Unemployment up in Armenia due to world economic crisis

The global financial crisis has led to a sharp increase in unemployment in Armenia. The head of the State Employment Service – Sona Harutyunyan informed recently, that the economic situation worsened dramatically at the end of 2008 and job cuts and mass lay-offs took place.
The unemployment rate is the highest in Lori and Lyunik regions due to the recession in the mining industry. According to official data by 20 January, 414 people had been laid off, 1,603 others had been given layoff notices, 1,069 peoples’ contracts had not been renewed.
In December 2008, the number of people seeking employment was 90,500; as per 23 January 2009, this number has increased to 95,000.
According to National Statistics Service the number of economically active population is 1,172,700, so the unemployment rate has thus constituted 8 percent by the end of 2008 instead of projected 7.1.


Putin strikes back

For the first time in the history of the World Economic Forum in Davos a Russian politician – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delivered the keynote speech. The speech was followed by Panel Discussions.
This question asked by Michael Dell, CEO of PC manufacturing giant Dell, during the Panel Discussions grabbed my attention. Dell asked “how can we, as an IT sector help you broaden the [Russian] economy as you move out of the crisis”, Putin responded – “The trick is we don’t need any help”. “We are not invalids,” he said. “We don’t have limited mental capacity, we are not pensioners.”
Frankly, I quite liked Putin’s response to Michael Dell… I mean – Dell is a struggling IT company, who would benefit greatly from widening its presence in the Russian market. So I guess it was basically a silly question of him to ask – to formulate the question that way.

Armenia Economy

Armenian national currency overestimated by 27-30%, independent expert

Manaseryan is sure that appreciation of national currency hinders strengthening competitiveness of goods and services of local producers. It is not the only factor to hinder economy, there are also economic and political factors, he said. Nevertheless, the expert is sure that the process of the appreciation of Armenian dram results in rise of prices of goods both produced in the country and imported.
“Over the last months our currency proved the strongest currency in the world even comparing to dollar, euro and pound sterling”, he said.
Such control of exchange rate may lead to large-scale panic among the population and resumption of dollarization. In such situation the expert thinks that to gradual reduction of the Armenian dram rate in the background of devaluation of the basic world currencies would be the most justified step.
He advised the economic leadership of the country to wage more flexible monetary policy. The expert said the control over the rate that was to lead to reduction of prices in the country actually leads to rise of import prices since the prices for imported products are left unchanged despite the landslide cut of prices in the world market. This also affects the solvency of the population and increases social tension.


Ara Sarafian: "Freedom of expression for historians in Armenia is limited"

Ara Sarafian, the head of the London-based Gomidas Institute, gave an interview to Hurriet last week. The historian argued, that multilateral efforts to improve relations between Armenia and Turkey are the wrong way to resolve the Armenian issue and stressed, that the solution lies in the huge and influential diaspora.
I have very limited knowledge about Sarafian’s views and activities. What little I know comes from this post at the Caucasian Knot and a recent entry in my own blog. However, there are a couple of points made by the historian in the Hurriet interview that took me by surprise.
1. Sarafian said there were two problems that would arise out of any effort to improve relations with Armenians through closer ties with Armenia. “Freedom of expression for historians in Armenia is limited and the genocide issue has become a political tool,” he said.
2. “We cannot compare the Armenian genocide with the Holocaust. Those who were banished from their land suffered a lot but survived,” he said.
3. He said the restoration of the Armenian Akdamar Church in the recent past could have created an environment of dialogue but had become a missed chance. “Armenians did not want to take that chance because it did not suit their interests,” he said.
These are all quite arguable statements. I know the journalist personally, so I dismiss the option that the words of Sarafian were misrepresented. But – I can’t bring myself to agree, even to a smallest degree, to what Sarafian has said in the points highlighted by me.


