion that he should tell these truths
publicly as a way of building trust. `For me, as a Fund official, [¦]
Are you fucking kidding me?' he told me in response. Nevertheless, I
hoped that one day Mr. Kotanjian himself would eventually realize the
importance of honesty. I hoped he would take steps or start a movement
to separate the Fund from the corrupt government, about which he said:
`But look, we know how the government has fucked up.'
During the past 5 years, not only did Mr. Kotanjian fail to tell the
people the truth, but also continued using lies, white-washing, and
fake identities to mislead hundreds of thousands of people into
trusting his organization and donating millions of dollars to it.
Moreover, Mr. Kotanjian did not hesitate to launch a smear campaign
against me. He started off by creating a fake online identity named
`Pahakazor' to invalidate the facts presented in `To Donate or Not to
Donate,' a white paper on `Hayastan' All-Armenian Fund. `Thus assuming
a fake identity, Sarkis Kotanjian was praising and promoting the Fund
by giving false testimony,' says my report on Mr. Kotanjian's foiled
Secondly, he defamed me publicly claiming that anything written in the
mentioned white paper is a lie. `The thing is that this paper, one
could say, is completely based on newspapers, which are strictly
oppositional; their publications, which have no facts,' he said during
a live interview on Horizon TV in Glendale, CA. His comments were
preceded by the Fund's Executive Director Ara Vardanyan's following
statement: `We have studied the material quite seriously. The report
is based entirely on inaccurate information, which has nothing to do
with the All-Armenian Fund at all. [¦] There was absolutely no truth
regarding the All-Armenian Fund.'
Thirdly, Mr. Kotanjian and his boss, Mr. Vardanyan, broke their
promise to have a live TV debate with me about the Fund's activities.
The worst attempt to prevent me from disseminating the truth about the
Fund occurred on November 24, 2013, when persons connected to the
Fund's leadership tried to have me arrested in Glendale on false
charges of threatening an Artsakh government official (details at
Human Rights Activist Threatened By Persons Claiming To Be Sheriff's
Mr. Kotanjan has abused my promise to honor his appeals for privacy
with his actions. I believe it is better to honor the hundreds of
thousands of donors' rights to information than the dishonesty of a
single hypocrite who seeks to profit from their ignorance. Thus, I
present the full transcript of my conversation with Mr. Kotanjian.
(See the appendix #13 in the latest edition of `To Donate or Not to
Donate,' on page 124).
Ara K. Manoogian is a human rights activist; a Fellow of the
Washington-based Policy Forum Armenia (PFA); creator of
www.thetruthmustbetold.com; author of the white paper `To Donate Or
Not to Donate,' an in-depth study on the activities of the `Hayastan'
Posted 15 December 2015 - 03:10 PM
How about complete transparency from both ends, projects in Armenia and the fund managements with little management fees.
TWO HITS IN SEVEN DAYS
Editorial, 15 December 2015
The last week of November was seven dismal days for Armenians and two
of their top charities. The United Armenian Fund (UAF), which has sent,
since its inception, some $720 million worth of assistance to Armenia
and to Artsakh, announced that it had shuttered its operations. A
week earlier, the All-Armenia Telethon had announced that it had
raised $10,378,000--the lowest amount since 2005 and a far cry from
the glory days of 2011 ($31,000,000) and 2008 ($35,000,000).
The UAF board of directors stated that it would concentrate its
efforts on other projects in Armenia and in the Diaspora. It's an open
secret that the death of long-time philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian and
the winding down of his Lincey Foundation would severely impact the
UAF. The board is composed of representatives from the Armenian General
Benevolent Union, the Armenian Missionary Association of America,
Armenian Relief Society, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America,
and the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.
We will address the UAF demise at a later date.
The steady decline of moneys contributed to the All-Armenia Fund,
the charity which has raised somewhere between $250 million to
$300 million, is a painful fact. It deserves the attention of every
Why the sharp decline in the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund contributions?
The reasons cited by pro and con fund sources are various. Pro-fund
people point out that in its heyday almost one-third of the
contributions came from a small group of wealthy Armenians in Russia.
The severe economic downturn in that country has almost dried up that
important source of contribution. As well, some traditional sources
have switched their attention to the Armenians of Syria. Several
individuals who have been major supporters of the fund have passed
away in recent years. A fourth explanation is that the first generation
of immigrants was more involved in Armenian affairs and supported the
fund. Their assimilated or partly-assimilated progeny do not have the
same closeness or commitment to the nation. Finally, when Armenia and
Artsakh became independent and Armenians were resisting Azeri attacks
there was an enhanced spirit of patriotism. Some people have since
become blasÃ© about Armenia and Artsakh while others don't know of
a time when there was no independent Armenia.
