2019 October 24
Anti-Corruption & News - Oct/24/2019 :: Armenia improves rating in World Bank's Doing Business 2020 index -- 4 reforms :: Constitutional Court crisis -- HHK official arrested :: frmr IRS boss to remain in jail :: Farmer insurance :: No cash paychecks :: Notary :: Infrastructure subsidy :: Waivers
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 court has extended the detention of former IRS chief Gagik Khachatryan. He offered a 230mln bail.
Khachatryan and his nephew were arrested in August under the suspicion of abuse of power and money evaporation. Raids were conducted. 800mln was un-evaporated and returned to state.
Update: the court has ruled that former Parliament Chief of Staff HHK Arsen Babayan should be locked up. The court also ruled that the police did not have the right to arrest him few days ago.
Babayan is charged with forgery and aiding appropriation of power in 2018, during which HHK allegedly created a scheme to hijack the Constitutional Court for years to come.
HHK's 2018 Constitutional power grab update:
The old CC chief Gagik Harutyunyan was given a position is the Supreme Court so he could resign from the CC and pave the way for HHK MP Hrayr Tovmasyan to enter the CC. The whole process took only several weeks and was rushed so Tovmasyan could be injected into Court before the new Constitution's implementation. SIS is investigating papers after allegations that HHK broke the law during this process.
Today, the former CC chief Gagik Harutyunayan and former Parliament speaker Ara Babloyan were questioned by SIS.
Gagik Harutyunayan himself denies colluding with HHK in 2018. He has long been accused of being Serj's puppet, and resigned from the Supreme Court earlier this year after public protests.
Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan gave a speech in PACE, during which he criticized Constitutional Court's actions. Mirzoyan:
The 2018 revolution placed an end to injustice and established a free and competitive economy. It put an end to corruption, election rigging and oligarchy. Big reforms are being carried out.
Unfortunately, some people in the justice system did not transform, most likely due to personal history of corruption and political ties with corruption circles.
Unfortunately CC is part of this problem and is viewed by the public as part of the former regime's remnant. The institute, which was tasked with defending the Constitution, is acting politically motivated, placing the democratic values in danger.
Today's legitimate Parliament cannot close the eye on this. We will find a solution that is legal and according to human rights and democracy.
Ararat Mirzoyan met PACE chief Maria Buric. The latter said they monitor the judicial reforms in Armenia closely, and valued Armenian Parliament's role in it (not referring directly to Constitutional Court situation, just general judicial reforms). They spoke about improving cooperation.
Deputy-speaker QP Lena Nazaryan and 4 other MPs met the environmental activists who are currently blockading the road leading to Amulsar mine. It was part of an ongoing dialogue with the protesters, said MP.
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs will spend 150mln to repair and renovate nursing homes at its management. Employees will get a 30% salary raise.
EU officials visited Armenia to help the Cadastre property database to digitize its archive. Agreement was made. They've also visited the new storage that is under construction that will later become one unified database to show the up to date info on properties and addresses in armenia.
Central Bank chief visited govt session today.
The money inflow is greater than outflow.
Foreign exchange purchase totaled $ 487.7 million. Հայաստանի կենտրոնական բանկից արտարժույթի գնման ռեզերվացիայի ծավալները հասել են 487,7 մլն դոլարի. CB chief called this unprecedented. Pashinyan said it's a good indication because they were expecting lower numbers due to end of tourism season.
Armenia has improved its score in Doing Business 2020 index by 1.3 points, and currently has 74.5 points.
Armenia ranked at 47th place, last year was at 41. The World Bank, which does the math, changed its methodology this year for the first time. Beginning this year, they'll put more emphasis on how many companies the country has in the international stock exchanges. If the country has fewer than 10, it gets 0 points in that category, as did Armenia. If the new methodology was used last year, Armenia would place 47th just as this year.
Central Bank chief noticed thay they've found an error by the Doing Business and are working with them to correct it, after which Armenia will be placed higher.
The improvement in score was due to reforms in tax payment process, urban planning permits, foreign trade.
