Friday, 13 March 2009

Armenian News‏

Wednesday, 11 March, 2009
Government `Still Hopes' To Avoid Spending Cuts
By Karine Kalantarian

The Armenian government still hopes to avoid cutting its planned
record-high expenditures this year despite the worsening economic
situation, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said on Wednesday.

Armenia's 2009 state budget envisages a 15 percent rise in government
expenditures projected to total 945.5 billion drams ($2.6 billion). The
budget was drawn up last fall on the assumption that the Armenian
economy will grow by 9 percent.

The economy is now widely expected to contract in 2009. The country's
Gross Domestic Product already fell by 0.7 percent in January. The
government also reported a nearly 13 percent drop in its budgetary
revenues, raising more questions about its ability to meet its budgetary

Sarkisian said that it is still `premature' to speak of their downward
revision as a forgone conclusion. He said the government plans no cuts
in its current expenditures and has so far only delayed planned
first-quarter spending on capital projects.

`The government has stated that legislation gives the government certain
flexibility,' he told reporters. `We are now making use of that right.
We are carrying out a re-distribution of quarterly expenditures.'

Still, Sarkisian did not rule out the possibility of a budget
sequestration later this year. `Depending on how events will unfold,
what economic indicators we will have, we will make decisions later on,'
he said.

The prime minister spoke after holding separate meetings with the
parliamentary factions of three parties represented in his coalition
government. `Today's meetings were devoted to the current socioeconomic
situation, the resulting problems and how we are going to overcome
negative effects of the global financial-economic crisis,' he said.

Ara Nranian, a parliament deputy from the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), said he and his colleagues were `shocked'
by what they heard from Sarkisian. Nranian declined to elaborate.

According to the premier, the Dashnaktsutyun lawmakers disagreed with
his views on Turkish investments in the Armenian economy. `There are
different approaches to how the state should deal with this delicate
issue. Our views do not coincide there in the sense that I believe we
must remain loyal to liberal principles and create favorable conditions
for all kinds of investments without restrictions,' he said without
going into details.

At issue was apparently Sarkisian's recent public offer to Turkey to
participate in the planned construction of a new nuclear plant in
Armenia that would replace the aging Soviet-era facility at Metsamor.
Dashnaktsutyun is strongly opposed to any Turkish involvement in the
ambitious project.

Preventing social shocks Armenian government's top priority

YEREVAN, March 9. /ARKA/. Preventing social shocks is the Armenian
Government's priority task, stated RA Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan.

`Our priority task is to prevent social shocks. We have stated and are
stating once more that the socially vulnerable sections will receive
the funds due to them on time and in full,' T. Sargsyan stated in his
interview to Armenian TV channels.

He reminded the journalists that Armenia has completed negotiations
with the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and with
its strategic partners, which allows the Government to form a clear
idea of the financial situation during the coming three or four years
and of its own potential with the impact of the global crisis

`So we have specified our medium-term program and the amount of the
financial aid we need,' the Premier said.

He pointed out that the IMF stated its intention to allocate $540 to
Armenia, with $240mln to be received immediately, and the rest of the
funds as quarterly tranches.

The WB, too, stated its intention to allocate $525mln to the Armenian

Also, RF Premier Vladimir Putin stated that the Russian Government
decided to issue a $500mln stabilization credit to Armenia for
surviving the global crisis.

T. Sargsyan also reported that Armenia has finished negotiations with
other financial institutions, particularly the Asian Development Bank,
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Black Sea
Bank, all of which plan to allocate funds to the country.

`With the funds considered, we, of course, are modifying our
expenditure policy. The social sector will be top priority,' the
Premier said.

He pointed out that the Government's aim is that wages, pensions and
social allowances be paid on time.
Another priority is infrastructural expenses.

`We will use the fund to boost economic growth in Armenia. In
particular, we will help enterprises experiencing difficulties and the
one creating jobs,' the Premier said.

T. Sargsyan believes that the measures will relieve social tension.

`Our strategy is a very simple one. We will first of all use our funds
to protect the socially vulnerable sections of the population.
Secondly, we are ready for infrastructural expenses. Thirdly, we will
promote the creation of jobs,' Sargsyan said.

`In this context, the best means at our disposal that we have announced
is supporting small and medium-sized businesses, procuring additional
funds for crediting and implementing new small and medium-sized
business programs,' the Premier said. `
U.S. Hold On Armenia Road Funding Extended
By Tigran Avetisian

The United States has again extended the suspension of some of its
additional economic assistance to Armenia, saying that the authorities
in Yerevan have still not addressed U.S. concerns about the `status of
democratic governance' in the country.

