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Excise taxes on drugs may cause surge in market, says importers’ union chief

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Tert.am has talked to Samvel Zakaryan, the president of Medicine Producers and Importers’ Union, over the impact of a government decision to impose excise taxes on the purchase of drugs.
Do you think the government measures in the pharmaceutical industry are justified given that this is a priority sector?
They are justified; we would simply expect more active measures. In terms of the strategy timing, our sector is the best. and it is one of the first in terms of the activities accomplished. We are very actively working with the Ministry of Economy and the Industrial Development Foundation. The result was that the pharmaceutical sector had the highest records, with 29.8 percent production growth and 25.8 percent export growth.
Do you observe changes in the new government or do they pursue the predecessors’ [policies]?
No, it is an absolutely different work style. What particularly surprised us was that the reforms are implemented without any discussions with us, with our opinion remaining overlooked. For instance, the document on approving simultaneous import procedures was put forward to the private sector all of a sudden.
What will you say about the new reforms that call for imposing excise taxes on medicines?
That’s the other problem we face; the [amended] law “On Trade and Services” envisages excise taxes also for medicines, apart from soap, make-up products and other items. That’s a non-professional approach, because drugs, as a specific form of product, should [be imported] based on specific procedures. As a result, drugs too appeared on that list on grounds of combating the shadow economy. Over one million drug packages, with different sizes and quality, are imported to Armenia, so it is important to excise all that, as we deal with considerable expenses. If the package includes 60 pills while the patient wishes five, for example, that would violate the excising procedures. Our patients will not buy all 60; they will take 5 [pills] and throw away all the rest. The excise tax costs may cause a surge in the prices of medicines.
It is argued to be a method of combating the shadow.
The excision will offer no benefits at all; it doesn’t make any sense in the case of medicines. There are special surveillance procedures for pharmaceutical products, as it is, with every single vial being registered during the import. So shadow activities are practically ruled out. If drugs used to be smuggled from Georgia, then it is necessary to take action against that; official importers cannot carry out a shadow import. Excise offers wide opportunities to smugglers; they may tear the label from a drug sold for 10 Drams and stick it to a 10,000 Drams worth drug imported without registration. Official importers work in a coordinated manner, so they cannot act in the shadow. It is necessary to fight smugglers instead of dismantling the accomplished market through experiments. There are no procedures of the kind in European countries.

Diaspora Tycoon Slams Armenian ‘Monopolies’

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A prominent Armenian-American businessman sounded alarm bells on Monday over what he sees as a lack of competition in Armenia, saying that it could spell serious trouble for the country’s economy.

Vahak Hovnanian singled out the monopolization of lucrative imports of goods by “a handful of people” close to the government. He declined to name any of them, though.

“That could have deadly consequences for the economy,” Hovnanian warned in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I maybe going to extremes but I want people to take note.”

“The monopolies must be broken up,” he said. “Competition is what drives countries forward. There is no competition here. We can’t move forward in this way.”

One Family’s Odyssey: To Belgium and France, and Unwillingly Back to Armenia

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10:03, July 28, 2014

All of five year-old Davit’s toys were left behind in the Belgian town of Kortenaken.

That was the day Belgian officials told Davit’s parents that they were sending the family back to Armenia. Taking only the essentials, the family fled across the border to France.

“We didn’t want to come back and were ready to go anywhere but Armenia,” Marieta Aslanyan told Hetq. The mother gave birth to three children in Belgium and a fourth in Armenia.

Travelling to the French border town of Lille, the family was forced to sleep in the halls of a hospital and other public places.  But the family soon gave in.