As for companies in stock markets, recently several Armenian firms begun issuing bonds and could soon end up in the market. Pashinyan says $60mln worth investments were attracted already.
The moment when Central Bank chief tells Pashinyan that World Bank made an error, and they plan to help them fix it, after which Armenia will move from 47 to 37 position.
Pashinyan lolz: "Did we just waste this whole time discussing why Armenia moved 6 positions down? You should have said that earlier so we would spend the time to discuss something else", responded Pashinyan.
Pashinyan: are you sure they made a mistake?
CB chief: Yeah. The error is in the score given for protecting small businesses. We'll correct it.
More details on Doing Business 2020 and what the World Bank said about Armenia.
World Bank office in Armenia reports:
Armenia has improved the business conditions in the past year. It is continuing to get closer to the internationally accepted best results, which is promising and positive.
4 reforms were carried out
a) Armenia has improved the oversight on construction quality. Stricter qualification standards were implemented for professionals.
b) Armenia has improved protections for small investors, through various means. The shareholders have more say in decisions. The ownership and control structuring was clarified.
c) Armenia has made it easier to pay taxes. VAT refund now applies to capital investments, too.
d) Armenia has improved exporting speeds by implementing an electronic system.
Govt gave a tax waiver to Ice Trade firm to invest 7.7bln in door and window factory. 35 new jobs with 140k avg salary.
Sil Maaza firm got a tax waiver to invest 119mln for bottled beverage production. 17 new jobs. 165k avg salary.
Govt approved the plans for the implementation of agricultural insurance for farmers. The pilot program will happen in several provinces.
Govt will subsidize 50-60% of the insurance cost paid by the farmers. For 1 hectare of damaged crops the farmer could receive 600k, as opposed to current 30k, said Pashinyan.
Govt approved the plan to give space (kosmos) related businesses a tax waiver until 2030 to promote the field.
If we can have an internationally recognized large space company do business in Armenia, it'll help the tech and economy, said Pashinyan something along the lines.
IT'S YOUR TURN, AIRBUS.
Govt will give 5 provinces additional 1.1bln to subsidize 483 infrastructure projects. Streets, parks, playgrounds, water system, etc.
Parliament has passed the LHK bill to criminalize the act of deliberately lying to Notary. Penalty between 200x minimum wage or 2 years. 119 AYEs.
Parliament has passed the QP bill to require businesses in Yerevan with 10 or more employees to pay salaries only electronically. It's done to reduce corruption and shadowy economy.
The amended and finalized bill removes the ability for workers to opt-in for cash, because that exception was initially included to help provincial workers get cash if they don't do electronic banking. But since the amended bill only applies to Yerevan, QP says the infrastructure is sufficient to mandate electronic transfers for all.
Vote 96-16. LHK voted against. They still wanted cash exceptions on opt-in basis.
(From an earlier discussion of the bill it appears there may be exceptions for disabled workers and elderly who can't use electronic system.)
Parliament is still working on the bill to limit smoking in public and enclosed areas.
Health Minister Torosyan dismissed the concerns that the bill will reduce state revenues, saying that the health issue caused by smoking currently does more financial damage than the money collected from cigarette industry.
He accused the tobacco lobby of being behind campaigns to prevent anti-smoking measures.
IRS chief Ananyan says his salary bonus was lowered from 2mln to 1.5mln as part of the recent salary recalculations.
Context: Earlier the media outlet Hetq reported that PM Pashinyan gave secret salary hikes to Ministers. It later became clear that the hike was only for 3 Ministers, partially because their roles increased after some Ministries merged, and the salary reform was agreed upon with the Parliament publicly. It envisioned reduction of self-granted bonuses for some officials.
IRS chief says the unnamed show-business star who is facing felony tax evasion charges, had earned 385mln in the past 2 years but didn't pay 21mln in taxes.
The media rumors say it's the famous singer Lilith Hovhanisyan.
Night photo of Ijevan city 1 months ago vs today. New lighting system
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/dmkat1/anticorruption_news_oct242019_armenia_improves/
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