Categories
Armenia Economy Society

The Cost of Corruption

Yerevan authorities have announced plans to replace 500 elevators in the upcoming year, having considered the incomes of the municipality and the savings from 2019 budget.

“The new elevators are adapted for use by people with eyesight, hearing and mobility problems,” speaker of Yerevan Mayor Hakob Karapetyan has said in a Facebook post.

According to earlier estimates by city authorities, there are 4666 elevators in use in Yerevan today. Most of those elevators have been in use for more than 30 years and are outright dangerous. There are at least half a dozen incidents in my memory, when they have fallen, causing death and injuring people.

The previous Yerevan mayor Taron Margaryan, who served in this position since November 15, 2011 until being ousted, along with his Republican Party, by Nikol Pashinian’s revolution, would always say that the city has no financial means to replace the elevators. Meanwhile, Margaryan grew filthy rich in about 8 years of leading the city government.

So it turns out that having a proper mayor for only 1 year has been enough to replace more than 10% of Yerevan’s old elevators. That’s what I call the cost of corruption.

I also want to share a personal story, which illustrates my point extremely well. My family bought some land and a small house in a suburb of Yerevan in 2006. For several years we were using it mostly as a summer house and in 2013 I moved to live there permanently, because it was a nice little house and the air was fresh.

The house had a big problem, however… or the suburb had it, to be more exact — the 550 meters of dirt-road taking there, which was turning near impossible in rainy weather.

With our limited community resources we brought truckloads of gravel and sand and tried to put some order into the dirt-road, but that would soon turn to mud again. We also wrote dozens of letters to the city authorities and begged for help with the dirt road. The answer we always got was this — the city budget cannot afford to fix the road.

Following the change of city mayor last October, however, suddenly money appeared in the budget and this summer our dirt-road was turned into a perfectly paved road. So it was that simple… we didn’t need to suffer with the mud for so many years and people shouldn’t die or get themselves injured in old elevators… we just needed a proper mayor, who isn’t a crook and doesn’t steal from the people!

Categories
Armenia Economy Tourism

Record number of passengers in Yerevan airport; new, affordable flight routs to Armenia

“Zvartnots” International Airport’s yearly passenger flow exceeded 3,000,000 for the first time in its history, Armenpress news agency reports.

In 2018, the passenger flow was 2,690,000.

Admittedly, much of this growth is because of me — no kidding, I flew in and out of Zvartnots Airport at least 12 times last year! :))

Ryanair opens flights to Athens and Thessaloniki

Meanwhile, on January 3rd Ryanair budget airline announced new twice weekly routes from Gyumri to Athens and from Yerevan to Thessaloniki. The flights will start in May 2020 and the tickets are already on sale in Ryanair’s mobile app.

The Irish carrier Ryanair had announced back in October that it will start flying to Yerevan from Milan, Rome and Berlin in January and that it will open two more routes in summer.

Wizz Air annouces flights to Vienna and Vilnius

In another welcome news, the Budapest-based budget airline Wizz Air announced last month that it will open flights to Yerevan from Vienna and Vilnius in April.

Decreasing cost of airfare and Revazian

The high cost of airfare has long been cited as one of main obstacles for the development of tourism in Armenia. The cost of air travel has been decreasing for several years now, as consecutive Armenian governments have prioritized the issue.

Tatevik Revazian

With the appointment of Tatevik Revazian as the Chair of Civil Aviation Committee, things have taken a truly revolutionary turn. The young official, who was initially seen as inexperienced and lacking necessary skills to deliver, has since managed to attract two major European budget airlines to Armenia and has since become something of a hero, for being able to make promises and deliver.

Hence, her Facebook post on January 3rd, announcing Ryanair’s new flights as well as outlining possible new routs to Paris (Transavia), Memmingen (Ryanair) and Riga (Air Baltic), no longer seem far fetched, but rather as something that can and will be delivered.