Reports say no sanctions against Armenia expected in PACE

There are reports claiming, that the suggestion to suspend the voting rights of the Armenian delegation at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) has been removed from the draft resolution to be presented at the Assembly today.
Levon Zurabyan, a spokesperson for the Armenian National Congress (HAK) told RFE/RL today, that a copy of the draft resolution has been obtained by the representatives of HAK, which allows them to draw the conclusion.
Armenia has been living under constant pressure since December 17, 2008 – after the adoption of a suggestion by the PACE Monitoring Committee to suspend the voting rights of the Armenian delegation over concerns that political prisoners exist in Armenia and that the provisions of PACE resolutions 1609 (08) and 1620 (08) have not been fully implemented.
Following the visit of PACE Monitoring Committee co-repertoires Jon Prescott and Gorges Colombier to Armenia mid-January to evaluate the situation and possibly make amendments to the draft resolution adopted by the Monitoring Committee, a number of Armenian pro-government politicians had expressed hope and even conviction, that the voting rights of the country won’t be suspended after all.
This would be generally good news – suspension of voting rights would be a hard blow to Armenia’s international authority, amidst ongoing Karabakh talks. Moreover, considering the fact that PACE has been much more patient with countries like Azerbaijan which has literally turned into a monarchy with non-existent civil liberties, it would seem unfair for the Assembly to adopt sanctions against Armenia.
On the other hand – since Armenia’s entry to the CoE the PACE resolutions on the functioning of democratic institutions in Armenia had been one of the main drivers of democratic reforms. Today, when it was time for PACE to show, that it is a body genuinely concerned about democracy, not adopting any sanctions will be an indicator for the Armenian politicians (government and opposition alike), that they can do pretty much anything and get away with it. …and that will really hurt the fragile democracy in this country.
I really hope, that there are no sanctions against Armenia, but that there is a very strict resolution with some type of control mechanism, to make sure the country doesn’t fall off the track of civil liberties. Otherwise, what do we need the CoE membership for?


New Book Offers Critical New Insights into Germany and the Armenian Genocide

One of the tangible links between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust is in the person of Max Von Scheubner-Richther, the German Consul in Erzurum in 1915 who later became a co-founder of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Germany, only four years later. This personal link to Adolph Hitler has led to much speculation about Hitler’s intimate knowledge of the Armenian Genocide, and how such knowledge might have influenced the organisation of the Final Solution in Europe.


Podcast: Obama inauguration and tech news

The 35th episode of “The Armenian blogosphere” podcast – a first for this year is now available for download as an mp3 file from here or listening online by clicking the player icon below.
We have been experimenting with a new format for the podcast and this issue also features technology news. I’ll appreciate comments and suggestions.
This 5 minute podcast is produced by Internews Armenia. The program was made by Lusine Grigoryan, Gegham Vardanyan, Armen Sargsyan, Artur Papyan. The radio version of the podcast is broadcast throughout the territory of Armenia by Radio Hay radiostation on Saturdays and Mondays, at 9:00 AM.


Top Ten bushisms captured on video


Armenian army ranks 68 in Global Military Rating

Military Parade Dedicated to 15th Anniversary Armenia's Independence

Armenia ranks 68th in rating of armies of the world according to the news portal. According to the same source Georgia ranks 94th, Azerbaijan 83-rd.
The Georgian news source has extracted the data using the Strategypage. I tried quite hard to find this information at the source, but was unable to. However, the information is interesting, although – not very reliable.
If this is too, it would be just incredible, that Armenia is so far ahead from both its Caucasian ex-Soviet neighbors, despite the fact, that last year its military budget – around $400 million, was half that of Georgia and 6 times less than that of it’s main rival – Azerbaijan, which announced $ 2 billion in defense spending for 2008.
Coming back to the Georgian news report cited above, it says the rating is based on data of land troops and air forces. The rating contains two basic indicators: COMBAT POWER LAND and Total Quality Index. The Combat Power Land includes such parameters as number of soldiers and weaponry, technical characteristics and so on.
The Total Quality Index includes the quality of commandment, effectiveness of weapon and the level of weapon adequacy, battle experience, the level of logistics and communications, as well as historic military-culture traditions.
Top 20 mighty armies are as follows – the USA (9300), Israel (1280), China (882), the UK (819), India (801), Russia (714), Germany (393), Japan (382), South Korea (359), France (351), Taiwan (184), Pakistan (168), Saudi Arabia (140), Egypt (138), Italy (134), North Korea (131), Iran (113), Switzerland (108) and Spain (108).
Below are links to a couple of other information sources on defense budgets and armies of the region: Moscow Defense briefing, The Armenian Economist, Wikipedia.


Yes We Can – Blogger Barack Obama becomes US President

Blogger, BlackBerry and Mac fan has just become President of the United States! Obama has a new blog to play with at the