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Company Owned by VP of Armenia’s Parliament Again Wins Lucrative Government Contract

June 5, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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16:52, June 5, 2014

Republican Party MP Hermineh Naghdalyan, who also serves as the Vice President of Armenia’s National Assembly, seems to be pulling the right strings when it comes to winning lucrative government contracts.

Her company, SISIAN F&PA, Ltd., has again won a multi-million AMD road repair contract. The 452.2 million AMD (US$1.1million) contract, signed on May 22, is to repair the Yerevan-Yeraskh-Goris-Meghri stretch of highway linking Armenia to Iran.

In July of 2013, Naghdalyan’s company won a 409.2 million AMD contract to carry out repairs on sections of the very same Goris-Meghri highway, down to the border with Iran.

Ter-Petrosian Urges New Opposition Push For Regime Change

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Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian on Thursday called on Armenia’s leading opposition groups to join forces and exploit an anticipated constitutional referendum for toppling President Serzh Sarkisian.
 
In an extensive article posted on ilur.am, the top leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) accused Sarkisian of seeking to cling to power by amending the Armenian constitution and making the country part of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union at any cost. He described Sarkisian’s domestic and foreign policy agenda as a “roadmap to ruining Armenia.”
 
“Serzh Sarkisian is ready to make any concession, accept without objections any document put forward Russia and endure any humiliation for the sake of joining the Eurasian Union as quickly as possible and gaining President [Vladimir] Putin’s sympathy,” Ter-Petrosian charged. He said Sarkisian suffered one such humiliation last week when Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev set a pro-Azerbaijani condition for Armenia’s accession to the union.
 

Top Sarkisian Aide Gets Tax Break For Business

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The Armenian government is facing fresh corruption allegations by its critics after granting a significant tax benefit to an agricultural company that was recently set up by President Serzh Sarkisian’s chief adviser.
 
The official, Aram Gharibian, and his brother Abel registered the company called Armyanski Urozhay in February with the stated aim of opening greenhouses on 11 hectares of land in

Armenia’s central Kotayk province.  They asked the government to defer until 2017 the collection of a 20 percent value-added tax (VAT) from 3.7 billion drams ($8.7 million) worth of imported industrial equipment which they said will be installed at the farming facilities.
 
The government, which is legally allowed to grant such tax deferrals on a case-by-case basis, accepted the request on May 29. It instructed the Economy Ministry to monitor Armyanski Urozhay’s operations and ensure that the company achieves the objectives spelled out in its 6.5 billion-dram investment plan.
 
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Gharibian denied any conflict of interest in the creation of the company and the tax advantage secured by it. He claimed that he cannot be deemed illegally engaged in entrepreneurial activity because he has authorized another entity to manage his 20 percent share in Armyanski Urozhay. The rest of the company is formally owned by his brother.
 
Economy Minister Karen Chshmaritian similarly dismissed suggestions that the little-known firm with no track record in agribusiness was allowed to delay the payment of the 738 million-dram ($1.8 million) tax primarily because it is controlled by the senior official from the presidential administration.  “I don’t care who owns it” he told reporters. “What I care about is good business.”
 
Opposition politicians and other government critics are unconvinced. “If it wasn’t for that person I’m not sure the government would have given such a privilege to that company,” said Vahagn Khachatrian, a prominent economist affiliated with the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). He called the government’s decision a “classic example of corruption.”
 
Khachatrian said that the tax break could give the new agribusiness firm an unfair advantage over other, established and smaller greenhouses. “A lack of competition is the main problem in Armenia. The economy doesn’t develop because of that,” Khachatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
 
The oppositionist also claimed that the VAT deferral makes mockery of the recently appointed Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s pledges to create “equal conditions” for all businesses. “This only proves that if you want to do business in Armenia you need government connections,” he said.
 
Many senior government and law-enforcement officials in Armenia are believed to own lucrative businesses, either directly or through their relatives or cronies.

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Mexico: Crime Costs Companies $5.8 Billion A Year

June 4, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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14:30, June 4, 2014

The head ofMexico’s employers’ association reported that crime and insecurity cost the country’s businesses $5.8 billion annually, underscoring the enormous financial impact of criminal activity in the country.

Juan Pablo Castaon, the leader of employers’ association Coparmex, said 37 percent of Mexican companies had been victims of crimes including extortion, corruption, robbery of merchandise or kidnapping,reported Latin American Herald Tribune.

According to Castaon, business in the states of Tamaulipas, Michoacan and Guerrero have been the most impacted by organized criminal activity.

Castaon suggested the government coordinate federal and state forces under one command structure to combat criminal activity, an approach he said had worked in the cities of Tijuana and Juarez on the US-Mexico border.

Ukraine Ambassador Returns To Armenia

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Armenia – Ukrainian Ambassador Ivan Kukhta gives a press conference in Yerevan, 20Mar2014.

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Ukraine’s ambassador to Armenia has returned to Yerevan more than two months after being recalled to Kiev in protest against a positive Armenian reaction to a disputed referendum in Crimea that led to its annexation by Russia.

