2019 July 16
Anti-Corruption & News - July/16/2019: Lake Sevan is healing; clarity improves; probes taken.... Illegal fishing..... Road safety.... New transport system proposal..... Investigations.... Did Pashinyan steal Serj's achievement?.... Azeris and Armenians extinguishing fire together.... other stories
Disclaimer: All the accused are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law, even if they may sound as being guilty. Currency in Armenian Drams unless specified otherwise.
The SOC State Oversight Committee has audited a Justice Ministry branch and found that 144mln worth fuel purchases, made between 2013-2018, had financial discrepancies. SIS will investigate.
Popular actor Hovhannes Azoyan wrote an open letter to Pashinyan in which he complained that the police isn't doing enough against former regime's "agitators and men in black". He says the regime's activists harassed him in public and tried to incite a fight, "similar to what they were doing during the revolution days".
Update: Last month the NSS arrested a Roboserj media outlet Haykakan Zham journalist. She was caught while allegedly blackmailing a police officer in order not to publish damaging info. Today, the court agreed to set her free under a 2mln bond.
Update: Venice Commission has released a public statement saying they find the cooperation with the Armenian government to be fruitful, and will issue an official opinion regarding judicial reforms when the legislative package is ready.
As predicted 2 weeks ago by the Nature Ministry, the Sevan Lake water quality has begun to improve due to the lake's ecosystem cleaning itself from algae. The transparent layer (water quality indicator) has gone from 2 meters to 6.5 meters today, with 9 meters in some areas. "This is the best clarity observed in 2018-2019". The Ministry will have new satellite photos soon.
Healthcare Ministry took 11 water samples from various parts of Lake Sevan Lake yesterday, and found that the water quality has improved. 2 locations still have above-normal levels of algae and "toxins" produced by them, but they're expected to cross the normal threshold soon.
The Ministry had earlier warned not to swim in areas with too much algae to prevent skin rush and allergic reaction.
PM Pashinyan has appointed Vardan Melikyan as a deputy Nature Minister. https://www.e-gov.am/decrees/item/20622/
The prosecutors released data about the ongoing fight against illegal sig (whitefish) fishing from Sevan.
In January-2019, food safety inspectors discovered 6 tons of canned sig being sold that were produced in March-2018. Investigation revealed that the company purchased 11.5 tons sig from some seller since 2017.
A second similar company was busted with 10 tons of sig that originated from 2017.
The third company that got busted had exported 14.8 tons to Russia in March-August of 2018.
Th investigators found that the only way the fish could have been there is if it was caught illegally, because there were no records of imports, and there were catching restrictions at the time.
Prosecutors have 2 felony charges pending against yet to be determined number of people involved in the cases.
One of the companies that was caught with the illegal sig trade was run by the family of former police chief Vladimir Gasparyan.
Environmental groups and Nature Ministry agree that կողակ fish is as important for the lake's health as sig and ishkan. This fish feeds on harmful materials and cleans the lake. It lives in 10m depth and goes to 40m at winter.
A plan is being formed to restore this endangered fish's population. Experts say as much as 18 years could be needed to bring it to the non-endangered levels. Sig and ishkan need 7 and 10 years respectively.
In 2017, Armenia became a member of an international body that encourages transparency in mining ownership, but not much was done to utilize it. In 2018, Pashinyan administration announced that they'll pass a law to make that happen. A mining transparency law was passed in 2019.
Due to the international requirements, a shareholder that owns less than 10% of the mine doesn't have to disclose their full identity. Opposition parties complained about this loophole and wanted the exemption removed, but the government insisted the exception is needed to meet requirements mandated by various international institutes.
Anyone who owns over 10% of the company will be revealed. In other countries, that requirement is more lax, at 25%, said the government.
Misleading headline: www.civilnet.am/news/2019/07/16/Կառավարությունը-չի-ցանկանում-մինչև-վերջ-բացահայտել-հանքերի-իրական-սեփականատերերին/364299
Italian RENCO recently invested $250 million to build a thermal plant in Yerevan. Some media outlets wrote that it was achieved by Serj, but Pashinyan got the credit for it.
