2021 April 1

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Contents

Daily news wrap-up

Apr/1/2021: (1) Electoral code reformed (2) Housing (3) "Buy Armenian" subsidy (4) Mental care for athletes (5) Disabled workers (6) Yerevan's new trees (7) Khalifa's nuts (8) Poverty rate (9) March: economy is recovering (10) Science funding (11) Uni admission process (12) Airport taxi regulated
by ar_david_hh


Your 11-minute Thursday report in 2671 words.

today in history

1967: Soviet movie Կովկասի գերուհին premiers

1976: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple

2004: Gmail is born

2016: four-day April War begins and ends with Armenians losing heights near northern Talish and southern Fizuli.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047717.html

Syunik's Nrnadzor will have a new district for Artsakh families / farming and tourism

Nrnadzor is the farthest south-eastern settlement in Armenia located in Syunik, near Iran and Artsakh borders. A new district with 30 single-family houses is being built with donation funds for Artsakh refugees.

The crews took an abandoned 3-hectare area and recently launched construction works. The houses will be for young families with multiple children, for up to 6 household members. The first phase will house 200 people.

With the settlement gaining new students, they will have to handle school issues such as securing transportation and finding teachers.

The families will need land to work on, but the village has none available. The administration will ask the government to reallocate 140 hectares, which were earlier reserved for other purposes. Pomegranate and mulberry gardens are quite popular in Nrnadzor.

Meghri Development Fund is negotiating with pomegranate wine producers to do business with Nrnadzor farmers. The idea is to have private businesses invest in creating agricultural cooperatives so the farmers can join as cooperative workers, instead of working as paid staff at those companies. "This will help us solve social security issues."

Separate work is being done to promote extreme nature tourism in Nrnadzor.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047681.html

construction work in progress in Stepanakert, Artsakh

40 structures were completely destroyed in Stepanakert. 200 property owners were informed that their properties will need to be rebuilt.

Some areas have open sewers which complicate their development. Solving this problem will allow authorities to turn these areas into parks and public spaces.

School No. 10, which was targeted by the Azerbaijani army during the war, is currently being renovated to house kindergarten children. Four other schools are on the list.

Thousands of IDPs had to move to Stepanakert. This has significantly increased vehicle traffic in the capital, prompting the city to search for ways to address the lack of roads. "It's impossible to drive in Stepanakert at certain hours of the day."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047662.html

POWs and searches

Search crews discovered a body of a civilian near Avetaranots village.

https://factor.am/354671.html

CoGS Artak Davtyan met Chief Peacekeeper Rustam Muradov to discuss the return of POWs and the search of missing individuals.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047752.html

DNA analysis of discovered bodies requires the DNA material to be preserved well enough for the process to work. There are 210 bodies that couldn't be identified with DNA tools.

The Healthcare Ministry contacted Dutch and Russian experts for assistance. "One of the samples took 7 attempts to identify. The process continues."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047754.html , https://youtu.be/uG9CspTcfrM

diplomatic meetings

MFA Lavrov separately met MFA Ayvazyan and the Azeri MFA in Moscow. They discussed unblocking regional trade routes.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047824.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047826.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047832.html

Slovak Parliament adopts resolution on Artsakh

It calls for the release of POWs and war criminals to be punished for using cluster bombs and committing other violations. "Humanitarian organizations must be able to enter Nagorno-Karabakh without restrictions."

https://en.armradio.am/2021/04/01/slovak-parliament-calls-on-government-eu-to-ensure-the-release-of-armenian-pows/ , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047797.html

egg prices

Egg prices skyrocketed since late February, reaching 80 drams each, then passed 100 this week. There was a shortage of eggs at some point, which pushed the prices to 125.

Many believe the large players are manipulating the market ahead of Easter egg-craze. The Consumer Protection agency launched an investigation.