All-Armenia Fund critics put the largest blame in the decline of
the contributions on the close links the fund has with the corrupt
Republic of Armenia government. Whether the RoA was headed by Levon
Ter-Petrossian, Robert Kocharian or Serge Sargsyan, the government
and its cronies have dipped their fingers into the fund till,
critics allege. In addition, they say, there has been mismanagement
and incompetence (for example, badly-constructed buildings which
required repairs a few years after they were built).
Ara Manoogian, a vociferous critic of the fund, reports that in
2010 fund Executive Director Sarkis Kotanjian admitted to him, in a
taped conversation, that the fund reeked to high heaven. According to
activist and gadfly Manoogian, Kotanjian said: "You know all kinds
of things have occurred in the fund's history. Again, very frankly,
openly I'm talking to you: they've stolen money, eaten it, and what
not. It has happened."
Critics have accused the fund of having a high overhead. While
individual "chapters" have been scrupulous about administrative
expenses (the Toronto branch has no payroll, no rent, no printing
expenses for its newsletter and no travel expense), the Armenia head
office hasn't been as responsible. There have been scandals going
back to the Ter-Petrossian regime.
Some diehard supporters of Sargsyan claim the big contributions of
Moscow Armenians were partly due to Sargsyan's lobbying and attendance
at the annual dinner where huge sums of money were raised. Some
supporters also say that the money raised by the fund is so miniscule
(1% of RoA's budget) that regime's hangers-on wouldn't consider it
worth fleecing. A weak argument, but nonetheless part of the give
Armenians are ever-ready to raise their voice about how much they love
their nation and their homeland, but most of them fail to put their
money where their mouth is when it comes to helping Armenian causes.
"Let Kirk Kerkorian do it... let the AGBU donate...they have
millions" they huff and puff while paying big monthly fees for their
indispensable Netflix membership and for wasteful luxuries. They don't
think twice about coughing up $50,000 for a BMW SUV or a high-end
Toyota but flinch at donating a few hundred dollars a year to their
brothers and sisters who are living in terrible conditions and face
daily attacks from the enemy.
There are about 3.5 million Armenians, not counting those living in
Armenia, Artsakh, and Russia. If we divide 3.5 million by the average
four members per family, we get 875,000 families. How much did these
875,000 families raise before the Armenians of Moscow began to pitch
in and before people began asking questions about the management of
the fund? A grand total of $7,700,000! You do the math as to how much
that is per family. You do the math as to how much is that per 3.5
And year after year--to add to the shame--it's the same people who
donate. While Toronto is one of the lucky communities (its dollar
numbers have grown substantially in the last five year), it's the same
individuals who continue to donate year after year. The pattern is
the same across the globe: of the 875,000 families it's only 25,000
families who bother to help their impoverished brethren in Armenia
and in Artsakh.
There was a time when critics questioned the organization's audits.
It's safe to say that the audit is no longer an issue: Hayastan
All-Armenia Fund Yerevan (the head office) financial audit is done by
the well-known firm of Grant Thornton and a physical audit of its home
page is performed by an independent engineering company in Yerevan.
Representatives of the latter go to every major project site while
they are under construction. A third audit--internal--is done by Ara
Aslan of Nice.
Migirdic Migirdicyan, the founding chair of Hayastan Foundation
Toronto, says: "We have no choice but to increase the standard
of living of the Hayasdan and Artsakh by building humanitarian
infrastructure so that they can have a normal life and stay on their
ancestral lands. After all, it is those villagers' children who
are defending our lands." Migirdic's dedication is understandable
and admirable but his argument has so far failed to impress most
Assuming the above reasons as to why there has been a sharp decline
in the donations are valid... assuming that the auditors are on the
ball... and assuming that the thieves of Yerevan have in recent
years failed to shave the donations... Where does that leave the
All-Armenia Fund? What will be its future? Will next year's telethon
contributions continue to go south? To point out that 3 to 4 million
Diaspora Armenians managed to raise no more than $10 million dollars
must make the ghosts of Gulbenkian, Manoogian, and Kerkorian wonder as
to why they bothered to help their nation in the first place. Another
fact is that many Diasporans have attended heavily-subsidized Armenian
schools. They have received elementary and even secondary school
education because the Gulbenkians and the Manoogians of this world,
in addition to individual Armenians, donated to the Armenian schools
in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus, etc. Do the graduates of these
subsidized schools remember the times when their principal waited
anxiously for that much-needed check to arrive from New York or Lisbon?
To reverse the decline in donations, the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund
leaders should come up ASAP with a new game plan. The current situation
is untenable. If the fund maintains its current vector, it risks
becoming irrelevant. Considering the dire need for increased donations
and considering the millions of Armenians who live comfortably in
the west, it should not be difficult for the fund executives to come
up with a new battle plan, a new approach that will resonate with
the Diaspora public. The old ways aren't working. The need in our
homeland is urgent.
Let's not waste our time listening to excuse seekers. There will always
be people who will find an excuse not to open their purse. They will
talk about the depressed economy, the cost of filling their giant
SUV's gas tank, the high cost of macchiato. The Armenian language has
a ringing slap for them: "We saw you in the summer and we saw you in
the winter" (Kezee amarn al dessank tsmern al dessank). We honor them
when we call them Armenian.
