2020 January 20
Jan/20/2020 :: Daily news collection from Armenia :: Stay informed about the Anti-Corruption busts, Politics, Economy, Diaspora, Daily Life, and 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.
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Wrestler Arthur Alexanyan won gold in Nice, France competition after defeating the Azeri opponent in the finale.
Additionally, 2 silver and 3 bronze medals were won by 9 wrestlers.
The Azeri govt agent Ata Abdullayev, who is the blogger who interrupted Pashinyan with a question during a church meeting in Italy, is running for Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. He's running as an "independent - individual entrepreneur".
Police say they busted a corruption by former Hrazdan mayor.
The mayor and city's lands management chief faked a 4 ha land auction in 2006. They sold the 537mln worth land to a firm for 25mln.
A felony case is launched.
Former mayor Aram Danielyan is also a subject of other embezzlement investigations.
Update: former NSS chief Georgi Kutoyan was found with a gunshot wound to the head a week after a rage incident during which he shot the apartment walls 35 times.
No sign of physical abuse was found on the rest of his body. The investigation continues.
Deputy PM Mher Grigoryan:
Russia won't raise gas prices on the border in 2020. As for the Gazprom-Armenia possible price hike, it won't be dramatic for consumers because the state has ways to remedy it if necessary. Any hike would need to be approved. Armenia needs infrastructure investments from Gazprom-Armenia and a hike could be followed by more investments.
Earlier the govt passed a law to tighten meat safety standards and require slaughterhouses to have a license. The law went into effect in 2020. This has resulted in the creation of some slaughter hubs that import cattle from farmers (some for free), butcher them for a fixed amount of money, then deliver to a destination (some for free). In some cases, the burden is on the farmer.
Residents of 3 villages are asking govt to delay the implementation of the law in their settlements because their slaughterhouse will be ready in mid-2020.
A group of butchers held a protest outside of govt building today. They complain that the number of slaughterhouses that butcher large animals is too low, and farmers need to cross long distances. They want the butchering of some animals excluded from the law.
A protester said he isn't against the law in general, but he needs a 6-month suspension of the law to have more time to adjust.
Human Rights Committee was also contacted. They will review the law that prohibits commercial slaughtering and sale of the meet in unlicensed home conditions.
Food Safety Committee believes the law is needed for public safety. They shared pics of bootleg butcheries. Committee says they'll discuss the issues raised by protesters who say they need more accommodations.
An agricultural NGO says the law, passed by former PM Karen Karapetyan, needs to be amended to make it easier to create smaller local slaughterhouses. Right now the job is done by a few large companies that invested money into slaughterhouses. The problem is, if the law is amended, then the investors will complain that fewer people are bringing their cattle to their large slaughterhouses, making their investments useless.
"Farmers should have been better included in this negotiating process."
The NGO supports the idea of requiring butchering to be done in licensed slaughterhouses.
Under the new system, 9th grade's December school exams were done in separate facilities so regular teachers wouldn't help their favorite students.
Armenian Language exam results:
21% got 1-3 points, aka F. Lowest fails were in Yerevan with 12%. The highest fails were in Gegharquniq with 31%.
40% got 4-5 pts
23% got 6-8 pts
No one in Syunik got 9-10 pts. 3% of Shirak got it, which is the highest percentile share in any region.
Algebra exam results:
25% got 1-3 pts or F
The lowest share of F was in Yerevan at 17%. The highest share in Ararat, with 40% (hlysht)
No one in Aragatsotn, Ararat, Lori, and Kotayk got 9-10 pts. Syunik did the best.
A new grading system was implemented. The grading was verified by multiple entities, including by Education Ministry and computers.
This was for 9th graders. Ministry plans to implement the same system for 10-12 grades to track the same student's progress in future years. (in future it could be possible to enter a university with school grades)
Serj Sargsyan, his Agriculture Minister, Deputy Minister, Ministry's Agricultural Crop Management chief, and Flash gas station owner were charged with the embezzlement of 0.5bln in agricultural aid. The Minister testified against Serj.
The deputy Minister Samvel Galstyan is blaming the Minister by saying he was only following their orders while ignoring competition's better offers and selecting Flash gas station (owned by Serj's friend) as the firm tasked with distributing aid, and that the Minister gave similar orders to others as well.
"Hate and internal hostility is a big threat to any country. It can be catastrophic for Armenia which is in a semi-war state. Sober up and stop," wrote the former NSS chief Arthur Vanetsyan.
In 2015 a residential apartment complex caught on fire in Gugarq, leaving 7 families homeless. They were given a rent subsidy for a few months, after which they became homeless.
Last year the Lori governor and Infrastructure Ministry created a plan to provide housing to the families. Today the families received certificates that subsidize the purchase of new apartments.
Update: In late-2018, three IRS agents were arrested for allegedly colluding to take bribes from small businesses in exchange for closing the eye on their law violations. One of the IRS agents, Suren Eloyan, was earlier released on bail. Today the charges were dropped against him. The case continues against the other 2 agents.
International Green Climate Fund gave a $660k grant to Nature Ministry to help with nature protection and climate-friendly agriculture.
Every year, Armenian, Greek, and Latin churches fight over something in Israel during their holy ceremonies. 2020 was extra spicy.
The latest incident happened in Bethlehem's holy church (Palestinian territories).
Per tradition, the Armenian church "reserves" the holy church on January 18-19 to do its ceremony. So Armenians ceremonially entered it at 11:00 AM on January 18th. They placed Armenian manuscripts and other stuff and did their thing.
Then came the Greek church and demanded Armenians to remove the Armenian stuff. Apparently, the "time wasn't up yet" or something along the lines, so Armenians refused. There was a physical fight between churchmen.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the police intervened. Now all sides need to sit and discuss what to do. Thanks, Jesus.
