2019 February 12
Anti-Corruption Feb/12/2019: The Government Plan, Robert Kocharyan, Extreme Poverty, Grey Economy & IRS, 300bln out of system, Ministry layoffs, Nubarashen to shut down, Ilham Aliyev, Gov makes it easy for journalists to obtain data, Defense Ministry & soldier death;
All the accused are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law. Currency in Armenian Drams unless specified otherwise.
Robert Kocharyan is facing new felony bribery charges. The charges are related to a businesswoman Silva Hambardzumyan, who earlier exposed the former HHK MP and Nature Minister and a money laundering scheme which involved foreign banks. Kocharyan was earlier charged and detained with toppling the Constitutional order on 2008.
Nikol Pashinyan is in Parliament. He is speaking about the government's plans:
PM: Systematic corruption is defeated in Armenia, but there is a need for institutional reforms to keep it that way.
There should be a law that requires all public officials/candidates to give the newly proposed anti-corruption institute the written permission to act as a representative of the official, so it can make requests in offshore banks/companies under the official's name, to verify his and his family's real property ownership. This will allow the public to see what the official owned before and after holding the office, and how it was obtained. Those who refuse to give a written consent to access to data, must be disqualified from holding a public office, says Pashinyan.
They've been discussing with lawyers whether this could be against candidate's rights, and they believe it's not illegal, because it's only mandatory for those seeking public offices, which is an optional decision.
The proposal is in early stages. It is yet to be discussed what powers the institution will have.
The government plans to end the extreme poverty by 2023.
PM says 1.4bln more must be spent annually to achieve it, which is doable, but must be spent properly so it will go towards people who are actually extremely poor. Study shows that some aid recipients have taken 1mln loans in past and are using the poverty aid to pay off the loan.
Pashinyan also complains that the system has caused many people to rely on government "Paros" aid too much, and not actively seek employment.
International Monetary Fund calculations suggest that Grey economy is as much as 40% in Armenia.
Pashinyan says there are entire industries that we deal with every day that are part of the Grey economy. He says the cable TV industry, which charges 5k to deliver channels to viewers, is not paying taxes properly, and that IRS will soon investigate and bring this multi-billion industry to the legal field.
To raise senior pensions by 1k, the government needs 6bln annually. Ending Grey and achieving economic growth is what will make it possible to raise pensions, says Pashinyan.
The government is issuing grants to various settlements to form their tourist attraction centers. Pashinyan thinks tourism can be part of the solution to help small and medium businesses in provinces. Christian history and the positive trend since the revolution should be used to attract more visitors, said PM.
Pashinyan supports the establishment of arbitration system in Armenia to supplement the courts and ease the burden on them, so people won't go through lengthy court system for every case. 300bln in disputed funds are currently being kept out of the economic circulation because of the slow court system.
Pashinyan says the main purpose of Ministry cuts and restructuring isn't to save money, but to improve its efficiency. Some funds will in fact be saved, then invested back in the institutions.
About 100-200 government workers will lose their jobs. They are skilled workers who will have an opportunity to receive a re-training and re-enter the job market.
Many of them will be highly skilled lawyers who will lose their jobs because the merger of two Ministries will require one Ministry's legal department to be laid off. These high skilled workers won't have difficulties to find a new job because of the demand. Some of the workers won't be fired immediately, but they will receive a re-training.
This is part of a bigger topic, says Pashinyan, noting that there are up to 4,000 vacant high-tech jobs in Armenia yet many people are unemployed.
5bln has been provided to solve the problems in the military pensioners' housing aid system.
Nubarashen prison will shut down and the inmates will be transferred elsewhere, says PM. The building has long been criticized for being in a poor shape and costly for the taxpayer.
Pashinyan finds it necessary to reduce the reliance on raw mining product exports, by increasing manufacturing and high-tech exports, and to make sure the mines are following strict environmental safety standards.
The proposed government plan will simplify the process which allows companies to apply for licenses and open new mines, but it will make the environmental protection requirements significantly stricter. Pashinyan says every country has and needs a mining industry, but it shouldn't affect the nation's health.
Pashinyan is questioning the level of trust that some groups in Azerbaijan have towards the Aliyev government.
Armenian government does not represent Artsakh, because Artsakh population does not participate in Armenian elections. They have their own president and parliament. Artsakh was recognized as a separate negotiating side on 1994, and it should be the case today too.
