2019 October 23
Anti-Corruption & News Summary - Oct/23/2019 :: Parliament grills Pashinyan :: An open secret :: Sevan lake :: 1k military fund -- discrepancy in numbers explained -- 72,000 more payments :: Budget size and debt :: Animal cruelty :: Traffic :: Elder :: Education Ministry :: US Congress & Armenia
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.
Helsinki committee organized a meeting in the US Congress. Various officials praised the democratic changes in Armenia, urged US to help Armenia. "A success in Armenia can show other Eurasian nations that democratic changes are possible, and good."
Former Pashinyan aide in Congress: the revolution was not sponsored from abroad, but it wouldn't be possible without the huge support provided by US to the Armenian civil society over the years.
Informed Citizens NGO Ionesyan: the corrupt former regime is currently trying to stop the progress. They have vast financial resources. They have an active and influential presence on the internet. They have Russia's support. Those who committed crimes in Armenia should have their assets frozen in US. (YUGE if true)
An attendee: we need to help Armenia to strengthen its Parliamentary system. Armenia has presented its former president on front of a court. It's a big achievement. No former CCCP country has done it. Kocharyan is Putin's friend, no one thought that Armenia would do it. (damn, Rob is taking from all the sides these days)
ANCA and Congress will introduce a bill to US House to recognize the Armenian Genocide. They're also discussing a bill to sanction Turkey.
House foreign affairs committee Eliot Engels: Turkey won't take the threat of sanctions seriously as long as US is silent about the Armenian Genocide recognition.
Parliament is grilling PM Pashinyan on the floor. 🚨
LHK Edmon Marukyan:
You don't have the right to secretly raise the salaries of 3 Ministers without the Parliament's knowledge. The law prohibits you from doing so.
I didn't raise it secretly. We discussed it in the Parliament during the 2019 budget discussions earlier, and we decided that Minister's ability to give themselves bonuses should be lowered and capped at 30%. Base salaries increased as part of these reforms.
You knew about this during budget discussions, I've said it from this podium, and you voted in favor of it. The salaries are also publicly available through financial declarations.
As for the reason why we didn't announce it publicly at the time of implementing the aforementioned changes, it is because it's customary in the system to do so.
Some salaries were lowered. The 3 Ministers who had their salaries increased are doing more work, especially after the number of Ministries was slashed and got merged with others.
The public should be happy that today they have a Minister who is "in need" of that addition salary (referring to no side-income through corruption).
Thank you Hetq.am, very cool.
QP Gevorg Papoyan:
What are you doing about the residents of Firdusi street who are facing an eviction by private firms since 2007, similar to what happened to the residents who lost homes and didn't get a fair compensation during the Northern Avenue construction?
There isn't going to be another Norther Avenue situation. (Residents were kicked out after being given unfairly low amount of money, not enough to buy a comparable apartment elsewhere. Recently they were invited to Parliament where they accused Justice Ministry officials, at the time led by now CC chief Hrayr Tovmasyan, of withholding fair compensations from them. Search this sub for older post for details.).
Residents' rights will be protected. Deputy PM Avinyan, who is in Georgia ATM (meeting Chinese about Silk Road projects) is in charge of monitoring the situation. Many houses in Firdusi have already been purchased from the residents, and if you look at sales prices, they received higher compensations.
BHK MP Urikhanyan:
The 1k military family aid fund says they haven't received some of the funds collected by govt. What's with the delay and the discrepancy in numbers?
The money first has to go to IRS before being sent to 1k foundation. It is collected then sent through cycles. That's where the discrepancy between the visible available money and the collected money comes from. We could create a group and further understand the delay and discrepancy.
In the fist 9 months of 2019, the 1k foundation received 648mln more money than in the same period of 2018. A 12.6% growth. The numbers are provided by Defense Minister, who is the chairman of the board that oversees the 1k foundation.
In average, 72,000 more employees paid 1k towards the fund. 5.8bln was collected.
Govt expanded the recipients so any soldier or family affected in the past 19 years will qualify for aid.
BHK MP Urikhanyan: I don't doubt that the newly created and out-of shadow jobs mentioned by you are accurate, but I want to know why IRS hasn't sent the funds yet. If those funds were under the 1k possession, they could have gotten revenues from the interest paid by their bank.
Pashinyan: let's find out together why the delay.
IND MP Babajanyan:
Do you have a plan about the former oligarchs using their wealth to invest in the economy and infrastructure?
The state will respect the private business and their property ownership. The question is, is the business operating legally and paying the taxes. We've shown in the last 1.5 years that we'll respect private property ownership of businesses.
We urge businesses, "Don't steal, be efficient, be innovative and cooperative". There is an interest to invest in Armenia and the recent surplus of Armenian Eurobond demand by the international community is an indication to that.
QP Babken Tunyan:
Debt-to-GDP ratio will continue to improve:
Expected nominal GDP:
2020: $15bln (big if true, that's 7.5 billion hot dogs per year per Armenian)
Parliament has passed the QP bill that allows people to install a special app on their phones to record live-videos of traffic violations and upload them to police.
People have long complained about lawlessness by car drivers and public transport chauffeurs.
Vote 83-24 (BHK voted against, saying the law is immoral and promotes snitching)
Parliament passed the BHK bill to criminalize the torture or murder of animals. Penalties range from 100k fine to 1 year prison. If done as part of a group in a pre-meditated form, the penalty can triple.
QP MP Varazdat Karapetyan:
We should amend the law to legally prohibit draining of more than 170mln m3 water annually from lake Sevan. Extra water was drained in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018. (this year govt drained less than allowed, lake levels rose)
When the lake levels decrease, the organic growth increases. The solution is to increase levels. Currently, levels are 5cm above the 2018 level.