Inflation & food prices for December 2019 vs December 2018:
Food and alcohol -0.3%
Alcohol and tobacco +4.6%
Bakery & cereals +3.9%
Vegetable oil & fats -4.9%
Sugar & granulated sugar -12.4%
Fish & seafood -4.7%
The government's projection of inflation for 2019 is 2.7%.
Right now NSS and police can wiretap crime suspects. The police do this by asking NSS to do it for them because the police don't have the equipment. 80% of felony cases done by police meet the wiretapping criteria.
QP MPs proposed a bill to allow police to have the equipment to do the tapping themselves if the suspect is suspected of committing heavy crimes and the police have a court warrant.
The government, however, is against the bill in its current form. They want an independent company/agency to have oversight on police to make sure they don't abuse the system. The idea is the police will work with the new entity, which does the tapping and keeps the tabs on the activities.
Lori provincial settlements are doing a better job at collecting the expected taxes, says deputy governor Gayane Markosyan. A 10.3% rise was seen in 2019. Land tax collections rose for the first time.
Q: Why? Mayors have claimed for years that they can't collect more taxes because residents don't live there anymore or they can't pay.
A: Some of these claims were unsubstantiated, we countered it. They collected and submitted the taxes. The money is necessary to do work in these settlements.
A major impact was done by the increase in the number of govt-subsidized programs in Lori. There were 56 programs, vs 26 in 2018. Residents want to pay taxes when they see that it goes towards improving the settlement.
For years, mayors gave unnecessary tax waivers to their family and friends despite them not having financial problems.
Beginning in 2020, Lori governor's office will examine every decision made by municipalities.
Heart stenting surgery was earlier made free. The number of surgeries went up:
Pashinyan was in poor shape during and after the revolution. All doctors failed to treat his infamous coughing, except French-Armenian doctor Gevorg Abgaryan. Now he's moving to live in Armenia to treat YOUR cough.
Abgaryan first visited Armenia after the 88 earthquake, then founded an oncology department in Nairi hospital.
Q: Dr. Abgaryan, why did you decide to move to Armenia?
A: It's interesting, isn't it? To leave Paris and move to Armenia. People call me crazy. This has always been my dream, but I was hesitant. The revolution convinced me. My wife agreed, so we're moving in 3 months.
Q: How did you manage to treat PM's cough while other doctors failed?
A: When you're a govt doctor in Armenia, you act more carefully, "should I give the pills for 2 days or 2 weeks?". In France, we don't care who the patient is. I consulted with doctors in France and Armenia and prescribed meds for Pashinyan for a longer period.
Q: You've long advocated against smoking. Today the Healthcare Minister Torosyan has a war against it. He's accused of being too harsh. What do you think?
A: I support the proposal. In 2019 we treated 300 cancer patients in our department. Whopping 30% had lung cancer. Let's not kill each other as Turks did. You sit in a restaurant and someone sits behind you and starts smoking. Lung cancer stats improved in France after a campaign, which also prohibited smoking in restaurants.
Q: What do you think about the recent decision to make cancer surgery fully subsidized? There was criticism from some doctors.
A: I support it and hopefully chemotherapy will also become free. Private surgeons who used to make a profit have now lost some money due to the subsidy in govt hospitals, but overalls it's good.
A stroke treatment subsidy is also great. They saved a 35yo woman's life yesterday with a new expensive medicine injection. It used to cost a fortune for families and hospitals. Now it's subsidized by govt, to whom I congratulate and thank.
Q: Ministry proposed a Universal Healthcare for a 6% tax increase. There is some opposition. What do you think?
A: I have big hopes today, unlike in the past. I pay 12% of my paycheck in France and I think 6% is worth knowing that you'll be taken care of if necessary.
Q: But people say the 6% tax will be a big financial burden on them.
A: Every new change, especially in Armenia, meets a criticism. Many people are against many things, but when they take advantage of it, they're happy. People were also against govt spending money to subsidize stroke surgery. The same about driving points-based penalty system.
Q: What isn't the govt doing right?
A: Some agencies work too slow and that harms foreign business investments. My godson got caught up in a beurocratic process while trying to do tech stuff.
I'd also like to see more special conditions for diasporans repatriates. I'd have to pay taxes to bring my car and stuff while moving here. When a Jew moves to Israel he doesn't pay a tax, and he gets a free house.
Earlier the govt approved a plan to amend the law to allow more diasporans Armenians return home without paying border taxes on their car and other փասա փուսա properties. (Details in previous posts.)
The Parliament is discussing it. To prevent commercial abuse disguised as personal, per EAEU law, the car has to be registered under your name at least 6 months before your arrival.
Parliament wants to add another waiver. If you left Armenia for only a year, you will qualify for a $5,000 worth product waiver except for a car.
IRS says recently an 80-year-old տատի tried to game the system by importing a 2019 Bentley under her name, with the help of 2 young men.
Tourists visiting Armenia can use the help of the Info Center as a guide on what to do while in Armenia. 37k used the service in 2019, vs 26k in 2018. A new online platform "VisitYerevan" will be created by Yerevan Municipality.
Yerevan saw a 14% rise in tourism in 2019. Top visitors: Russia, Georgia, Iran. They like museums.
13k out of 33k Erebuni museum visitors were tourists. This year they'll have audio-guides and free transportation to Erebuni museum, Karmir Bloor and Shengavit archaeological sights.
For adrenaline junkies, Yerevan offers the region's longest zipline.
EDIT: 10-12 graders instead of 1-12 graders.
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/erjq9z/jan202020_daily_news_collection_from_armenia_stay/
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