Posted 19 March 2016 - 11:37 AM
OPPORTUNISM SEEMINGLY PAYS OFF
Editorial, 15 March 2015
For seventy years the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) had
as one of the main pillars of its policies opposition to the Soviet
Union and the Soviet regime inArmenia. The rousing "Armenia befits
Tashnagtsoutune" (Lepo Lele...Lepo Lele... Kachutyunuh...
Hayoutyunuh... Hayasdanuh Tashnagtsoutyan guh vayleh) song was for
decades a sure-fire hit at party celebrations. Thus when Armenia
became independent the ARF rushed to Armenia to claim its place in
the political arena there. Citizens of Armenia, who had chaffed under
the Soviet rule and some had admired from afar the ARF's unflinching
opposition to the Soviets, welcomed the party--an organization which
was also the strongest political entity in the Diaspora. But since
its return to Armenia the party has had a chequered history there. It
has also disappointed some Diaspora party members who had expected a
more robust support from the citizens and politicians of the homeland.
Not only the ARF failed to become a leading party in the Third
Republic, but it was even banned for a spell (1994) by the country's
first president. And for good measure, President Levon Ter-Petrosyan
jailed several of the party's leaders. The second president, Robert
Kocharyan, restored (1998) ARF's legitimacy with some aplomb. The
third president, Serzh Sargsyan, also clashed with the ARF mostly
because of the latter's opposition to the notorious Protocols which
were foisted upon Armenia and Turkey by Washington. The ARF eventually
pulled out of the Sargsyan coalition (2009) to protest the government's
rapprochement with Genocide-denying Ankara. Although he continued to
support the Protocols, Sargsyan eventually shelved them because the
Turkish parliament had nixed the US-initiated plan.
Several years ago, pretending that it believed Sargsyan had buried
the Protocols for good, the ARF in Armenia began to develop ties with
the Sargsyan government. Although it refused to join the coalition,
for all intents and purposes the ARF supported the government on
most issues. Sargsyan showed his appreciation by appointing several
ARF personalities to senior diplomatic posts. Last October the party
also supported the Sargsyan plan to change the constitution from a
presidential to parliamentary system. To firm up the unsaid alliance
with Sargsyan, last month the ARF cut a power-sharing deal with
Sargsyan's Republican Party. ARF leader Armen Rustamyan described
the agreement as "a long-term vision on cooperation" between the
In announcing the party's alliance with Sargsyan, Rustamyan said the
development would improve the state of affairs in the country. "In
this situation, we can see that the authorities are discredited, but
their being discredited is a problem for all of us, isn't it? We are
looking to change the quality, approach and policies of the government
and to charge this situation in the country," said the ARF spokesman.
A tall order indeed for a party that holds a measly 5 seats in the
131-member National Assembly.
As a pre-emptive move against the critics of the alliance, Rustamyan
acknowledged that the move would be unpopular among a significant
segment of the electorate. "Naturally being part of the government
automatically means losing your approval ratings," he said. And
sounding like Cassandra, he mysteriously intoned: "But it's better for
us to pay this price than for the whole nation to lose the state." He
added that the ARF was going to pay the price [of unpopularity] but
as a result of the entente "we are also going to have a much better
Armenia." He didn't explain how his tiny party's cooperation with
Sargsyan would result in a much better Armenia.
Soon after Rustamyan's announcement came the news (surprise,
surprise!) that three ARF members (Levon Mkrtchyan, Davit Lokyan,
and Artsvik Minasyan), who had respectively served as ministers of
education, territorial administration, and economy in the '90s and the
early 2000s) would return to their former positions. Two governorships
(Shirak and Ashotyan) were also slated for ARF representatives. It
was obvious that the party was being rewarded for cooperating with
Sargsyan. But what shocked observers was the return of the discredited
Mkrtchyan and Lokyan to power. It's a mystery why the ARF would back
the two corrupt and reviled politicians. Is the party that thin on the
ground? Why the 'business as usual' cynical stance from a party which
had just announced that its presence in the government would improve
the life of Armenia citizens and ensure the Sargsyan government duly
implements the new constitution?
The ARF has never managed to obtain more than 13.14% (2007) of the
votes in any Armenia election. With fewer than 4% of the seats in
the current National Assembly it's not a player. So why does Sargsyan
bother with the party? Is ARF Armenia being admitted to the halls of
power because Sargsyan is indirectly courting the Diaspora ARF--the
most effective Armenian organization in the Diaspora and the spearhead
of the opposition to Sargsyan's misguided Protocols?
