2019 December 9
Anti-Corruption and News TLDRs - Dec/9/2019 :: Points based driving :: 6 IRS employees arrested :: $10bln out :: Food prices :: Wage hikes :: Public survey :: Sports victories :: Foreign affairs _ Europe _ Russia :: Spitak and Gyumri :: Official charged :: Kocharyan :: Parliament :: Child aid
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.
There have been reports in the past about the former regime illegally taking cash out of Armenia for years.
During an anti-corruption forum held by the Transparency International and others, a journalist asked a Central Bank financial analyst to explain one such money-outflow report, done by the Global Financial Integrity, which stated that $10 billion was taken out of Armenia under suspicious conditions between 2004-2013.
The Banker was asked to explain whether they are taking steps to "return the money".
CB official responded:
We've been investigating that report. Let me explain how they came up with that number.
They took every country's exports and imports numbers and compared them. Armenia says they imported 100 products and exported 200 to country X. The country X reports their numbers which do not match Armenia's numbers.
This corruption report's purpose was to show each country's discrepancy so each country could examine it for themselves.
We (Central Bank) had teamed up with IRS and others to examine it (doesn't mention when). We found that import/export discrepancy in the case of Armenia was due to technical issues.
That $10bln number wasn't meant to say that all of it was due to corruption. We don't exclude that there was some corruption.
End of Central Banker's speech.
Gabriel Sargsyan is the European chess champion in the rapid competition.
Zaven Andriasyan won silver in the European blitz chess championship.
Armenia won 5 gold, 5 silver, 1 bronze in the arm-wrestling world championship among disabled competitors.
Roma is satisfied with Henrikh Mkhitaryan. They want to make a more "permanent" contract with Arsenal.
World anti-doping agency (WADA) placed a 4-year ban on Russia.
A few years ago a Russian athlete, an anti-doping official, and the head of Russia's anti-doping institute became whistle-blowers and told the world about how Russian govt and their secret services made sure the Russian athletes could take doping and get away with it. This allowed Russia to win the most medals in the Sochi Winter Olympics, along with many other victories.
Last year WADA looked back and found more questionable blood results from Russian athletes. They asked Russia to grant WADA full access to the Russia-based anti-doping facility to catch the dishonest athletes, in exchange for not banning Russia as a whole for lengthy periods.
Russia agreed. However, they further falsified blood and urine samples in the facility before giving WADA access to it.
Today WADA decided to place another, this time a 4-year ban, on Russian Olympics and world competition participants. Russia can't host international sports and its officials cannot be present at some events.
US House of Representatives earlier passed an anti-doping bill named after the Russian whistle-blower Rodchenkov. It envisions harsh punishments for any athlete who takes doping in a competition in which American athletes participate.
There is a Netflix documentary "Icarus" about this doping scandal (I haven't watched it yet).
President Sarkissian met Qatari leaders and agreed to cancel the visa regime for Armenian visitors. Today it went into effect. You can travel to Qatar for 3 months freely.
Armenia granted Qatari visitors free access in 2017.
A 2009 book "Meghm Shshukov" (Մեղմ շշուկով) by Charles Aznavour has been translated and is for sale in Armenian book shops. In the book, Aznavour talks about his personal life and career struggles.
Armenia marked the 31st anniversary of the 1988 Spitak earthquake which took the lives of dozens of thousands and made more homeless.
Legendary Armenian playboy Kirk Kirkorian's bust was installed in Spitak. Krikorian built 524 apartments and schools after the earthquake.
PM visited Spitak, President visited Gyumri. "Gyumri is a city where life prevailed over death. It's time to bring back happiness to Gyumri", said President.
Sarkissian plans to buy a house and live in Gyumri.
Local elections happened in several dozen settlements. 16 were for mayor. The know turnout was 50%. Some incidents and info:
Small Tlik, Aragarsotn village had one mayoral candidate, the incumbent, who received more votes AGAINST him than for him. Residents complained that he was unable to fix the water issue in the village. As a result, no mayor was elected.
The incumbent says he'll nominate again for the snap elections held next month. Says he was forced to join HHK in 2016-2017 but recently quit.
In another settlement, the election monitors asked the police to disperse a crowd outside of a voting station after they were suspected of helping the acting independent mayor through "aiding" his potential voters.
Independent candidate wins Zovaber mayoral elections. The incumbent HHK mayor decided to withdraw his bid. 3 independents competed.
Economy Ministry is against the Healthcare Ministry's plan to introduce a 6% health tax to implement Universal Healthcare in Armenia.
They believe it's against the administration's goal of reducing the overall taxes, and costs too much.