Last year they busted the large egg manufacturers with anti-competitive behavior and issued ֏104M in fines. "We will investigate if the latest price hike is artificial or it's a result of imported chicken food becoming more expensive."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047765.html , https://youtu.be/uV_aqUiQ5fk

Russian food agency organizes a mini-garden competition in schools

As part of a UN food aid program for children, Russia will promote the idea of schools having their own gardens and children eating healthy food. The applicants must submit their "mini-garden" idea that will involve elementary schoolchildren. The winners will receive cash and healthy food.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047787.html

update: asset forfeiture cases

A law went into effect in September-2020 to require officials to prove they didn't embezzle their property if there is evidence that raises suspicions. Petitions to investigate 430 people were filed.

214 petitions were approved and they will be investigated. Another 216 cases were dropped for various reasons, including the property in question being worth less than ֏50M, which is the minimum threshold to prevent small-scale asset "harassments".

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047732.html

anti-corruption busts / fake diplomas / healthcare subsidies / low-income aid

The authorities said: NSS learned that 4 officials at Artik Special School No. 1 paid ֏700K in bribes to receive diplomas in Psychology, without attending classes.

In other news, 60 parents testified that last year their children were admitted to Gyumri's Austrian Hospital and discharged the same day, while the hospital staff claimed the children stayed there for days, so they could receive and embezzle ֏8M in government subsidies.

In another instance, in 2012-2017, the municipality officials in Dzithanov withdrew funds meant for 9 low-income families but the money never reached the families.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047793.html

Parliament debates electoral code reforms / Proportional vs Rating / Easier to enter Parliament / Ballot casting / Campaign process

Read this for context about what's Rating vs Proportional, and the lowering of entry barrier. The ruling and opposition parties, joined by civil society groups, drafted a reform package to replace "oligarchic" Rating system with a Proportional one. Some parties want Closed Proportional (voters vote for party/ideology), while others want Open Proportional (voters vote for individual MP).

Parliament held a session today to discuss the reforms ahead of the snap elections, before the electoral campaign begins. The bill was presented by ruling QP and Independent (ex-LHK and ex-BHK) MPs. The co-author said the bill was amended to address pandemic concerns by certain adding regulations.

LHK Edmon: this isn't the bill that Venice Commission approved earlier.

QP Hovakimyan: it's the same bill. Nothing was amended in areas that the Venice Commission hasn't examined earlier. The only difference is we want to approve it sooner, ahead of elections. All 3 parties, including yours, approved this bill in 2018 [at the time majority HHK voted against].

LHK Edmon: in 2018 we voted in favor of the bill because our priority was repealing the Rating system to be able to hold fair elections. Today our priority is the fair representation of provinces; we need an Open Proportional system instead of the Closed Proportional.

QP Hovakimyan: this bill allows each party to decide the proportions of representation from each area.

LHK Edmon: we shouldn't change the rules immediately before elections.

QP Hovakimyan: we aren't replacing the entire electoral code. We are amending parts of it to simplify it. Remember that in 2018 this amendment was proposed only 48 days before elections and your party voted in favor. Today, we are proposing it 80 days ahead of elections.

Ind. MP Babajanyan: why haven't you approved this reform sooner? You had 3 years.

QP Hovakimyan: we planned to amend the Constitution before amending the electoral code; that's the best practice.

QP leader Makunts: we began the bipartisan discussions about these electoral code reforms back in 2019. The plan was to vote for it in late-2020, but it was delayed because of the war. We submitted it to Venice Commission in February.

how will the ballot casting process work?

QP Hovakimyan: The process is simplified. The voter enters a polling station, takes a batch of ballots with each representing one party, chooses one, inserts it into an envelope, and casts the ballot. No more markings or selecting a specific individual.

MPs meet to make final amendments

President Sarkissian intervened and said he objects to some parts of the bill, so the MPs decided to amend them. It's about the part that regulates pandemic issues that was recently introduced; it'll be removed. They also removed some recent amendments relating to the number of voters that can be recorded in each local book.

bill needs 3/5th vote to pass

82-0-0 the bill is approved. LHK and BHK skipped the vote. It'll be sent to President Sarkissian's desk.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047744.html , https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/m8pjmp/mar192021_news_whats_in_the_electoral_code_reform/ , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047755.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047759.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047761.html , https://factor.am/354606.html , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/210378 , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047816.html , https://youtu.be/aFUVcXqtvSE

public workers will be able to spend social package aid on sports centers

To promote a healthy lifestyle, public workers who receive an aid package will now be allowed to spend the balance on sports centers, swimming, etc. said the govt.