Foxy Sargsyan might have even a more devious plan: Knowing that
relations between the Diaspora ARF and ARF Armenia leave room for
improvement, he could have embraced Armenia ARF as a ploy to decrease
the power of the party's Diaspora wing. So if next time the Diaspora
ARF opposes his policies an accommodating ARF Armenia would deflate
Diaspora ARF's clout by siding with Sargsyan? A case of divide and
Sargsyan is playing ARF Armenia like a virtuoso pianist tinkling the
ivories. Meanwhile, the opportunistic leaders of ARF Armenia are happy
to benefit from the Sargsyan largess, damn integrity, not to mention
ideology. For the right price, "socialist" ARF Armenia leaders are
happy to slide into bed with the jungle capitalists and treacherous
oligarchs who are plundering the homeland of the Armenians.
Posted 06 May 2016 - 10:56 AM
Unpunished "odometric" fraud as source of wealth of Armenian security forces
by David Stepanyan
Friday, May 6, 17:34
The officials of various Armenian structures, including the security ones, considerably increase their personal income due to the growing number of official cars.
According to ArmInfo's source in one of the security structures of Armenia, the key beneficiaries of the "odometric" swindle are the state officials. "Such a situation in our structure has been observed for years. But now that our soldiers on the frontline are deprived of the most primitive personal hygiene means, it is no longer possible to keep silence," the source says on condition of anonymity.
Under such an unsophisticated scheme, the officials and generals take huge budget sums for the petroleum, which is never used, and for technical maintenance, which is never conducted. The final act of the swindle of some high-ranking officials is the sale of an almost new car with a drive of allegedly several hundred thousand kilometers by "public" auction to a relative or a stalking horse for a few thousand dollars. After that, the structure acquires a new car at the expense of public funds and the scheme is repeated once again.
By ArmInfo's information, some ministries regularly send the official cars for "a software update" of the drive. The Armenian brains of programming spend a minute on increasing the drive by up to 50,000 km. The officials of the Armenian Defense Ministry also work under that scheme, however, their appetites are not so big. The drive of the Ministry's official cars worth hundreds of thousand USD is increased by 5000, 10000 or 15000 km at one go. Sometimes it happens twice a month.
To note, many handymen in Yerevan can change the odometer data. Moreover, one has to have a pull to do so, given that such activities are illegal and criminally liable in many countries.
Given that the changes of the odometer data are registered nowhere, it is impossible to learn the precise number of official cars involved in such fraud. One can only say that there are 1,072 official cars in Armenia and the annual damage from such a fraud amounts to billions of drams.
Posted 20 May 2016 - 03:06 PM
Levon Zurabyan wonders how Hovik Abrahamyan is going to fight against corruption
20:28 | May 20,2016 | Politics
Head of the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun faction Armen Rustamyan does not
believe the Prime Minister’s statement that the government is starting
fight against monopolies and corruption.
“The authorities have too many friends and relatives involved in these
unlawful activities. Whom are they going to punish if they start the
fight? If they do not intend to punish anyone, they had better not
make such statements,” Mr Rustamyan said today.
The lawmaker offers to ‘declare a general amnesty’ for illegal
monopolistic activities carried out to this date and start from a new
Mr Rustamyan ‘has got tired of hearing endless promises about the
fight against corruption and monopolies.’
Levon Zurabyan, Head of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) faction,
has no grounds to believe Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan who promises
to fight against monopolies. “I will only believe him if he starts
real fight against monopolies and we see a rapid decline in prices,”
Mr Zurabyan cannot even imagine how the head of the government is
going to fight against monopolies even if he has earnest desire for
“They can imitate that they are fighting and we may learn that another
three companies are importing sugar to Armenia but later it will
become known that they have hatched a conspiracy,” he stressed.
Mr Zurabyan has nothing against ‘amnesty’ proposed by Armen Rustamyan.
But if it does not work, HAK will have to come to power to finish the
fight. The opposition lawmaker says the authorities cannot delude
people with their imitated fight against monopolies. He says the
government is discredited to such an extent that people o not believe
any of their promises. An explosive situation is brewing in the
country. People have not rebelled until now considering the country’s
security. But you cannot play with fire because at some point people
will not even pay attention to the national security. We should start
transition to democracy in the same was as South Africa and Poland did
22-26 years ago.
“Of course, the authorities will lose their as a result, but it will
be much better for them to lose it in that way,” he said.
Posted 19 June 2016 - 11:57 AM
Editorial, 18 June 2016
More than 3,000 years ago the Trojans were duped when they opened their city gate to the wooden horse the Greek invaders had offered as symbol of Greek decision to pull out from the ten-year war. As a result of Trojan naiveté, the city perished. Unlike Trojans, today’s Armenia authorities can’t blame outside enemies for the decline of their country. In the past quarter-century, the RoA elite constructed its home-made Trojan horse which now threatens Armenia’s existence.