Armenia was due to receive $236.5 million under the U.S. government's
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program designed to promote political
and economic reforms around the world. Most of the sum was earmarked in
2006 for the rehabilitation and expansion of the country's battered
irrigation networks.

Another $67 million was set aside for the reconstruction of about 1,000
kilometers of rural roads. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a
U.S. government agency managing the scheme, blocked the launch of this
project last year, expressing serious concern about the Armenian
government's post-election crackdown on the opposition and its broader
human rights record.

MCC's governing board reiterated those concerns late Wednesday at a
quarterly meeting in Washington that was chaired by Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and attended by Secretary of the Treasury Timothy
Geithner. It decided not lift the hold on road construction funding.

`The Board's decision today signals to the government that it has failed
over several years to address concerns raised not only by MCC and other
U.S. Government agencies, but the international community as well,'
Rodney Bent, the acting head of the corporation, said in a statement.

`It's now incumbent upon the government of Armenia to restore the
Board's confidence to its commitment to democracy and good governance.
MCC has given the government of Armenia every opportunity to make
meaningful reforms and will continue its direct communication about its
expectations moving forward,' added Bent.

MCC decided at the same time to continue to finance the irrigation
project, the main component of its compact with Armenia. The corporation
has disbursed more than $25 million for that purpose since the launch of
the five-year aid package in September 2006.

The Armenian government declined to immediately comment on its latest
decisions. A spokesman told RFE/RL that the government will officially
react on Friday.

The MCC's decisions came on the heels of the U.S. State Department's
annual human rights report that criticized the Armenian authorities'
handling of the February 2008 presidential election and its ensuing
crackdown on the opposition. `The government's human rights record
deteriorated significantly during the year, with authorities and their
agents committing numerous human rights abuses, particularly in
connection with the presidential elections and the government's
suppression of demonstrations that followed,' concluded the 67-page

Yerevan Police Vow To Investigate University Graft Claims
By Hovannes Shoghikian

Police in Yerevan pledged on Thursday to launch an investigation into
the dissemination of leaflets accusing concrete professors and lecturers
of state-run universities of corruption.

Walls and bus stop stands in several locations in the city center were
plastered with photographs and names of more than a dozen allegedly
corrupt academics on Wednesday morning. The leaflets were reportedly
posted by activists of the pro-government youth organization Miasin

The police, which react harshly to similar actions by opposition groups,
have not questioned any of those activists so far. This fact prompted
speculation that they were instructed not to stop the leaflet

But Major-General Nerses Nazarian, chief of the Yerevan police, brushed
aside such suggestions. `We can not support or participate in such
actions,' he said. `We certainly do not agree with that view. If people
have any evidence [of corruption] they can apply to the police.'

Nazarian argued that the police can not investigate the legality of the
Miasin action without receiving a written complaint from individuals or
organizations targeted by the youth group supporting President Serzh
Sarkisian. `I am told that Yerevan State University is preparing to
lodge a formal complaint,' he told a news conference. `The police will
certainly deal with that fact.'

In a related development, the Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned Miasin
for putting one of its employees, Hrachya Poladian, on the black list of
academics who allegedly accept kickbacks from students. A ministry
statement said Poladian currently works at the Armenian embassy in Egypt
and has never taught at Yerevan State Unviersity despite Miasin's claims
to the contrary. It demanded that the organization publicly apologize
for `slandering' the diplomat.

18 female representatives of Armenian political parties to pay
cognitive visit to Great Britain

YEREVAN, MARCH 9, NOYAN TAPAN. 18 female representatives of
parliamentary and extraparliamentary political parties functioning in
Armenia and 3 RA NA deputies will be in Great Britain on a cognitive
visit on March 9-14 within the framework of the Wo/Men in Politics
program implemented with the financing of the Embassy of Great Britain
in RA.

According to the British Council Armenian Office, visit's goal is to
acquaint Armenian politicians with Great Britain's parliamentary
system, parliamentarians' legislative activity and to create a
possibility for cooperation. During the visit the interlocutors will
also have a possibility to get acquainted with women's and men's
rights, with laws regarding equal possibilities in politics and their
use in Great Britain.

Visits to parliaments of England, Wales, and Scotland, meetings with
representatives of standing parliamentary committees and deputies, as
well as with representatives of civil society are planned within the
framework of the visit. Rosemarie Butler, the Vice-Speaker of
parliament of Wales, will receive the representatives of political
parties and the deputies in Wales.

The Wo/Men in Politics two-year program launched in 2008 July is
implemented by British Council with the financing of the Embassy of
Great Britain in RA. The program is aimed at raising women's role in
the political sphere, at development of skills, establishment of new
cooperation possibilities.


No comments: