2021 April 28

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Contents

Daily news wrap-up

Apr/28/2021: (1) Syunik riot story gets a spicy context (2) Intimidating voters or disrupting elections is felony (3) Demographic projects: housing & child aid (4) Ex-MP charged w/hiding property ownership (5) 7000 drivers lose license (6) Fake news (7) Artsakh conflict news (8) Cement tariffs (9)..
by ar_david_hh


Your 13-minute Wednesday report in 3262 words.

Syunik riot story 🍿 / Meghri mayor's "monopoly" business / 2017 tax waiver

Ruling QP MP Sisak proposed a bill to end an "unfair" tax subsidy to a "monopoly" company.

QP MP Sisak: a mayor of a town [presumably Meghri] contacted Premier Karen Karapetyan in 2017 and asked for a local tax waiver "to help the economy and create jobs". The Parliament passed a resolution to approve it. Sounds good on paper.

The resolution states that if a cargo vehicle travels from Iran to a storage station within 1km from Meghri customs checkpoint, then it's exempt from paying ~$300 in Road Tax.

Since 2004, there has only been one qualified storage facility 1km from the customs, and it's physically impossible to build the second one. De-facto, this storage has been taking advantage of this tax waiver for 2 years when the vehicles use it. The owner of the facility is the mayor's wife.

In 2019, 70% of vehicles traveling from Iran to this storage facility belonged to a company owned by the mayor's family. It was a fuel import business. Each vehicle did not pay ~$300 in taxes.

Days earlier, the [HHK] Meghri mayor Mkhitar Zakaryan announced that his wife's Agarak Terminal was closed; it owns the aforementioned storage facility. The mayor claims that the closure was retaliation in response to [the recent anti-Pashinyan Syunik riot in which the mayor is charged as an organizer].

However, the investigation against the facility began on April 1. This circle had learned about the pending case against the facility. Five days before the Syunik riots, the IRS audited the mayor's family facility and decided to close it [due to lack of required x-ray devices, as stated by IRS yesterday]. I think the primary motives for this circles' protest are clear.

These tax privileges prevent other businesses from opening nearby facilities because they cannot open one within a 1km radius. //

Another MP: Can you describe again? So the mayor opened this storage facility then his family business comes and takes advantage of the tax waiver. Can you tell us how much profit was made annually with this monopoly?

QP MP Sisak: imagine the Parliament adopts a new law stating that this specific MP has to earn 3x as much salary.

The Meghri mayor, under the pretense of goodwill and boosting local business, sent a letter to Premier Karen Karapetyan. However, there was already a storage facility there before he sent the letter. The new law gives tax waivers only to storages within only a 1km radius. De-facto only one storage could fit within that 1km radius. //

Parliament voted 77-0 to end the tax waiver for the Meghri mayor's family.

https://factor.am/364322.html https://factor.am/364309.html https://youtu.be/ieMfVZ-pPkQ https://youtu.be/Zm3j_9CC9j8

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050621.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050688.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050688.html https://factor.am/364243.html

Tags: #MeghriMayor #SyunikRiot #TaxWaiver

anti-corruption: former BHK MP Hrant Davtyan is charged with hiding property ownership

Prosecutors released a message: investigative journalists at Hetq published an article titled "The homes of wealthy Armenians and public officials in the luxurious complexes of Dubai". A felony investigation was launched on Feb/12/2020 against a public official and his family mentioned in the article, for not disclosing property.

SIS investigated and found that H.D., being a Parliament MP between Jun/2018 to Jan/2019, failed to disclose his properties.

He concealed the ownership of several apartments and lands in Armavir and Ararat provinces, and bank account. His family members also hid the ownership of vehicles, bank accounts.

Felony charges are pressed against the former official and his son.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050613.html https://hetq.am/hy/article/97848

bill approved: felony punishment for obstructing electoral process or intimidating voters outside polling stations

Ruling QP MP Hovakimyan proposed a felony punishment for disrupting the electoral process in a way that results in the voting results being declared invalid at a polling station.

The bill also prohibits obstruction of electoral campaign activities, threats made against voters outside of polling stations, or physical violence against them outside the stations. The punishment is anywhere between ֏300K fine to 3 years.

The bill would also prohibit intentional fake news conspired by a group against an electoral candidate. Punishable by up to ֏200K fine.

Additionally, an administrative fine for electoral propaganda during the silent period (election day and eve).

Parliament voted 77-0 to approve the draft bill. A second vote is necessary to pass.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050597.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050608.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050622.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050681.html

BHK 404

Ruling party MP complained that the opposition party did not show up for today's Parliamentary sessions.

BHK MP Tonoyan said it's pointless to be there because the ruling class has enough votes to pass resolutions and that their speeches remain just speeches.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/212513 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/212557

Tags: #representation

Pashinyan visits Kotayk to discuss agricultural reforms:

74% of Armenia's and Kotayk's arable lands are not irrigated today. Only 37% of arable lands are being utilized in Kotayk. We have a problem with raising public awareness about existing agricultural aid programs.

We are also preparing a new program: $0 water bill for 5 years if you install a water-efficient drip-irrigation network

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050630.html Pashinyan about demographics and provincial development:

We talk a lot about equal development in provinces and demographics. I'd like to know whether people are aware of the available programs. so they can take advantage.

Last year we approved a bill to provide housing for families with children. Provincial families with at least 2 children can receive a 5% mortgage subsidy with a ֏1m limit; the limit raises with each additional child. Moreover, the aid increases by ~30% if the family is young.

Another demographic-related program works in Yerevan and provinces. The government pays 10% of an existing mortgage after the birth of a child. In rural families, 50% of the mortgage is subsidized when the 3rd child is born, or 70% subsidy if the mother is under 25 years old.

These programs also work if the family takes a loan to build a house instead of buying one.

We also increased the one-time aid for 1st and 2nd childbirth. There is ֏1m payment for the 3rd child.

Unemployed mothers in provinces began receiving a monthly $50 aid for childcare, while the working mothers had it increased to $100/mo. This is why it's important to register as a worker and come out of the shadowy economy.

{There was a new package for >3 children in provinces, announced yesterday}.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3180499942197839 https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050630.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050638.html

Tags: #FamilyAid #demographics

Armenia will have a new reproductive health strategy

Healthcare Minister Avanesyan met with representatives of the UN Population Fund to discuss projects relating to reproductive health, demographics issue, and reducing maternal deaths.

Armenia plans to reform its reproductive health system. "There are many citizens who want to receive medical care provided with assisted reproductive technologies, and the state is doing everything to expand the program," said the Minister. Families of soldiers who died during the war were recently qualified for aid.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050659.html

7,000 drivers had their license suspended / points-based traffic penalty system

Context: Last year the government changed traffic rules to implement a points-based system. Drivers can waste 9 points annually before being suspended. Some infractions result in instant suspension. It was a shift from the fine-based system in which "the rich could get away with paying pennies."

Police official: the efficiency of the new system is already visible. Over 10K drivers received more than 9 points. 7K licenses are suspended. If they continue to drive, there will be felony punishment. There were 1K such felony cases last year.

[The points system goes into full effect next year. Only cameras can catch and issue a point today.]

So far there have been more recorded violations this year. The increase could be explained by the system being new back in 2020 and drivers being more vigilant due to widespread news coverage.

In 141 out of 766 cases this year, the driver submitted a letter stating that it was them who was driving at the time of the offense, and not the registered vehicle owner. [earlier there were concerns that most violators could avoid penalties by paying others to take the blame]

The system restrains drivers to some extent. Its full efficiency will become clear after its full implementation in Jul/1/2022.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050618.html

update: border movement near Artsakh's Nor Ghazanchi village

Yesterday we learned that Azeris moved their line 370m forward near an Artsakh village before pulling it back after negotiations. Today they moved forward again, said the village mayor. The negotiations resumed.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050623.html

The MOD reported no incidents on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The army continues the routine exercises. The 2nd military unit conducted training for commanders.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050698.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050694.html

65 US House Representatives call for $100m aid to Armenia

They also urged the US to suspend military aid to Azerbaijan until it stops hostile activities.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050600.html

Artsakh President Arayik about the 44-day war and past events:

After the 1994 ceasefire, our military-political leadership did not learn the lessons from other parts of the world. Having an advantage in the negotiation process, they were unable to find more favorable solutions.

Why did we fight? Because we all said, "not one-inch land".

The results of the war were clear to me in early October but Armenian political forces did not come to a consensus. There was no agreement between the opposition and the government. Stopping the war was considered "treason".

We would have had a different outcome if the war wasn't against Turkish-Azeri joint forces who recruited 7,000 militants. Turkey does not hide their support, saying "We were able to restore historic justice with the help of Azerbaijan."

Our biggest mistake was not taking care of 50,000 refugees after the ethnic cleansings of Armenians in Artsakh's Shahumyan, Hadrut, Martuni on Jun/13/1992. Artsakh's population should have been 200,000 and not 45,000. We didn't even take care of 10% of the Shahumyan population. They left.

I see the future of Armenia and Artsakh within the framework of a new and deeper military-political cooperation, and with the help of Russia, we can withstand this situation.

We will continue the diplomatic struggle to restore areas occupied by Azerbaijan, at least within the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast brothers.

https://factor.am/364233.html https://youtu.be/7hTkSlT8U4Q

Azerbaijan reportedly fails to secure a seat during EAEU trade bloc session

Belarus and Kazakhstan, and likely Russia, would like to see Azerbaijan join the EAEU trade session despite it not being a member-state. The move would require member-state Armenia's approval.

EAEU website does not list Azerbaijan as a participant during tomorrow's session.

Russian media learned from its sources that Armenia wants the POW situation resolved, among other issues, before Azerbaijan could join.

https://factor.am/364640.html

protests in Azerbaijan

A group of pro-Turkish Azeris organized anti-Russian protests in front of the embassy relating to Azerbaijan's Sovietization in 1920. They also demand Russian peacekeepers' withdrawal from Artsakh. "Russians and Armenians are our enemies."

https://factor.am/364549.html

20 people were arrested in Azerbaijan after clashes between funeral participants and police. A soldier died from wounds he received during the war. Police said only his family members were allowed to participate in the funeral.

https://factor.am/364424.html

Hague-based Armenian organization expects trials against Turkey after Biden's genocide recognition

Several genocide-related trials against Turkey were rejected in American courts, citing the government's lack of recognition of the genocide, said the "Abovyan" cultural organization based in Europe.

https://ria.ru/20210428/genotsid-1730239897.html https://factor.am/364518.html

new Armenology centers will open in Uruguay and Moldova universities

... announced Education Ministry today. There are currently ten centers in eight states. Their activities are relating Armenian culture, history, and literature. "The presence of diaspora and university's rating is taken into account while selecting new locations."

The funding for this program was increased last year.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050627.html

Education Ministry and the church still disagree on curriculum

Education Ministry and some parents complain that Armenian Church classes should be part of Armenian History and that too much time is dedicated to the church as a separate subject.

Ministry wants to reduce its hours from 236 to 64 by compressing the material. The Church believes it's "unconstitutional".

https://factor.am/364487.html

Parliament and government discuss cement import tariffs

You might remember that in 2019, BHK leader Gagik Tsarukyan complained that Iranian cement importers, who were "dumping" cement, could place his Ararat Cement factory out of businesses. He asked the government to impose import tariffs. The government agreed, stating that having local cement production was important.

Economy Minister Qerobyan: there is a new bill to amend the law regulating the cement and cement clinker. We are shifting to licensing model to be compliant with EAEU trade bloc rules. We cannot impose months-long hard bans as it was done before. It should be done via licensing. Every 100,000 tons would need to pay licensing fees instead of import tariffs. That's the technical part.

Our goal is to restore Armenia's economic potential, to produce and export complex products. It's important for both of our cement producers Ararat Cement and Hrazdan Cement to continue their activities. Securing enough volume is required to keep prices the same.

Our bill replaces cement import tariff with import licensing. As for clinker, we want to bring its profitability in line with other local producers' profitability. Iranian cement is much cheaper. If we impose a ֏9K fee on clinker, they would still have large profits. The budget would receive an additional ֏1.5b in revenues. As of right now, we are losing ֏2b.

QP MP Tunyan: why are the tariffs higher in this bill than they were during the one proposed late last year? A bill was proposed last year but it didn't pass.

Economy Minister Qerobyan: we reviewed the whole process after I took the office. It's to establish a leveled playing field to ensure nobody has extreme profit while others operate with loss.

QP MP Tunyan: I'm not aware of any companies in this field that make extreme profits.

[The QP MP and Minister debate over the company's profits.]

QP MP Gevorgyan: why is Armenian cement the most expensive in the world? A 1 ton costs ֏31K in Russia, ֏32K in Turkey, ֏30K in Azerbaijan, but ֏46K in Armenia. Yet the Armenian companies claim to use state-of-the-art technology to produce it.

Hrazdan Cement factory claims the cement has to cost ֏53K to be profitable. Is the whole country supposed to subsidize them? How much did they reduce cement price after they received gas price subsidy?

Economy Minister Qerobyan: when we did the research the cement price was similar to one sold in Russia and Georgia. The price depends on different factors. If we remove all border tariffs, cement will cost just ֏25K in Armenia.

You can ask the cement factory how much the price has to be to make it profitable and they will give you a specific number. But we approach it differently: how much does your sales volume have to be for you to be profitable without raising the price? They said at least 150K tons.

Based on this research, we drafted a model in which Ararat Cement would produce 600K tons, while Hrazdan and ShinCement would produce 200K each. Everyone would be profitable.

QP MP Tunyan: why would Ararat Cement voluntarily reduce its annual 750K production to allow Hrazdan Cement to produce more?

Economy Minister Qerobyan: it's based on our research of the market.