We can achieve a 20-30cm increase each year this way. By 2030 we can reach the goal of having 1903.5 meter water level (lake surface vs ocean level)
We should start thinking about building an alternative road for Martuni-Vardenis because 20KM of it will be submerged under water when the levels rise.
LHK MP Gorgisyan is against legally prohibiting >170mln m3 water draining. He says the lake level problem isn't due to drainage, but due to not enough water pouring into Sevan through Arpa-Sevan canal. "Find out why, maybe there is a repair need."
Govt to QP MP:
OK, but the current law already makes it hard to exceed the drainage of 170mln m3 water. To exceed that, we have to involve the Parliament on a case-by-case basis. It's only done in emergencies to avert an agricultural and social crisis. We don't think the draft bill to further restrict the water use is legally necessary at this time.
Ministry of Infrastructure to MPs:
The water we drain from Sevan reaches the destination after great losses ( some say 40% to 60% loss) during the travel. We're taking steps. Eurasian Development Bank is financing a program to create new canals. They're under construction.
QP is still working on a bill to require businesses with over 10 employees to pay salaries only electronically, unless the employee writes a letter to opt-in to receive cash.
The draft bill was amended to make this apply only in Yerevan because there are concerns the provincial infrastructure isn't developed enough to give all workers access to finances through electronic means.
Govt has proposed a bill to ease the punishment on businesses that don't use proper labels on products. If approved, it won't be a felony, they'll pay fines.
South-Caucasus Railway workers went on strike. The company has agreed to give them a 10% raise. The Infrastructure Ministry is helping the two sides to resolve the issues.
Ministry of Education wants to make Armenian Language, Armenia History and Armenian Literature subjects optional in universities.
Minister Araik Harutyunyan: kids already learn enough about these subjects in the 12-year curriculum. In universities, more time should be spent on the major topic. The current system negatively affects the quality of the professional that the university is preparing.
BHK wants the subjects to remain mandatory, at least for the 1st year.
Education Ministry is working to reform the teacher salary and qualification system.
The Qualification Scale will have 4 categories, from a newbie teacher to a professor. Base salary will be 125k, while experienced ones could earn 400k and more.
Ministry of Social Affairs plans to shut down several facilities dedicated solely for kids with special needs, after moving them to other local institutions or homes. The Ministry found that, for example, 92% of children who are away from home and receive care at a facility, can return home and function as part of the general society if the govt provides aid to the families, so the kids can be taken care of at home. They believe it'll be more humane and won't isolate the special kids from the family and society.
Govt plans to spend 500mln next year to provide aid to 4,000 children and their parents.
Ministry of Social Affairs denied reports that they want to evict residents of nursing house in Gyumri. (one of the residents misunderstood a conversation, then it was picked up by BHK MPs and media)
Services provided to govt-run nursing house in Gyumri will be provided by a private charity organization. The quality of services will go up, said Minister Zaruhi Batoyan.
Update: A QP MP Kristina Poghosyan's car window was smashed the second time in recent times. The incidents happened while the car was parked in different locations. She believes it's related to her political work and suspected former govt allies. The police has the surveillance tape and one person is a suspect, says Poghosyan.
Arabkir hospital did the first ever liver transplant on a child in Armenia, with the help of Belarus doctors. Earlier the Astghik hospital did a transplant on an adult with the help of Russian doctors.
Healthcare Ministry will have a permanent office in large hospitals to directly meet patients and answer questions.
Yerevan's war on budkas continues. 7 kiosks and pavilions were removed from Center district. They asked some businesses to remove electric wires that were traveling through the trees, because it could create a fire hazard.
Food inspection committee found violations in 3 schools in Yerevan. Their buffets didn't have refrigerators, some were selling prohibited items such as pizza and sweets with perishable creams.
October 27, 1999 Parliament shooter Nairi Hunanyan wants to be freed, after being qualified for a parole after serving 20 years.
Not happening. Penitentiary system has already denied his parole. The special parole committee will most likely deny it too, but if they grant it, the case still need to go to court.
If the parole committee joins the penitentiary system and denies the petition, then the case is closed without going to court. This is the most likely scenario.
One of the Kocharyan supporters who followed and harassed the judge for the verdict that kept Kocharyan in jail, will remain locked up for now.
HHK's Parliament Chief of Staff Babayan was charged and arrested with forging documents in 2018 to help HHK MP Hrayr Tovmasyan become a Constitution Court member. Read the details yesterday's post.
When the news arrived, Human Rights Ombudsman office and the defendant announced that his arrest must be removed because he is charged with something (forgery) that falls under the 2018 mass amnesty, so even if he is guilty he won't be arrested.
However, FIP outlet says because Babayan is also charged with aiding to appropriate power, he doesn't qualify for the 2018 amnesty because amnesty applies to crimes that are punishable by up to 4 years, while appropriation of power is punishable by 15 years, thus Babayan can be arrested.
Babayan challenged his arrest. The court will make a verdict tomorrow.
Popular singers Tata, Iveta Mukuchyan, ARsen Safaryan, Silva Hakobyan have paid their taxes. Andre is a dual US citizen and pays the taxes in US.
Few singers are facing charges for not paying their Fair Share®.
Kloe Kardashyan wearing a bling bling depicting the Armenian coat of Arms.
How many sisters does this family have?
Soghomon Tehlirian’s son donated exclusive documents to Holy Echmiadzin
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/dm55up/anticorruption_news_summary_oct232019_parliament/
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