Zhoghovurd: Serzh Sargsyan should have sacked Armenian ambassador to Kazakhstan

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In a report commenting on the Kazakh leader’s pro-Azerbaijani call voiced at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Summit in Kazakhstan, the paper says that the move should have been followed at least by a presidential decree to sack Armenia’s ambassador to the country.
It quotes President Serzh Sargsyan as saying at the Monday meeting with Foreign Ministry officials and heads of diplomatic missions that “A diplomat must be able to properly study, analyze and evaluate the situation …An expectant and reactive diplomat who dodges his responsibilities is an inadmissible luxury for a state like ours.”
Describing the speech well-arranged, the paper says that a subsequent decree to relieve the ambassador of duties for not being aware of the “diplomatic correspondence” would have been a logical move under the circumstances. “Thereafter, the president should have signed a decree on sacking all the ambassadors who doonlybusiness abroad and serve the ‘shopping’ of high-ranking officials’ spouses leaving Armenia,” comments the paper.

Italy: Counterfeit Wine Seized In Police Raid

May 30, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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22:30, May 30, 2014

More than 30,000 bottles of cheap wine falsely labeled as high quality were seized in a police raid in Italy’s central region of Tuscany, reports Business Insider.

Police conducted a three-month investigation after customers who noticed they were drinking cheap wine tipped them off. Police seized the fake wines from restaurants, bars and supermarkets in Tuscany. It was being sold for around US $40, reports ABC News.

According to the Local, the bottles of fake wine were sold on the national and international market for up to 10 times their actual value. Wine Searcher said that the operation is believed to have cost legitimate wine producers hundreds of thousands of Euros.

Armenian IT company fined over competition breach

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Armenia’s antitrust commission has imposed a fine on an internet domain registration company over the breach of competition rules.
ABC Domain is to pay 10 million Armenian Drams (over $24,000) to the State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition for observed restrictive policies and unconscientious behavior on the market.
Speaking at the Commission’s session on Friday, Vahe Abrahamyan, an analysis and evaluation specialist, said they had received an appeal from the NGO of Taxpayers and Businessmen rights, which had warned of possible antitrust violations.
Under the company’s policies, anyone wishing to have a website registered on the “.am” domain is required to pay an unjustifiably high price.“An administrative proceeding revealed that the registration and maintenance of the sites in the ‘.am’ domain is carried out by the Internet Technologies Center LLC, which enjoys monopolistic positions in this sphere,” Abrahamyan said.
The above company delivered services to customers through different mediators in an attempt to demonstrate that the market enjoyed free competition. But an inspection revealed that ABC Domain, which is one of the mediators, dominated over 70% of the market. It was further found that the company was closely associated with the Internet Technologies Center.
The remaining 30% of the market turned out to be controlled by the mediator companies which, however, did not enjoy enough independence to determine their price policies at their own discretion. “To register a website in an internet domain, all the mediators charged 12,000 Drams (approx $30) from the customers, which was paid to the Internet Technologies Center. The latter carried out the website registration and later ‘paid’ or otherwise returned the 6,000 Drams ($14) to the mediators, thus keeping the their activities under control,” Abrahamyan added.
The Commission thus found that the company responsible for abusing monopolistic positions. Selling the website registration services to mediators for 6,000 Drams, it actually founded ABC Domain (as a company controlling 70% of the market) in an effort to secure an extra profit.
The “.am” domain now hosts around 23,000 sites, each of which pay a monthly fee of 12,000 Drams to the Internet Technologies Center.

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Book Reviews

John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.

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Commentary

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.

Want to Write for Hetq?

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10:24, March 14, 2014

I’m looking for freelancers who can broaden the scope of Hetq’s English edition

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Politics, Civil Society, Interviews…

Anything interesting happening in your local community you’d like to share?

Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

Hrant at hg.hetq@gmail.com

Source: HetqOriginial Article

For Better or For Worse: Nature Protection Ministry Proposes Amendments to Water Use Laws

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16:44, February 14, 2014

With the goal of providing a systematic solution to issues of effective use of water resources in Ararat valley, the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (RA) is proposing amendments and additions to the RA Water Code, and the RA laws on the Republic of Armenia’s National Water Program, on Licensing, and on State Tax.

The proposed legislative package has been sent to the relevant state agencies for their input.

Head of the Ministry of Nature Protection’s Water Resources Management Agency Volodya Narimanyan told Hetq, said that with this amendment package his ministry is attempting to clarify the ideas and the ambiguous commentary, as well as introduce new requirements. For example, one of the main points of the proposed amendments is if water use permit conditions are not met, the water use permit might be annulled.

2013 in Civil Society: Protests and more protests

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The struggle of civil movements this year has been comprehensive and diverse with limited success in certain fields due to unified efforts and active involvement of the civil society.

Despite the rather passive start of the year in terms of civil movements, the second half of 2013 turned out to be tense with active developments.

Some analysts believe that especially after the February 18 presidential ballot, when current president Serzh Sargsyan won a decisive victory over his opponents and was re-elected for a second term, despite the widespread poverty and atmosphere of injustice in the country, people became even more aware of the fact that is it impossible to achieve changes via elections and started practicing their constitutional rights to civil protest and disobedience more frequently.

Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

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2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Armenia’s decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova and Georgia.