Healthcare Ministry launched a program to collect organs and tissues from organ donors, dead or alive. Some restrictions apply.
Food prices for November 2019v2018.
Dairy, egg, and cheese down 2.2%
Bread up 3.7%
Meat down 2.7%
Sugar down 7.3%
Dilijan National Park director shot and killed a dog near a restaurant in front of witnesses.
The restaurant owner claimed it was done to defend patrons because the dog had allegedly attacked a few earlier.
The authorities did an investigation and decided to charge the public official with a felony animal abuse. He's told not to leave Armenia.
The Appeals Court judge who is hearing the Kocharyan case has accepted prosecutors' and March 1st victims' petition and recused himself.
The judge had earlier reported an anti-Kocharyan internet user to have a felony case launched against him for an alleged lie and defamation. The activist wrote that the judge was allegedly following orders from higher-ranking judges to free Kocharyan earlier in 2019. That investigation is still open.
Kocharyan was trying to have the judge stay for the trial.
Robert Kocharyan asked a few people to lay flowers in memory of the Spitak earthquake under his name. A QP MP wrote something along the lines of those men having "shaky hands".
The MP says:
After I wrote it, the men met my friends and said they want to meet me and " talk about something". I told them they can schedule a standard meeting that any resident can schedule.
Last night they followed us around. When my friend and I separated, they followed my friend and beat him up before telling him "go tell the MP he is next". They are lucky I can't respond similarly. Law enforcement has been notified.
One of the assailants is Garik Uzunyan, the owner of the KRUNK store in Gyumri (he's been questioned in the police station).
End of Mp report.
European official Frederica Mogherini:
Europe continues to support peaceful resolution for the Karabakh conflict. We encourage high-level talks.
Our support for reforms in Armenia has increased after the 2018 revolution. We hope the cooperation will deepen in the future.
EuroNest is a forum in which Europe and several eastern European countries cooperate with one another.
During a meeting, Azerbaijan tried to sneak-in a resolution to discuss the safety of the Metsamor nuclear power plant with the purpose of trying to shut it down.
Armenian delegation countered it and the Azeri attempt failed.
Armenian side presented 7 ideas about human rights; all 7 were accepted.
Armenia's proposal about discussing state-sponsored xenophobia (Armenophobia in Azeri schools) was also accepted.
EuroNest's coordinator of Armenian affairs (the Armenia branch official) urged the Armenian govt to take action to solve the Constructional Court crisis by forming a new CC.
Work was done to explain the European colleagues about how CC helped the Serj regime to hide the voter lists to allow the regime to cast bogus non-participant votes in favor of the regime.
"The current Constitutional Court isn't suited to do its work", said the representative.
Armenia ranked 81st in the 2018 human development index by UN, moving up 2 positions.
Armenia achieved significant improvements in 2018. Since 1990 the life expectancy rose 7%. School years rose 2.3 years. GDP per capita rose by 158%.
Russian Azimut airline will fly between Yerevan-Sochi for $18 plus airport/state fees starting late-December.
A while ago the IRS chief complained that some product importers have been avoiding customs fees at the Georgian-Armenian border by hiring multiple people to split large loads into pieces in a way that each load is below the taxable weight at the entrance. The participants of the scheme would then enter Armenia as tourists, meet up somewhere in Armenia, and combine the load before giving it to the firm.
IRS says 6 of their own agents were arrested in addition to 2 importers.
A felony case is launched.
Former Cadastre Committee chief Sarhat P. complained about Urban Development committee official Avetik Yeloyan, who is also a Deputy PM's adviser, of possibly having a conflict of interest as part of the construction of a skyscraper in Yerevan.
Yeloyan responded providing some info about his brother's company purposely not doing works in Yerevan during his time in the office, to avoid a conflict. Yeloyan sued Sarhat for alleged defamation. Sarhat said he would apologize if his accusations were wrong. Investigators took more info from Sarhat.
Today the investigation concluded that no laws were broken by Yeloyans.
Recently a Parliamentary committee was created to examine whether the military and public officials violated protocols during the April 2016 battles.
21 sessions were held. Some politicians and 10 soldiers have been questioned. As many as 40 public officials will be questioned soon.
Recently the Yerevan municipality issued fines to medical institutes on 21 occasions for not disposing of medical waste properly.
The city increased the enforcement of rules mandating construction firms to properly warn pedestrians about a construction, installation of alternative walking paths, prohibition of trucks existing a construction area with dirty tires.
More zebra crosswalks have a button-enabled traffic light system now. There are no longer any 60km/h streets in Yerevan that aren't controlled with traffic lights for pedestrians.
255 apartment complexes have had doors installed at their entrances, most of which are now equipped with a passcode.