The Armenian Trojan horse is the country’s widespread corruption—a proclivity which takes many guises. Since independence corruption has penetrated every nook and cranny of the government and society: cronyism; government-approved monopolies; “mafia” gangs; nepotism; fraudulent elections; lack of transparency and accountability; harassment of political rivals; looting of Diaspora donations; heavy-handed patronage; cowboy mentality; influence peddling; bribery; tax evasion; pillaging the treasury; dubious auditing ; under-the-table sweetheart deals; non-transparent application of tax, customs and regulatory rules; weak enforcement of court decisions; close ties between high-ranking government officials and business barons; excessive privilege for the select few; untendered government contracts; venal bureaucracy; ministers owning businesses in blatant conflict of interest… a mayor who is part owner of his city’s bus line; university professors who boost a student’s grades if the student greases the professor’s palm with silver; corrupt judiciary, executive and legislative branches; a culture of impunity for the elite, plus the misdeeds of fellow oligarch-Catholicos Karekin II.
The above has forced a million Armenians to leave their homeland while 30% of the population who have stayed live in poverty. Meanwhile, oligarchs ride their high-end cars are shadowed by flotillas of Humvees on Yerevan’s Northern Avenue protected by preposterous, 300-lbs hoods in bullet-proof vests, black leather jackets, oversized Rolexes and ferocious aftershave as if looking for walk-on parts in “The Sopranos”.
On top of this rank heap sits President Serzh Sargsyan--the man who two years ago spent $186,000 for a one-week stem-cell rejuvenation treatment in South Korea. How can he afford the treatment considering his modest salary? Easy. Together with his gangster brother, the president has stashed millions of dollars overseas. His predecessor—Robert Kocharian aka Great White Hunter—similarly wallows in ill-gained lucre. Sargsyan and Kocharian are the heads of the two major oligarch pyramids dominating Armenia’s economy… pretty good for the two impecunious veterans of the Artsakh War.
Many Diaspora Armenians, who knew about the corruption-gnawed Armenia, kept their counsel. “Sargsyan might be corrupt, but his tough regime is making Baku think twice about threatening our homeland” was the idée fixe of these Diasporans who believed silence is golden when the subject is Armenia corruption.
And then surprise: the impious Azeris attacked. How dare the ineffectual foe challenge the jingo pronouncements of the fat-cat Armenian political leaders? Suddenly, senior military officers’ boast that they would “have tea in Baku” if the Azeris were unwise enough to attack proved to be banal. Did these generals believe snappy military uniforms and salad on their chest equaled military superiority?
During the brief war some Armenian tanks became sitting ducks because they had fuel for no more than a few kilometers. There were reports that senior officers had sold the fuel. Soldiers had fought with empty stomachs and no water. Others had few bullets and were fighting with ‘80s weapons against a high-tech Azeri arsenal. Some soldiers had no sleeping bags. There was shortage of radio communication devices. The soldiers discovered the Azeri army wasn’t the army their fathers had fought in the first Armenian-Azeri War. In addition to the unsustainable casualties, the Armenian side lost 800 hectares of land which Baku says gives Azeris strategic advantage in several locations. Despite all, the heroism of the junior officers—many in their early twenties—had saved the day.
Midway the mini-war it became obvious that corruption had spread to Armenia’s vaunted army. People asked how $10 billion could leave the country in the past decade. Azeri President Aliyev gave a credible report that it was the Armenian side which had asked for ceasefire.
In response to the public outcry for the inexplicable battle losses, Sargsyan and PM Hovik Abrahamian launched an anti-corruption drive. Faster than you could say Vasag Seuni, the pair donned the reformist garb and fired or imprisoned a dozen or so senior military and defense ministry officials. They promised to streamline government expenditure, investigate state procurement processes, improve the domestic business environment, curtail featherbedding, and downsize government agencies. The Republic of Kleptocracy was to be stopped on its tracks. The government would lend an ear to the Anti-Corruption Centre which in 2015 reported the government had awarded 70% of its procurement contracts without competitive tenders. Abrahamian promised to target conflict of interest among senior government officials, improve transparency and oversight. Sargsyan and Abrahamian promised a crackdown.
Were they blind or in denial all these years? Hadn’t the UN Development Programme, among other international agencies, condemned corruption in Armenia concluding it was a “serious challenge to its development”? Didn’t the men who rule Armenia know that Armenia’s corruption index is at par with Mali, Mexico, Gambia, and the Philippines? The miraculous awakening of the pair to the corruption around them reminds one of sly Capt. Renault of “Casablanca” who famously said to Major Strasser: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here,” as he pocketed the money the croupier handed to him.
When Sargsyan and Abrahamian are among the beneficiaries of the rotten edifice how could they claim innocence with a straight face? But they did.
Is Sargsyan serious about reform? Doesn’t he know the problem is not one of individual corruption but of the system?
Nothing less than re-inventing the state will stave off collapse. For more than a decade citizens had tried to deliver the message to their government only to be met by indifference and repression.
Is it too late to make meaningful and fundamental change? How can one overhaul the chronic, widespread and systemic corruption within a few months, especially when the “reforming” twins have been at the core of the rotten system for so long?