But Aliyev refuses to negotiate with Artsakh. Azeri refugees who used to live in Artsakh insist that they should also have representatives in the negotiations. Pashinyan says those Azeri refugees are citizens of Azerbaijan, participate in Azerbaijani elections, and Aliyev already represents them during the negotiations. If they don't trust Aliyev, then how can we be sure that other groups such as ethnic minority Talysh and others, have trust in Aliyev regime, says Pashinyan.
Here is how Artsakh Republic lost its seat in the negotiating table:
First president LTP had a strict policy of including Artsakh on the table, and not to sign any papers which did not have Artsakh representative's signature too.
Then Kocharyan took the office. He said that initially, LTP's strategy was efficient, but later started to do more harm than good. It created the atmosphere that Armenia was ready for any solution, and that the problem or lack of progress was within Artsakh government, said Rob.
Rob then became the president and proceeded to change the negotiating system, from Armenia letting Artsakh to decide how to settle the conflict, to Armenia having its own stance and flexing economic muscle over Artsakh to dictate its will on Artsakh by using the fact that Artsakh is depended on Armenia. Rob says the situation became more favorable for Armenia/Artsakh after this change.
Years later, Azerbaijan took advantage of this change and presented it as a territorial dispute between Yerevan and Baku.
Rob says the new format has some advantages: Yerevan is more capable of defending its interests in the international arena. Yerevan can still present Azerbaijan what Stepanakert's position is. Armenia's direct involvement in negotiations makes the topic a higher priority in Armenia.
[It is unclear why any of these would be impossible with Artsakh being at the table. By putting pressure on Artsakh (and not Armenia) on international forums, Baku would essentially give Artsakh the ability to have its representation in these intentional forums, giving it more legitimacy and independence in these international forums.]
A quote from Rob:
Տպավորություն էր ստեղծվել, որ Հայաստանը պատրաստ է կարգավորման ամեն ձևի, բայց խնդիրը Ղարաբաղն է, ավելի ճիշտ` ԼՂ ղեկավարությունը: Հարց էր առաջանում՝ մի՞թե Հայաստանն ի վիճակի չէ իրենից ԼՂ-ի ակնհայտ կախվածության պայմաններում ճնշում գործադրել և ստիպել ԼՂ-ին համաձայնել այս կամ այն դիրքորոշման հետ»: «Ես առաջարկել եմ փոխել այդ տեսակետը. ոչ թե «մենք համաձայն ենք կարգավորման ամեն ձևի, որին կհամաձայնի ԼՂ-ը», այլ մենք ունենք սեփական դիրքորոշում և պատրաստ ենք այն պնդել: Իմ ընտրվելուց հետո ես այդպես էլ արեցի:
The government will make it easier for journalists and media organizations to request information from the State Registry, by removing certain administrative fees. The ruling by the Justice Ministry kicks-in in 3 months.
https://armenpress.am/arm/news/963983.html ----- www.civilnet.am/news/2019/02/12/Կառավարությունը-պետռեգիստրը-«հասանելի»-է-դարձնում-լրագրողներին/354499
European Investment Bank will provide a 5.15mln Euro grant to improve road safety in Armenia.
Defense Minister says the death of the soldier on December 31st was not hidden and that it was available from multiple law enforcement organizations, but since it was a murder incident and not a military duty death, they decided to wait for the initial criminal investigation to end before actively communicating with the media.
Football Federation's new Spanish technical coach Melendes says the Armenian soccer team is on a wrong diet. A dietitian will be invited from Spain. The changes will provide a 15% efficiency boost.
Yerevan municipality is working on a decibel noise-map of the city to pinpoint the areas which generate the most discomfort for the residents. Center district is ready (see image). The map will cover the whole city by 2021. Last time it was done on 1976.
Turkish lobbyist for Azerbaijan Kamal Oksuzu, who was residing in Armenia before being deported to US, has been given a 2 year probation and a $20,000 fine by the US court, for violating lobbying laws in US. The prosecutors were hoping for a 1 year in prison.
Turkish authorities have returned the stolen tractor to an Armenian villager. Few months earlier he reported that the tractor went missing after he left it on the field near the border. It was found in a Turkish village nearby.
Link to original report: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/apyj7q/anticorruption_feb122019_the_government_plan/
|2018 Daily Armenia Reports|
|2019 Daily Armenia Reports|