Finance Ministry is saving 120mln/year by reducing the number of padavat work cars from 20 to just 4. They've stopped paying some parking lot rent as well.
Parliament is discussing the govt's public smoking restriction law. It'll limit smoking in some indoor areas, public transport, child playgrounds, arts, and health facilities, bans some ads.
52% of men and 3% of women smoke in Armenia.
A 2017 research says 28% of the population smokes, >50% inhales a 2nd hand smoke at home, >25% inhales 2nd hand smoke at work, 70% of pregnant women are exposed to 2nd hand smoked daily.
Parliament is discussing govt's bill to allow the Constitution Court (CC) members to retire sooner than their term limit while still receiving their pensions. It's meant to address the unfairness problem with the "grandfathered" CC members serving lifetime while the new ones are serving shorter terms, due to the way the Constitution was re-written a few years ago. The law is also meant to address the current court crisis by giving the CC members an opportunity not to feel bound to the Court for financial reasons in the future.
The bill was examined and approved by international experts who noted that as long as the judges are not required to retire, the bill is OK.
A similar practice exists in Denmark, Australia, and a few CIS countries.
Govt approved a bill to give more time for car importers to import cars with a right side wheel. They'll need to be swapped to the left side before being customs duty-cleared and authorized to be driven roads.
Car importers are satisfied. Their estimates say it'll bring $10mln to the Armenian economy because currently Georgian mechanics are being paid to do the swap.
As many as 25% of imported cars have a right side wheel according to the importer group. It costs about $1000 to swap the wheels.
Parliament passed the govt bill to reform the driver penalty system by introducing a points-based system. It'll take at least half a year to go into effect.
A driver will have 9 points to waste per year before having the license suspended. Some offenses result in an instant suspension.
There are 100 types of offenses you can make on the road, out of which 20 are serious enough to result in a certain number of points reduction.
Under the old rules, the rich could make many offenses, pay a fine, and get away without a license suspension.
IRI agency conducted a poll a few months ago.
62% say the country goes in the right direction, 19% say wrong direction, 18% had no opinion.
Among the things some of the respondents said they liked about Pashinyan administration: lower corruption, improved psychological state, democracy, failure of HHK, economic improvement, wage increase.
Some of the things some respondents disliked about Pashinyan administration: bad management, unfulfilled promises, political instability, economic crisis.
The top priority for Armenians are more jobs, higher wages, higher pensions, fight corruption.
Should political reforms be done quickly? 70% yes, 29% no.
Should economic reforms be done quickly? 75% yes, 25% no.
70% are optimistic about the future, 25% pessimistic.
Over the last 6 months, the economic situation in Armenia has... 50% improved, 36% stayed the same, 13% worsened.
How's your family's financial status right now? 63% good, 33% bad. (interesting 🤔)
Did it improve in the past 6 months? 30% yes, 55% same, 15% worsened.
Do you think you can personally change things in the country? 55% yes, 42% no.
The vast majority of people support laws to prevent violence against women and to establish more inclusivity for them.
What happened to the following things in the past 6 months?
Freedom of speech: 80% got better, 15% stayed the same, 4% got worse.
Media independence: 75% got better, 20% same, 3% worse.
Corruption fight: 67% got better, 28% stayed same, 4% worse,
Environmental policy: 35% better, 44% same, 13% worse.
Do you think democracy is the best form of governance? 64% yes, 22% there are other equally good methods, 8% there are better methods.
The following institute's favorability rate (the rest is either unfavorable or don't have an answer):
Prime Minister: 76%
Human Rights office: 63%
Parliament: 63% (suicide watch for Crazy Nancy and Cocaine Mitch pls)
Local politicians: 55%
civil society orgs: 52%
Province governors: 49%
Electoral commission: 48%
Political parties: 42%
Constitutional Court: 38%
Khorovats and Lavash: 101%
More in the link
Yerevan chocolate factory exported 141% more products this year than in 2018.
2.4bln annual production, 40% of which are exported to EAEU, Ukraine, France, USA, Israel, etc.
The workforce will expand from 240 to 290 next year.
New Year, new salaries.
5,000 Yerevan workers, arts, music, and sports teachers, will see a 25% - 54% salary raise next month. They'll also begin to receive health insurance from the city.
Besides the upcoming govt plans to raise aid for each newborn child to improve the demographics, the independent MP Babajanyan was working with businesses and charities to aid the bordering village residents.
He says an agreement was made to donate $1000 to parents for each newborn child, plus $7500 split into monthly installments of $210 given throughout the duration of 3 years.
"Another similar project will be announced soon", said the MP.
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/e8g5tf/anticorruption_and_news_tldrs_dec92019_points/
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