Books on Armenia
Principal ethnic groups
Update No: 297 - (29/09/05)
Independence Day celebrations
The Armenian regime is beleaguered, although it would be the last to admit it.
When President Mikhail Saakashvili, the hero of the Rose Revolution in Georgia,
came to Yerevan in August, his very presence in the stead of former Politburo
hack Eduard Shevardnadze was a reproach to the dictatorial grip on power of
President Robert Kocharian.
August was of course the month when the USSR collapsed in 1991. Kocharian
mouthed all the usual emollient clichés on the fourteenth anniversary of
independence, but with revealing twists all the same:-
"It's been the fourth year that Armenia's economic growth shows
double-digit numbers. First of all, this is a result of our people's diligent
work as well as of the effective policies of the authorities. It has also become
possible through internal political stability, which is a necessary precondition
for the country's advancement. It is very important that the results of this
progress are channelled predominantly into the social sphere.
"Economic growth should have a direct impact on the well-being of our
citizens. We are resolute to fully implement the plan on the Reduction of
Poverty. The guarantees of overcoming challenges faced by our country are
strengthening of the rule of law, more efficient administration and civic
"Very soon a referendum of Constitutional changes will be held in Armenia.
People of Armenia, who fourteen years ago this day made their historic choice to
build a free, democratic and prosperous country, must take their next step on
this road. This will provide for an opportunity to have an improved, more
balanced Constitution. By accepting it we will record significant political
progress and will reinforce the international prestige and image of our country.
It will also be the best guarantee of the irreversibility of the reforms which
are currently underway.
"In foreign policy we will continue to work for Armenia's deeper
international involvement by our active participation in the discussion and
resolution of the problems, which concern humankind. We think that the best way
for the gradual solution of the existing problems is the cooperation of all the
countries of the region. We are committed to a peaceful resolution of the
Nagorno Karabagh issue, which must be built on the actual existence of the
Republic of Nagorno Karabagh and right of people to self-determination.
"Our state is safe and secure thanks to Armenia's armed forces, which were
born by our independence and have now become its shield. Our army was formed by
the heroes, who shed blood to create powerful foundations for the Republic of
Armenia - the motherland of all Armenians."
Decoded, this means that the regime rests on force and will continue to do so;
as for popular participation in politics, it will not be allowed to take an
active revolutionary form, as in Georgia, but only the passive endorsement of
constitutional tinkering, a favourite pastime of dictators through the ages.
Still, not everything Kocharian said was wrong or distorted. The economy is
veritably doing very well, albeit from a very low base. The campaign against
poverty is, indeed, a top priority. If it has some success, the regime can
Austria to support Armenia in business
Austria has expressed a willingness to help here. Austrians feel an affinity
with Armenians, both at different times victims of Greater Turkish designs and
Austria intends to support Armenia in small and medium business development,
Armenian Deputy Minister of Trade and Economic Development, Tigran Davtyan said
at the recent signing ceremony of the protocol of the meeting of the
Armenian-Austrian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, Interfax
News Agency reported.
The Austrian delegation was recently on a three-day visit to Armenia, where it
held negotiations at the ministry of trade and economic development, ministry of
environmental protection and met with representatives of SMEs.
This was the second meeting of the Armenian-Austrian intergovernmental
commission. The first meeting was held in Vienna two years ago when both sides
agreed on bilateral cooperation. Davtyan said Austria and Armenia intend to
cooperate in small and medium business development within the Small and Medium
Enterprises Development National Centre (SME DNC). The co-chairman of the
Armenian-Austrian Intergovernmental Commission, director General on Foreign
Economic Relations of the Austrian ministry of Economy and Labour, Johan Zaks,
said the SME's share in Austrian economy makes 99.4 per cent. "Small- and
medium-size business is the base of our economy. Their advantage is quick
response to the needs of the market and clients. We intend to support Armenia in
small and medium enterprise development and are ready to train managers for
these enterprises," Zaks said.
Armenia posts budget surplus of 0.7% of GDP
Armenia posted a budget surplus of 5.144 billion dram, or 0.7 per cent of GDP,
in the first half of 2005, the national statistics service said recently,
Interfax News Agency reported.
Revenue was 160.252 billion dram, or 22.7 per cent of GDP, and that was 26.4 per
cent more than in the first half of 2004. Tax revenue came to 132.597 billion
dram, or 18.8 per cent of GDP, a 21.1 per cent year-on-year increase. Budget
spending during the period totalled 155.108 billion dram, or 22 per cent of GDP,
up 28.4 per cent year-on-year. Meanwhile, Armenia's foreign trade deficit grew
23.6 per cent year-on-year to 358.8 million Euro in the first half of the year,
the state statistics service said. Armenian exports grew 28.4 per cent
year-on-year to 429.1 million Euro in first six months of the year and imports
rose 26.2 per cent year-on-year to 788 million Euro.
Russian takeover of Armenian power plant
Levon Vartanian, head of the Armenian energy ministry's external relations
department, said that representatives of the Japan Bank for International
Cooperation (JBIC) visited Yerevan recently to demand explanations regarding
ownership of the Electricity Network of Armenia (ENA). JBIC, which has financed
the reconstruction of ENA, has expressed dissatisfaction with the controversial
takeover of ENA's de facto sale by state owned Russian company, UES, Interfax
News Agency reported.
The Japanese bank is worried that an energy distribution network under UES could
be disinterested in buying electricity from other suppliers and thereby render
the multimillion Euro project as useless. "The owner of the Electricity
Networks of Armenia has not yet replied to the inquiry about the deal on the
transfer of the company's shares to the Russian company," Vartanian said.
An obscure UES subsidiary called Interenergo BV paid, last June, 73 Euro to buy
the right to manage ENA and use its earnings, in a legally questionable deal
that faced strong criticism from the United States and the World Bank. Although
Midland Resources Holding, a British-registered firm that privatised ENA three
years ago, insisted that the deal did not signify acquisition, its ownership of
the Armenian utility now seems largely symbolic. Under the terms of ENA's 2002
privatisation, Midland Resources has no right to resell to another investor
without the Armenian government's consent. The government was clearly reluctant
to demand explanations from Midland Resources until the World Bank and the US
Agency for International Development warned last month that its handling of the
matter could adversely affect their further assistance to Armenia. Meanwhile,
Armenia's public service regulatory commission has called on ENA owner for
submission of written clarifications of its deal with UES and set August 17 as
the deadline or face the possibility of losing its operating licence.
Armentel spotlights communication
ArmenTel Telecommunication Company of Armenia is continuously working to improve
the quality of mobile communication, ArmenTel Executive Director, Vasilios
Flavios, said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
Flavios added that "there is no doubt about the poor quality of mobile
communication in July 2005." He said improvement of the quality of the
mobile communication is a difficult task that requires some time to achieve.
Simultaneously, he reported that the company is implementing all possible
technical work to improve quality of mobile communication, and some progress has
already been seen. However, Flavios admitted that the problem exists only during
the evening hours in the centre of Yerevan but assured that this problem will be
solved shortly. According to Flavios, the company should project its network
carrying the obligation to reduce about 3 times the spectrum of its frequencies
during 9 months. ArmenTel is worried about the possibility of losing its clients
due to the law on quality of mobile communication, he explained. "There are
some risks, but we believe we will provide mobile communication of a higher
quality," Flavios underlined.