Before the Azeri attack the Armenian government, business, intellectual, and media circles lived in a fool’s paradise believing that although the country was mired in corruption it was robust enough to withstand Azeri aggression.
And then came the Aliyev surprise… or more accurately the Aliyev Gift.
The Azeri attack was a wake-up call for Armenians. Even the dense and complacent government leaders and oligarchs (often interchangeable) realized it’s impossible to have a strong army when the state is riddled by corruption and the population is demoralized by the crimes of the country’s elite.
Aliyev’s Gift awakened Armenians that the country can be lost if drastic and swift measures are not taken to overhaul every aspect of its corrupt modus operandi.
Will Armenia’s leadership understand that it’s almost 11 p.m. and not much time is left before the midnight knell?
The Armenian leaders who have assumed the stewardship of the country should ask themselves: “Is this the state our people had been praying for since 1375 when the last Armenian kingdom collapsed? Is this why our 1915 martyrs refused to be turkified? Is this what our pitch-fork carrying farmers fought for at Sardarabad?”
Posted 04 August 2016 - 09:16 AM
Turkish-Armenian jeweler: Explain to me Armenian laws and I will come here to teach craftsmen
YEREVAN. - Explain to me the laws of Armenia, and I will come here to teach craftsmen.
Armenian jeweler and silversmith from Istanbul, Stepan (Istepan) Belik, who is the owner of Antik Silver company, told the aforementioned to Armenian News – NEWS.am.
The company produces and exports silver utensils to the USA, UK, Israel, Iran and other countries. In 2015, Balik took part in Yerevan Show jewelry exhibition, where he had an opportunity to compare the simplicity level of customs clearance in Armenia and Turkey.
“Lots of papers are required here. 3-4 days may be needed to handle everything. And the entrepreneur doesn’t have so much time. Whereas in Turkey, only several minutes are needed to complete the paper work with sending goods to America. Ten minutes at most, and the work with the papers is done. You send the goods today, and tomorrow at 11 a.m. they are already in the shop!
Let the working procedures be simpler here too so that people can come and work. For instance, I want to open business here and teach craftsmen. Not for my profit. Let them learn here and earn themselves, especially considering that I have seen the works of local craftsmen: some of them are very talented,” Balik said.
The Turkish government always strives to create the best conditions for exporters, he added.
“Turkey has an understanding that the country gets rich thanks to production and export. Thus, when they see a working man, they help him. You have to pay a tax? You won’t pay it for 2-3 years. You should pay for electricity? This is also cancelled. You are going abroad to take part in an exhibition and present your goods? The state returns you 70 percent of the expenses. But, of course, you should be honest before the state in all your papers,” the entrepreneur said.
It is desirable to see some facilitations if not exemptions in Armenia so that the foreign entrepreneurs (including those of Armenian descent) do not hesitate to open business here too, he added.
Posted 14 August 2016 - 09:45 AM
Selective Justice: Poultry Pilferer Gets Hounded While Those Stealing Millions Walk Free
14:13, August 12, 2016
A man in Armenia’s Tavoush Province finds himself in court for allegedly stealing eight chickens and one rooster.
According to the indictment, the man (let’s called him Karen), entered the unlocked chicken coopowned by Armineh Tamrazyan in Dilijan on the night of October 13, 2015 and stole poultry valued at 45,000 AMD (US$95).
Karen has been charged with “theft” (Article 177 of Armenia’s Criminal Code) and faces a penalty of 500,000 – 1 million AMD, or 2-5years’ imprisonment.
Karen hadn’t appeared in court for the last three hearings for reasons not acceptable.
The court then wrote to Dilijan police, instructing them to find Karen and force him to make it to court. The cops weren’t able to locate Karen.
The defendant had been free on his own recognizance but the state prosecutor then demanded that Karen be kept in detention.
Judge Zoya Zakinyan agreed with the prosecutor and issued a detention order for Karen.
Two weeks later, the police found Karen and he was transferred to the Vanadzor Penitentiary.
His trial continues.
One can only wonder if the courts will ever display the same zeal when it comes to holding government officials and their cronies to account for embezzling and squandering funds reaching into the millions.
Posted 14 August 2016 - 09:47 AM
Armenia’s Armavir Provincial Court has launched a case of embezzlement against several top-ranking officials at the company which constructed and maintains Armenia’s nuclear power plant at Metzamor.
The indictment states that while director of HAEK Construction CJSC, Gagik Margosyan and others embezzled 759.2 million AMD (US$1.594 million) from the company during 2010-2014, and another 24.4 million from 2008-2013.
According to HAEK Construction website, the company, established in 1969 as a construction department of Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (ANPP) specially for the realization of ANPP construction, is one of the leading construction companies in Armenia. In 2004, as the result of privatization, it was renamed HAEK Construction CJSC.
Posted 14 August 2016 - 09:48 AM
Armenia’s Ministry of Culture will allocate 100.8 million AMD ($212,000) to a NGO run by the son of an advisor to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.
