2019 December 17
Anti-Corruption & News TLDRs - Dec/17/2019 :: Former Yerevan mayor & bribery _ Gov't optimizations _ Yerevan municipality opposition turmoil _ Hate Speech Bill proposal, what it is about _ Foreign Affairs _ IRS vs Gas stations _ Tourism & Airways _ Wine & Grape _ Technology _ Salary hike _ more
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.
Update: Robert Kocharyan earlier went to the hospital for a follow-up to his benign tumor removal. Another tissue sample was taken. Doctors say he is doing fine now. He was discharged from the hospital.
"The position of the Administration has not changed," said the US State Department while asked whether the Trump Administration would officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Amid the ongoing negotiations with Turkey, Donald Trump joins the list of his predecessors in the refusal to publicly call the 1915 event a genocide. The closest he has come is when he used the term "Mets Yeghern" (synonym to genocide in Armenian language).
Ukraine deported an Azeri blogger Almin Isayev to Azerbaijan, where he is facing prison time. The move came days before Ukraine president Zelensky visited Baku during which he repeated Ukraine's official position on the Karabakh issue, which is a support for Azerbaijan's "territorial integrity".
Russian Language interview with an Azeri-Talysh political expert: https://youtu.be/muPicNszGO4
Gender gap report about women.
Educational Attainment: Georgia 29, Armenia 45, Azerbaijan 60.
Economic Participation and Opportunity: Azerbaijan 33, Georgia 61, Armenia 78.
Health and Survival: Georgia 68, Armenia 148, Azerbaijan 152.
Political Empowerment: Georgia 94, Armenia 114, Azerbaijan 140.
The political parties got together earlier to create a committee tasked with "examining hate speech and looking for ways to counter it".
The QP member of the committee says recently a media outlet (Roboserj outlet's office had eggs thrown at their wall) and some (anti-Roboserj) people were attacked. This prompted them to discuss the "hate speech" topic.
The MP says:
Some countries have laws criminalizing speech that directly calls for violence against someone, or justifies the violence against someone, or spreads hatred towards a specific group within the society that can result in violence.
Some hate speech should not be prohibited, but instead, it should be verbally countered and criticized.
Q: An ordinary citizen calls a politician a մադրֆաքինգ քաքսաքր. Is this a hate speech that would be criminalized?
MP: No, that has been decriminalized in Armenia long ago. A cursing can maximum result in a defamation lawsuit by the other person, as regulated by the existing laws. Moreover, cursing at politicians is less serious because they have more tools to defend themselves against possible attacks, wheres vulnerable groups can't.
Q: Could the law is used to suppress opposition?
MP: I don't think so. Free speech is getting better in Armenia as recorded by international orgs.
Govt currently has a draft bill to criminalize direct calls for violence
NSS says they busted a former HHK mayor of Yerevan with a 36mln bribery. It isn't clear whether it's Yervand Zakharyan (the subject of another felony investigation) or Gagik Beglaryan. Both had served in 2009 when the alleged event took place.
In 2009 the mayor of Yerevan took a 36mln bribe from a construction firm to remove the legal barriers preventing the business from building an illegals structure. The mayor also demanded and apartment from the building to be given to his administration for use.
A felony corruption case is launched.
Gas stations were evading taxes en masse before the revolution.
Currently, the IRS has 31 felony cases worth 16.7bln against them.
IRS's deputy-boss says according to his non-official personal (could-be-wrong) calculations, the share of the shadow economy in Armenia was reduced from 40% to 20%.
🌶 Spice of the Day Award 🌶
Yerevan municipality has its own "Parliament" called Elder Council (aka council). The council and the mayor debate and pass or reject things.
The council members were elected last year along with mayor Hayk Marutyan.
QP has the most Council seats, followed by BHK, followed by Luys Alliance with only 3 seats.
Luys Alliance consists of LHK party (1 seat) and Hanrapetutyun party (2 seats).
Hanrapetutyun party is led by late Vazgen Sargsyan's brother Aram Sargsyan. LHK is led by Edmon Marukyan (the "classic" and "pretty girl" guy).
David Khajakyan is LHK's sole representative in Luys Alliance, who happens to be the Alliance's chief.
Now that you understand how Yerevan works...