Some outlets presented the decision as a way for the "political elites to increase funding for their family members and to provide luxury services". The government called the reports false, saying the expenditures are not increasing.

147,500 recipients (public workers, theater, arts staff, teachers, etc.) will be able to spend their existing aid package on sports centers, in addition to whatever is currently authorized.

It can also be spent towards tourism in Artsakh, repaying a mortgage, student tuition, etc.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/210410 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/210369

athletes will receive psychological assistance ahead of international competitions

The government made amendments today to help athletes perform better in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and in the future, by providing "modern mental health services." The decision comes after studying other countries' practices and the reasons for their success.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047828.html

Assyrian community celebrates Kha b-Nisan

Pashinyan and others congratulated Assyrian-Armenians with the holiday that celebrates the new year and spring. "Let one of the oldest religious-national holidays, embodying the rebirth of nature, signal the beginning of a new and happy year."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047739.html

bareeev

https://youtu.be/m_V_seSIB-o

photos: carpets from Shushi

https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/details/291676/

Yerevan prepares to greenify Saralanj hills and streets

In the coming days, the city will plant 140 poplars (բարդի) in two layers, and 100 pines. The irrigation network was installed last year.

Flower garden work is being done in Northern Avenue. Khanjyan St. will have 165 new նշենի and 20 Judas trees.

Photos: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047775.html

Yerevan cleans up Yerevanian Lake

The main cause of pollution is household and construction waste by the unscrupulous behavior of the nearby residents. The mini-lake was built in 1970 on the Hrazdan River. It serves two roles: irrigation and atmospheric humidity during dry summer.

Video: https://www.facebook.com/YerevanCityHall/videos/2674822379476484/

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047806.html

Kuwaiti businessman to plant 350,000 almond trees in Armavir

Al-Abdullah Group has a 1,100-hectare farm in Armavir. Economy Minister Qerobyan met the investor Khalifa Al-Fadala to discuss the $30M investment project.

The preparatory work is in progress. The first 55,000 trees will be planted next month.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047784.html

Armenia plans to purchase hundreds of thousands of Sputnik-V vaccines from Russia

Russia donated a small batch recently. The experiment went well so Armenia finalized a contract to purchase another 15,000; delivery soon. Arsen Torosyan says the next step will be purchasing hundreds of thousands of it.

Armenia recently purchased 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca.

Vaccines cost $5-10 in average. [AstraZeneca $5, Sputnik $10]

The Ministry is examining the AstraZeneca stories in Germany and United States. The latest research does not show that the deaths among vaccinated patients were caused by the vaccine, said the Minister.

https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/291625/ , More: https://youtu.be/T1fabf7sbqE

COVID stats

6217 tested. 1097 infected. 617 healed. 18 deaths. 15622 active.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047738.html

pandemic vs poverty rate, by September-2020

Poverty increased by 7% last year, reaching 51%. The World Bank defines poverty as earning less than $5.5 a day, (2011 PPP). Unemployment +1%, at 18.1%.

The poverty is expected to reduce from 51% to 48% this year.

http://arka.am/en/news/society/world_bank_poverty_rate_in_armenia_jumped_to_over_51_percent_in_2020/

https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.UMIC

March stats / budget revenues increases

Pashinyan: the first-quarter data shows that the state budget revenues were exceeded by more than ֏20B ($38M). In March, there were 8.6 million more sales receipted printed than last year. That's a ֏122B difference.

The difference between the quarterly sales turnover is ֏116B or 6.2 million transactions.

Trade turnover +8% in Q1. It was over +20% in March alone.