The money is to go to the Support Classical Music NGO in order to organize a holiday commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s independence no September 21.
Sergey Smbatyan is the president of the NGO. Sergey’s father is Armen Smbatyan, an adviser to President Sargsyan.
For comparative purposes, it should be noted that in 2016 the government allocated 64.8 million AMD to the Ministry of Culture for supporting the publication of literature, including the works of young writers, children’s and diasporan literature, and translations.
Posted 31 August 2016 - 08:56 AM
08.29.2016 15:58 epress.amArmenian Farmer Says He’d Sooner Throw Grapes Away Than Sell to Wineries
A local winery still owes Kaghtrashen grape farmer Zakar Petrosyan AMD 520 thousand for produce purchased from him last autumn. Speaking to Epress.am today, Zakaryan said that this year he would sooner let the grapes dry up on the vine than sell the produce to wine producers.
The farmer added that he intended to sell this season's 3-4 tonnes of produce at the market and throw whatever is left away. “Throwing away is more profitable than [selling to wineries],” Zakaryan said, “Besides, that way I'd save time since I wouldn't have to hold protest actions outside the Government office demanding the money for the purchased grapes.”
Zakaryan no longer expects to receive any money from the winery; he is convinced that “it's ancient history now.”
Note, after an unusually rich harvest in the fall of 2015, the farmers of Kaghtsrashen had to sell the grapes to the local Vinar winery for as little as 40 drams per kilogram. The company, however, failed to pay the grape growers money in time, causing them to hold a number of protests in front of the Armenian government building and the presidential residence in Yerevan.
Posted 03 September 2016 - 07:53 AM
It is quite shocking to see the pictures of handcuffed peaceful demonstrators in the streets of Yerevan but for a Canadian it was doubly shocking for me to see the pictures of the Canadian actress Arsinee Khanjian handcuffed and taken away at a Yerevan public square. Twenty some years after the fall of the Soviet Union, we hoped that gradually, the country will move more toward democratic system and respect for rule of law, moving away from outdated autocratic regime. Well, looking at these pictures that went around the world, it looks like Armenia is moving backward and not forward.
In 2009-2013, I worked in Armenia when I was heading the Democratic Governance portfolio for UNDP’s regional center. Like other post-soviet countries in the region, Armenia was struggling from many social, political and economic malaise. Agreed that the country is in a hostile neighborhood (and Syria, Chechnya conflicts are not that far away from their borders), but the home-grown problems of the country was astounding. It was blatantly evident that the country had all sorts of corruption problems: oligarchyism imported from Russia, political cronyism, weak judicial system, poor human rights record, most specifically vis-a-vis women, elderly, children, and extremely weak and ineffective public institutions and administration at all levels—national regional and local. The list goes on….. In addition, there is a macho-machismo culture so outdated almost caricaturist, like the attitude of the country towards LGBT community.
But there were also many positive developments in the country. Armenia continued to have one of the most active, well organized civil society – from media, to NGOs, to women’s groups to community based organizations. In the absence of official, institutional checks and balances in the country, the media and the civil society organizations play the oversight role and are holding the government accountable – hence we see the daily demonstrations against the governing elite, clamoring for police, social and economic reform. But the Armenian civil societies alone cannot act as an oversight instrument and drive the reform agenda. These checks and balances have to be established and implemented from within and for that to happen the government has to have the serious political will to establish transparent and accountable governance system and institutions that can implement reform.
Last 20 years, many multilateral institutions have come to Armenia’s assistance to help establish decent, functioning and professional institutions and systems. Among them were EU, OSCE, WB, UN/UNDP and many others. Some of these international institutions paid lip service to Armenia’s public sector reform, others provided skeleton support that was meaningless, yet others tried and later gave up due to the absence of the political will to truly exert reform. In my dealings with senior officials I worked with well meaning officials who were committed to reform. On one occasion, after several false starts I worked with the office of the president to establish an anti-corruption mechanism and process based on the UN convention against corruption.
These young officials, who wanted to push for anti-corruption reform were political appointees but with limited institutional or public management experience. And yet, there was a disconnect between the political appointees and the old guard, the soviet era bureaucrats with management experience, but the two simply did not talk the same language and there was no system, process, communications to bridge the old and the new guard to get the reforms going. In many ways, the Armenian experience reminded me of Libya in 2011 after the fall of Gaddafi. In Libya, I met many senior officials who were eager to establish a new Libya, a new system of governing the country. But alas, the country soon realized that there were no national or local institutions that could build the new Libya, and the country has since fallen to a failed state status.
This absence of effective institutions—credible and independent judiciary, accountable police force, competent parliament, responsible executive—is a challenge to many authoritarian regimes that are struggling to transit to a more democratic and accountable system. Armenia has an advantage. The country has a huge competent and capable human capital to drive the governance reform agenda. This is evident in the high-tech, education, CSO, media and other areas. Some world-class partnerships have been established to make the country a hub for innovation and high-tech. The small-and medium size entrepreneurship could be on the rise, if only the government/oligarchs would give them a break. But the country’s disrespect for the rule of law, inability to reform the criminal justice system (making the police more professional) that is breaking the Armenia’s back and driving the society backwards.