[the debate continues, check out the links below]

An MP suggested ֏14K tariff on cement and ֏0K on clinker but the Ministry wants ֏25K on cement and ֏9K on clinker. The Parliamentary committee voted to reject the Ministry's draft bill.

Full debate: https://factor.am/364483.html https://factor.am/364434.html https://factor.am/364439.html https://factor.am/364470.html https://factor.am/364412.html https://factor.am/364384.html https://factor.am/364415.html https://factor.am/364419.html https://youtu.be/MvYI93vBswA

https://factor.am/364479.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050708.html

Tags: #cement #AraratCement #CementTariff

Freedom House Democracy report

Armenia saw the first post-revolution decline in 2021 due to the war-related events and the standoff between the military and the government. However, Armenia appears to remain the top performer between 2017-2021 in the Nations in Transit graph

https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2021/antidemocratic-turn

rumors and rebuttals: no shenanigans involving General Mosi's house

Rumor was circulated claiming that opposition General Movses Hakobyan sold his house to Artsakh Government a decade ago so he could receive it back as a donation, as part of a corruption scheme.

Prosecutors denied the rumors: Stepanakert mayor authorized Mosi to obtain land to build a house in 2006. He received a construction permit until 2009. He applied to register as owner in 2008. No records indicate that he received any finances relating to construction, compensation, etc.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/212527

rumors and rebuttals: teachers aren't being pressured en-masse over snap elections

The former head of Yerevan's Davtashen district Ruslan Baghdasaryan [HHK, charged with 51-million embezzlement after the revolution] claimed on Facebook that teachers are being questioned in police stations en-masse as election pressure. A document was circulated.

Police and investigators respond: the writing was sent to Yerevan official back on February 17 because information was received about anti-corruption operations in schools about abuse and falsifications. A felony case was launched on February 22.

Investigators charged 5 school directors over corruption. 48 teachers were invited for questioning. //

The municipality criticized the former official for "simple fake news". A teacher came forward and denied the rumor regarding some documents being collected as part of the election campaign. She says that after she went on a vacation a while back, the police wanted to check to make sure she did not get paid during her vacation [it's a common fraud in Armenia]. Another teacher said he submitted a similar document over a long-term vacation: "There was no word about elections."

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/212552 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/212556 https://fip.am/15328

post office HayPost releases an app

... that lets you pay the utility bills over the phone. An update is on the way.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/212505

IRS catches puppy smugglers

Two Iranian nationals were caught in Meghri checkpoint while smuggling two dozen puppy dogs to Iran. They were hidden in cargo trucks that were transporting empty containers.

https://youtu.be/KOpHtCZJTMk?t=39

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050641.html

COVID stats

4807 tested. 808 infected. 588 citizens. 13 deaths. 13503 active (up).

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050601.html

vaccination campaign continues in Armenia / rules change

Armenia imported one batch of AstraZeneca, two batches of Sputnik-V, and is awaiting SinoVac.

2,641 vaccinations so far. It grows 5% daily. No serious side effects so far.

Earlier the Healthcare Ministry reserved AstraZeneca only for the elderly. This requirement is lifted. Anyone above 18, whether in the risk group or not, can apply for one.

Sputnik is still reserved for those under 54.

Clinics will begin administering vaccines on the weekends, too.

Citizens no longer have to receive the vaccine in the clinic where they are registered. Make an appointment at any facility.

Foreign citizens with legal stay permits can receive a shot.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050646.html

Healthcare officials receive AstraZeneca "to prove it's safe"

Minister Avanesyan and acting Deputy Premier Avinyan got a shot today "because most of the fake news is relating this vaccine."

Armenia is still working with Russia to purchase 1 million doses whenever it's available. "Certain processes are taking place."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050662.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050685.html

Armenian theatrical performance wins award

Yerevan State Puppet Theater performed "Christopher" during the Wschod-Zachod festival in Poland.

Hrachya Gyumbalyan won the "Best Supporting Actor" award, while the director won the "Best Dramatic Director". 🍿

iN oTHeR NewS: Oscars rating plummets 58,000,000% after everyone tuned in to watch the puppet award.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050649.html

today in history

1930: Armenian-American movie director Richard Safarian is born. Known for his movie Vanishing Point, he also directed numerous films and TV shows including episodes of Batman, The Twilight Zone, and Gunsmoke. He voiced a character in Eddie Murphy's comedy "Dr. Doolittle 2".

1993: Armenian-American singer Cher (Cherilyn Sarkisian) makes a humanitarian trip to Armenia and donates $2.5m.

http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Richard_Sarafian https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1050580.html

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/n0n5g5/apr282021_1_syunik_riot_story_gets_a_spicy/

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