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PM Vows Action Against ‘Baseless’ Price Hikes

December 18, 2014 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian on Thursday ordered Armenia’s anti-monopoly regulators to crack down on businesses that he said have disproportionately raised the prices of key goods to cash in on sharp exchange rate fluctuations.

“In particular, yesterday there were sizable increases in the prices of sugar, flour and a number of other basic consumer products [imported to Armenia,]” Abrahamian said at a cabinet meeting which was attended by Artak Shaboyan, the head of the State Commission on the Protection of Economic Competition (SCPEC).

“I am calling on you to treat these abuses with utmost strictness. The government will not tolerate baseless price hikes,” he told Shaboyan. He said the PSRC should submit its findings to the government on a daily basis.

Hydro-Plants vs Tourism: Battle Lines Drawn in Armenia’s Syunik Province

December 18, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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13:32, December 17, 2014

Ruben Vardanyan, a wealthy businessman based in Russia who supports various tourism development projects in Armenia, is so concerned that the construction of two mini hydro-plants may adversely affect tourism in the country’s southern Syunik region that he has met with Armenia’s prime minister in an attempt to halt their construction.

This news was conveyed by a Hetq source close to the issue.

The two hydro-plants are being built in the Syunik communities of Tatev and Tandzatap by a company called Tatevi Anapat LLC which is 50% owned by Sourik Khachatryan, the governor of Syunik Province.

The affected areas fall within a region that the IDeA (Initiatives for Development in Armenia), co-founded by Vardanyan, has been actively promoting as a prime tourist zone in Armenia.

‘Panic In Russia’ Blamed For Armenian Currency Crisis

December 17, 2014 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

The Armenian authorities on Wednesday described as artificial and temporary the continuing weakening of the national currency, the dram, and insisted that it will not undermine the country’s financial system.

The Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) claimed that the dram is grossly undervalued just as it lost of another 4 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar despite a nearly 3 percent strengthening of the Russian ruble.

“The panic in Russia has easily spread to Armenia,” said the CBA governor, Artur Javadian. In particular, he blamed “panicky messages” coming from hundreds of thousands of Armenians working in Russia.

Russian Crisis Speeds Up Armenian Currency Depreciation

December 16, 2014 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

The more than month-long depreciation of the Armenian dram has accelerated this week amid a deepening financial crisis in Russia, the main source of vital cash remittances to Armenia.

The Russian ruble plunged more than 10 percent for the second day on Tuesday, recording its worst fall since 1998.

The currency depreciation was just as dramatic in Armenia, with the dram trading at roughly 530 per U.S. dollar in late afternoon, down by over 9 percent from its weekend exchange rate. The Armenian currency has lost 22 percent of its value against the dollar since it started depreciating in early November.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

December 15, 2014 Armenia, Business, Commentary No Comments
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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Armenian Gas Price Unchanged For Now

December 15, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Business, Top News No Comments

Armenia’s Russian-owned national gas distribution company said on Monday that it does not yet plan to seek a further increase in its tariffs despite recent weeks’ significant depreciation of the Armenian dram.

The Gazprom Armenia network buys natural gas from Russia at a price set in U.S. dollars and sells it to Armenian households and businesses in drams. The dram has weakened against the dollar by over 15 percent since the beginning of November, meaning that the company is having to pay its Russian parent company, Gazprom, more in real terms.

Akhalkalak Store Owners Demonstrate; Demand a Lifting of Fines

December 15, 2014 Armenia, Business, Georgia No Comments
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13:40, December 15, 2014

Some 100 shop owners are demonstrating today outside the Akhalkalak Regional Administrative Building, demanding that recent fines levied against them be nullified.

One of the demonstrators told JNews: “They fined me four months ago. I have a   food stall and also sell small metal items. They fined me 48,000 Lari. I don’t know why and neither do they. I took the matter to court in Tbilisi and am still awaiting a decision. I won’t open my shop until the matter is resolved. I won’t celebrate New Years, but neither will I open the shop.”

The new site also reports that a delegation of the business owners will be meeting with Georgian Finance Minister Nodat Khaduri to convey their grievances. They will also raise immigration issues at the meeting.

Opposition MPs Walk Out Of Armenian Parliament

December 15, 2014 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

Dozens of deputies representing four opposition parties walked out of the Armenian parliament on Monday after failing to force an emergency debate on last week’s spate of attacks on opposition activists.

The Armenian National Congress (HAK), Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Zharangutyun parties threatened to boycott further parliament sessions in protest against what they see as government-orchestrated violence aimed at bullying their supporters. Orinats Yerkir, another opposition party represented in the National Assembly, joined in the walkout staged after speaker Galust Sahakian refused to suspend debates on issues included on the regular parliament agenda and discuss the beatings of the five oppositionists, among them HAK deputy Aram Manukian.

Selective Disclosure: Armenia’s Central Bank Conceals Data on Offshore Transfers

December 15, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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00:05, December 15, 2014

Armenia’s Central Bank (CB) claims thatsome data regarding money flows to and from offshore financial centers is protected from public disclosure under the law.

We say ‘some’, because the CB is being selective when it comes to which information can be disclosed and what cannot.

When Hetq contacted the CB, requesting that it provide figures of cash inflows and outflows to and from the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Panama, the Cayman Islands, the Seychelles and other offshore centers since 2007, it only did so for ‘natural persons’.

And even in this case, the CB confessed that it had no data for certain countries (see asterisk) prior to 2012.

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Featured Books

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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Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

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.