To push forward for institutional reform and to install good governance principles the Armenian Government has to commit to work with the national institutions (with committed leaders and managers), CSOs, media and drive the reform agenda. International institutions can help but at the end if Armenia wants to avoid to be seen around the world as yet another authoritarian and hopelessly corrupt failed state, with thuggish police harassing the peaceful demonstrators, they need to start the internal reform process and start it fast.
The demonstrators are demanding very basic services that the government refuses to provide: affordable electricity for all! A recent research by Policy Forum Armenia stated that “certain categories of clients largely connected to the political elite have over the years not paid for their electricity bill”. It also highlight the government’s irresponsible pricing policy that keeps electricity prices intentionally high for the average consumer while turning a blind eye to those elite users who refuse to pay their bills.
This is absolutely outrageous as it underlines the gross inequality in the country that citizens continue to endure. Indeed, when walking in the streets of Yerevan one cannot help but notice the poor conditions of housing in certain parts of the city next to colossal, in-your-face new housing structures of the rich, usually in vulgar architectural design and taste.
The Author of “Why Nations Fail: Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty”—a must read for students of economics—Daron Acemoglu, in his endorsement of PFA’s report on “Corruption in Armenia” states,
“Some say that Armenia is doomed to fail economically because of its geography or location in the world. But like so many other countries around the world and throughout history, its failure is due to corruption, unscrupulous politicians and weak institutions. It’s not lack of opportunities but squandered opportunities that are at the root of Armenia’s ills, and it can make progress only by confronting this fact and holding accountable those responsible for the failures.”
This is a sign of a country going downhill – see Venezuela, Iraq, Syria, Libya…..
The young generation will not wait while the old guard continues to act irresponsibly, they will vote with their feet and move on, or move out. Or worse, Armenia will join the perpetually troubled failed states.
Posted 27 September 2016 - 08:34 AM
YEREVAN, September 26. /ARKA/. Investments in the Armenian economy over the last ten years have slashed by 3.5 times, the head of the Union of Employers of Armenia Gagik Makaryan said today.
According to him, a major reason behind the dramatic drop is high level of corruption, which is also stated by foreign ambassadors accredited in Armenia.
He claimed that one month is quite enough to make notable progress in the fight against corruption.
He also noted that the government is responsible for the socio-economic situation in the country, which is why, in his opinion, one of the main objectives of the new prime minister should be the optimization of community budgets in the 2017 budget.
"All extra spending and subsidies should be cut, as they are a hotbed of corruption", said Makaryan.
He said that the monthly costs for maintenance of a car used by a community head is approximately 600 thousand drams.
"If we calculate all the costs of city administrations and other structures we can see that the government can save tens of millions of dollars and spend them on the development of the economy", said Makaryan. -0-
Posted 02 October 2016 - 10:27 AM
People threatened and beaten in Sevan on the eve of elections
17:53 | October 1,2016 | Politics
The atmosphere is extremely tense in Armenia’s Sevan city on the eve of the October 2 mayoral elections.
According to our reliable sources, reports about violence and cases of pressure on voters, which were observed throughout the campaign, have multiplied.
Several groups, best known for their criminal behavior and led by a man nicknamed Kbo, walk about the districts and intimidate the youth, forcing them to vote for their candidate. All those who show resistance, are threatened and beaten, deprived of property and dismissed from work. Even traditional methods of electoral fraud are applied in the city where schools and state agencies back and advocate for one of the candidates, offer election bribes, etc.
Our source, who wanted to remain unknown for security reasons, reports that several people attacked and beat the nephew of Sevan Mayor Rudik Ghukasyan in broad daylight and in the presence of dozens of citizens after he tried to prevent bribing of voters.
Residents of the city fear that if similar incidents remain unpunished, it may come to bloodshed on Election Day.
Rudik Ghukasyan, the incumbent mayor of Sevan, Sargis Muradyan, Deputy Director of Sevan National Park, and Ara Smbatyan run in the Sunday elections in Sevan.
Posted 02 October 2016 - 10:40 AM
Armenia local elections: vote buying reported in Vanadzor
15:53 • 02.10.16
The Armenian Revival party and the Europe in Law Association NGO have been alerted to vote buying in Vanadzor.
Observer Arsen Yeranosyan of the Law Association NGO told Tert.am that the vote buying was reported outside polling station 30/13.
“And we are now trying to find out who and where is bribing voters,” he said.
Boris Palyan, Head of the Armenian Revival party campaign office, said that “carousel” was noticed at polling station 30/03 and “bribes were given out in broad daylight” at polling stations 30/15 and 30/13.
“People get into a car, get their money and get out of the car. In School 25 voters are being bribed in broad daylight. The same is taking place in the boarding school,” he said.
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