The Economy Ministry advised us to increase year-end revenue expectations by ֏40B. This is quite good considering the post-war and pandemic situation. I thank all taxpayers and IRS. //

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047745.html , https://youtu.be/zZK2MpIFM7s

Tavush governor Chobanyan will replace departing High Tech Minister Arshakyan

Pashinyan: I thank Mr. Arshakyan for his work. He practically formed a new Ministry from the ground-up, which is a difficult task, and he has done quite well.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047746.html

science funding to increase

Education Ministry recently announced a ֏2B budget increase for this year. Minister Dumanyan announced today another ֏5B increase for next year. "We are ready to provide funds, although they are limited, but at the same time we expect the final result."

The current science budget is ֏13B, 64% of which goes to salaries. The rest is for scientific research, targeted government programs, and international programs.

http://arka.am/en/news/society/government_adds_another_2_billion_drams_to_science_committee_s_budget/

here is how the university admission process will work

Education Minister Dumanyan: there will be two rounds.

Rounds 1. Applicants will choose their university and major. The applications will be handled exclusively electronically. Exams will be held and students will be admitted. There will be vacant spots in universities and majors.

Round 2. Those students who couldn't pass in Round 1 will compete for vacant spots. They can submit applications for up to 6 majors relevant to their exams. A competition will be held among students with the highest grades.

Pashinyan: in other words, you begin by applying for only 1 university and 1 major, for either free or a paid slot. If you fail, you take your earlier exam results and submit them for the Round-2 competition. Here you can select up to 6 faculties with your results. You just have to pick a faculty that will accept the type of exams that you gave.

Minister: this year we have 22.3K paid and 2.9K free slots.

More: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047770.html , https://youtu.be/9BQJ_QXJD-w


war participants and family members receive tuition subsidies

Education Minister: we subsidized this semester's fees for 1,400 students in universities and colleges, with another 2,840 waiting in line. Total costs ֏795M.

Pashinyan: There will be 7,000 recipients in the end. It's part of our Roadmap.

http://arka.am/en/news/society/some_1_400_students_who_participated_in_nagorno_karabakh_war_provided_with_money_to_pay_their_one_se/ , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047748.html

airport taxi will be regulated

The government drafted an amendment to "improve service quality and prevent illegal transportation." It aims to prevent unpleasant encounters between foreign tourists and aggressive taxi drivers looking for clients in the airport.

It'll also address the unfairness of some transport operators being unable to use taxi parking spaces in the airport.

The taxi will be required to have a Class-A license to operate in the airport. It costs ֏200K/year.

The vehicles must be in good condition internally and externally.

There will be restrictions on how the drivers can advertise their services, including orally.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047781.html

Tags: #taxi

government will pay businesses to hire wounded or disabled soldiers

A business will receive ֏100K to hire a wounded or disabled veteran, plus ֏500K ($940) to add physical accommodations to make the environment disability-friendly.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047747.html , https://youtu.be/P0PbWBdDhXI

contractors to receive subsidies for using products made in Armenia

If you sign a contract with the government and prove that 50% of your workforce and used materials are Armenian, the government will refund you 1% of the contract. They expect to pay ֏1.12B in subsidies.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047771.html

favorable winds in World Cup 2022 qualifiers

Macedonia stunned Germany with a 2:1 victory. It robbed the Germans of important 3 points, pushing Armenia to the top of Group J with 9/9 points.

3 played, 7 to go. All remaining matches will be played in September-November of this year.

If finishes first: automatically qualifies for World Cop 2022. (big if true)

If finishes second: every country that finishes second in its respective group will be added to a list that includes 10 countries (because there are 10 groups). These countries will hold playoffs to determine the top 6 teams.

Additionally, 2 of the best Nations League teams will advance and join others.

The rest of the process requires Ph.D to understand.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_FIFA_World_Cup_qualification_%E2%80%93_UEFA_Group_J

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_FIFA_World_Cup_qualification_%E2%80%93_UEFA_Second_Round

end of report

The accused are innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "appear" guilty.

News archive: http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Daily_Anti-Corruption_Reports

Donations: soldiers' families, humanitarian aid, US tax-deductible donation.


Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/mi3dua/apr12021_1_electoral_code_reformed_2_housing_3/

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