LHK chief Edmon Marukyan says the party is discussing whether to remove their sole member David Khajakyan from the Alliance and therefor council.
Khajakyan is a controversial figure who likes to turn session hearings into bolola.
Previously he created controversies by accusing mayor Marutyan of illegal actions, prompting back and forth Facebook posts in which the mayor had to upload documents to show Khajakyan was misleading the public.
He accused the mayor of illegally favoring Kamaz truck producer while the city was purchasing garbage trucks. Mayor explained that only Kamaz trucks had the needed engine power for Yerevan's conditions.
He accused the mayor of doing favors to city donors. Mayor showed documents claiming the accusations were false. Despite this, Luys Alliance asked the Parliament to create an investigatory group to examine the mayor.
Yesterday, Khajakyan again claimed the mayor broke a law, this time by giving his duties to the wrong person before leaving for vacation. He called the cops on the mayor.
Small surveys taken among Yerevan residents by media outlets earlier revealed that many residents view the accusations solely as a political rivalry to cause harm to one another, rather than to solve issues.
LHK is satisfied by their representative's work, however. They just don't like that the other Luys Alliance members' controversial actions overshadow LHK representative's work.
LHK frontbencher Mane Tandilyan says LHK has a specific agenda. If Luys Alliance keeps drifting away from the agenda, then LHK has to assess whether it's even worth it for them to be in the Council.
LHK is complaining that Luys' other 2 members prefer emotional outbursts over actual work.
Luys' other 2 Hanrapetutyun members responded to the news saying they would be saddened if LHK's member left the Alliance.
When asked whether their controversial speeches with personal insults towards the mayor could overshadow the Alliance's agenda, the 2 claimed nothing has changed recently so they don't know why LHK is complaining.
A QP council member has a conspiracy theory for LHK's withdrawal:
LHK wants to quit the council because they realized that the Parliamentary committee they created to investigate the mayor, is Unconstitutional because the Parliament only creates such committees to investigate Parliament's own issues, wheres the Yerevan municipality is outside of their reach.
Nonetheless, the first parliamentary committee session will take place soon, during which the Parliamentary Committee will roast the Yerevan Council for being unable to have proper oversight over the mayor (if things reached to Parliament that means Council failed its job). LHK could then claim they don't have oversight because they don't have a Council representative (Khajakyan quits ahead of time).
President Sarkissian signed into law the bill that mutually removes entry visas for Chinese and Armenian tourists.
Smartavia airlines will launch Yerevan-Moscow-St. Petersburg flights 3 times a week, beginning the summer of 2020.
Nature Ministry prohibited Zangezur copper-molybdenum factory from draining extra water from a nearby river. Earlier the Ministry did the same with Amulsar miner Lydian, which prompted a lawsuit.
It's done because sometimes rivers don't have enough water and extra drainage can harm the fishez.
The wine industry is currently developing at a faster rate than the vineyard planting. As a result of the shortage, the grape price could go up from 150 to 160 Drams.
In 2019 the grape crop was 170,000 metric tons. It'll increase by 20% in 2020.
More investments are expected next year. "The quality of the wine is going up", said an expert.
Pashinyan administration earlier begun merging ministries and firing some govt workers to "optimize" the system.
Finance Ministry says optimizations reduced the number of ministry employees from 556 in 2018, to 382 in 2019, a 31% cut.
The car fleet was cut from 17 to 13.
As for the state budget, Armenia is considered a manageable state with the debt-to-GDP ratio being expected to go below the 50% mark in 2020.
Pashinyan admin earlier visited the US and met Silicon Valley reps and Tim Draper, the leader of Draper & Associates.
The Technology Ministry created a first-ever student pension program to send Armenian students to Silicon Valley for entrepreneurship.
They'll take 7-week entrepreneurship classes at the Draper University, which is popular among techies.
Applicants must be 21+ with some entrepreneurship experience or "big ideas".
Technology Minister: we're still negotiating with Google and PayPal to bring some of their services to Armenia. (Google to improve maps and have Armenian version of websites, PayPal to bring financial services)
Beginning Jan-2020, Labor Ministry will give a 5-94% salary raise to 900 employees of 24-hour child care centers. The average raise is 30%.
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/ec1huf/anticorruption_news_tldrs_dec172019_former/
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