Serj Sargsyan first announced about the RENCO deal and the plant's construction in 2017. There was an "opening ceremony", but the project didn't go anywhere, and the plant wasn't built afterwards, for unclear reasons.
Next year, in 2018, RENCO contacted the Pashinyan administration for new talks about the plant. Pashinyan administration negotiated until September 2018, and a new agreement was signed. It included gas price related changes which resulted in Armenia saving $6.4 million per year.
The investment agreement was signed in February 2019, and finalized in June 2019. The actual construction begun last week.
Pashinyan asked the Parliament to routinely invite civil society groups and discuss transportation and traffic issues, said QP MP Sisak Gabrielyan. One such meeting took place, during which they discussed the government's upcoming plans to improve the road safety by introducing points-based system for drivers.
A civil group member said besides taking licenses away from bad drivers, roads should be designed in a way that even if the driver makes a mistake, the outcome shouldn't have large consequences.
Another group noted that due to corruption elimination in police departments, some are getting "paid" less and may not be motivated to do a good job. There is also a 10 liter fuel limit that each cop receives each day. This would be barely enough to chase and catch one suspect, noted the activist. Road accident areas should be examined and problems revealed, but reducing speed limits may not be enough, thinks the group.
The MP said Yerevan plans to have additional safety mechanisms on the roads. Traffic lights will see a change, new traffic lines, safety barriers near zebra crossings especially in dangerous areas.
Yerevan will have an experimental 3-D zebra street crossing line in one intersection. It's supposed to increase driver's alertness and reduce pedestrian injuries.
Myasnikyan Street is the first one to have a new type of speed hump that lowers the car speed and prepares it to stop at an oncoming traffic light.
Yerevan municipality met the British WYG company that was tasked with examining transportation reforms in Yerevan.
Proposal: without reducing the transportation's coverage area, they want to eliminate overlapping routes and reduce them from 111 to 42. This means fewer buses will be used, about 845 buses and 101 trolleys with disability access (rip marshutkas). Operational costs will be reduced due to the route cuts. There will be a new ticket system.
Municipality wants 100% of the system to be managed by them, but in future they don't rule out that private companies could operate some routes, said mayor Hayko Marutyan. New system should be ready in 2 years.
Large scale road repairs begun in several roads near the highways and border areas.
1 in 5 university applicants failed the Armenian language exam. Expert explains this as a problem with the curriculum, which dedicates less time on learning gremmar and, punctuation. Students did better with foreign languages.
First Lady Anna Hakobyan's charity foundations "My Step" and "City of Smiles" were created a year ago, and have so far collected $3mln and spent $2mln on children's health, student tuition, cultural events, and others in need. $85,000 was spent on salaries.
Provincial municipalities collected 4% more taxes, or 3bln AMD, in 1H19 vs 1H18. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/166396
Tourism grew 14.4% in 1H19 vs 1H18. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/981854.html
Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan is in US to discuss foreign policy, at the invitation of House or Representatives committee. He was in Atlantic Council conference today. Spoke about better cooperation with US, about adding Artsakh to negotiating table, about aid provided by US, about how Armenia wants to stay out of US-Iran sanctions war, judicial reforms, anti-corruption fight.
He will meet American-Armenian Congresswoman Jackie Kanchelyan Speier, who is the author of the recent amendment that resulted in $40 million more US aid to Armenia for 2020. She referred to the aid as de-facto a reward for the democratic changes since 2018.
Azeri army in Nakhijevan held military exercises, during which they fired at the no man's land in between Azeri-Armenian trenches. As a result, an inferno broke out.
To prevent it from reaching Armenia, the nearby Armenian residents went into the no man's land to put it out. Azeri soldiers also left their positions to extinguish the fire on their side. At some areas, Armenians and Azeri were 50 meters away from one another while trying to kill the fire.
100 hectares was burned on the Azeri side, and 4 hectares in Armenia.
Link to original report: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/ce248i/anticorruption_news_july162019_lake_sevan_is/
|2018 Daily Armenia Reports|
|2019 Daily Armenia Reports|