Dutch experts headed to MH17 crash site: official

July 27, 2014 Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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A team of 30 Dutch forensic experts headed Sunday to the crash site of flight MH17 in rebel-controlled east Ukraine, Dutch officials said, despite intensifying fighting in the area, media report.The team was able to travel following an agreement the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe made with the pro-Russian separatists, the justice ministry said in a statement.The Dutch are in charge of victim identification and leading the probe into what caused the crash.A total of 298 people died in the July 17 disaster, 193 of them Dutch. Separatists have been accused of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines 777 by mistake.Many of the bodies have been removed. A Dutch forensic team has been to the site already, but the forensic specialists investigating the crash have yet to go amid security concerns.A truce has been called in the immediate area around the site by both Kiev forces and the separatists, but combat has been raging just 60 kilometres (35 miles) away, with loud explosions heard at regular intervals in western and northern suburbs of rebel stronghold Donetsk. 

Ukraine to keep western companies out of gas industry

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Ukraine’s parliament has rejected allowing EU and US companies to buy up to 49 percent of oil and gas company Naftogaz, and also said they were against liquidating the national energy monopoly, Russia Today reports.
Kiev rejected splitting the company in two, a measure encouraged by the West in order for Naftogaz to comply with Europe’s third energy package, which doesn’t allow one single company to both produce and transport oil and gas.
The bill proposed creating two new joint stock companies in order to conform to the package, “Ukraine’s Main Gas Transmission” and “Ukraine’s Underground Storages.”
The proposal sought to meet the requirements of EU legislation and strengthen Ukraine’s energy independence.
Earlier in July, the Ukrainian parliament passed a first reading of the bill that would have allowed Western companies up to a 49 percent of Ukraine’s Gas Transportation System (GTS).
There had been rumors the state would sell off at least 15 percent of Naftogaz in a public offering, however, the conditions in Ukraine’s capital and equity market aren’t strong enough to get a high enough price.
The changes was rejected because of the large monopoly and influence Naftogaz has over the Ukrainian market, the country’s political scientist Alexander Ohrimenko, told Russian business daily RBC. 

Armenian PM Appoints New Deputy Justice Minister

July 25, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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12:06, July 25, 2014

Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan today appointed Artyom Geghamyan to the post of deputy justice minister.

From 2008 to 2011, Geghamyan headed the ministry’s liaison division to the European Court of Human Rights. 

Geghamyan holds a JD and Master of Laws from Yerevan State University School of Law, and a PhD in European Union Law and Integration from Public Administration Academy. He holds an LLM in International and Comparative Law from Indiana University School of Law.

For the past year he was a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Karabakh Negotiations Reach Deadlock, Says Armenian Opposition

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The internationally mediated talks aimed at finding a solution to the protracted Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have reached an impasse, an opposition party representative in Armenia argued on Thursday, reacting to the latest meetings of diplomats and statements made by the peace brokers.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am), Vladimir Karapetian, a chief foreign-policy spokesman for the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), also suggested that French President Francois Hollande’s proposal on holding an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Paris in the near future may no longer be on the agenda as well after the parties reported no progress following their foreign ministers’ meetings with the mediators in Brussels earlier this week.

Bulgaria prime minister quits to allow snap election

July 24, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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The embattled Socialist prime minister of Bulgaria has resigned after only a year in office to allow for an early election on 5 October.
Plamen Oresharski’s government had been expected to quit after the Socialists did badly in May’s European elections and lost a key ally in parliament.
The previous cabinet formed by Boiko Borisov’s conservative Gerb party collapsed amid economic unrest.
Bulgaria is now grappling with its worst banking crisis in decades.
Parliament is expected to approve the cabinet’s resignation on Thursday. An interim government is likely to take over in August.
Bulgaria is one of the EU’s poorest countries.

Source: TertOriginial Article

Karabakh Peace Brokers Concerned About ‘Targeted Killings of Civilians’

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International mediators brokering a solution to the protracted conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh have expressed their ‘serious concern’ about the increase in tensions and violence, including “the targeted killings of civilians”, along the Line of Contact and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

After holding separate meetings with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Brussels earlier this week, the American, Russian and French co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group, Ambassadors James Warlick, Igor Popov and Pierre Andrieu, issued a statement from Vienna, Austria, on July 23, saying that during the meetings they urged the parties “to commit themselves to avoiding casualties” and “rejected the deliberate targeting of villages and the civilian population”.

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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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Commentary

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.

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.