Categories
Armenia Politics Region

Armenia Issues A Statement on Developments in Baghdad

Armenian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement in connection with the US drone strike, which killed a top Iranian commander.

General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, was killed in his vehicle near Baghdad International Airport. The news was confirmed both by the US and Iran.

“We are seriously concerned about the recent incidents in Baghdad which led to human loses as well. They risk further undermining the regional security and destabilizing the situation in the Middle East and beyond. Armenia calls for the de-escalation of situation exclusively through peaceful means,” Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted. “Armenia will continue to closely cooperate with all its partners aimed at ensuring regional stability and security.”

Soleimani’s killing has raised fears of serious escalation in the Middle East. Both USA and Iran are key partners for Armenia, while Iraq has become an increasingly important export market. Any escalation in the Middle East is problematic for us, so it is no wonder that the drone strike has stirred heated debates in the Armenian section of Facebook.

Pashinyan reacts

Armenia is enjoying prolonged New Year and Christmas holidays these days, which started on December 31st and will conclude on January 7th. While most state agencies and news media are enjoying the holiday break, the debates around US – Iran tensions and speculations of an all-out global nuclear war is cutting through the half-drank, half-lazy-congratulatory mood of the Armenian social media users.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who is always eager to jump into every Facebook discussion, has published a post on Facebook, noting that “there are institutions capable of following the situation, analyzing the developments and act upon those as needed” and that “all the necessary instructions have been given.”

“The Republic of Armenia, RA citizens and numerous tourists visiting our country live a normal life,” the PM has stated and has advised “self-professed geopolitics analysts, who want to engage in fear-mongering, to relax and sit back on their places.”

The point about tourists is especially noteworthy, as a war in the neighboring Iran would be detrimental to the Armenian government’s hopes to stimulate continuous growth in the tourism industry.

Categories
Armenia Economy Tech

Amazon Web Services to collect Armenian VAT of 20%

I received a very interesting letter today. It said: “Effective May 1 2019, AWS will be required to collect Armenian VAT at a rate of 20% on charges incurred by non-business customers with a registered address in Armenia.”

Categories
Armenia Tech

Amazing Armenia: revolution, tech unicorns & a powerful female workforce – Sifted

Sifted, a website covering startups in Europe, has an excellent piece on Armenia’s tech ecosystem, featuring PicsArt, 2hz and D’efekt (I had no idea about the latter one).  Here’s my favorite paragraph from the article, go read the rest yourself 😉

With experienced entrepreneurs returning home from the US and a new generation of engineers attracted to the bustling capital of Yerevan from Russia and Ukraine, Armenia is determined to follow Israel in becoming the next Startup Nation. The two countries certainly share a lot in common: a lack of natural resources, reverence for brain power, technological ingenuity – and antagonistic neighbours. Sandwiched between Turkey and Azerbaijan, with which they are still technically at war, Armenians joke that they would trade 3,000 years of troubled history for a better location.

Categories
Armenia Diaspora Economy

Anthony Bourdain's Take on Armenia

So I went for a beer with a couple of friends and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain turned up.
Here’s what Bourdain himself had to say about his visit to Armenia.

Categories
Armenia

Armenian International Midnight Airports

I travel pretty often, which usually means getting into the “Zvartnots” international aitport in the middle of the night or coming back to darkness and a sleeping city. So much so that I have come to regard our airport as the ‘midnight’ airport.
While some Russian and Ukrainian flights do happen in broad daylight, European flights almost exclusively come at night. This almost makes one feel guilty for leaving the country on the European direction, as it is usually criminal affairs that are committed at those late hours.
Once someone tried to explain these late night flights to me as a cost saving issue. Flights to and from Yerevan are expensive to begin with, so I wonder how much more expensive they would become if we had some daylight flights for a change.

Categories
Armenia Tech

Armenia ranks 111th among 165 nations in cyber-security index

Armenia is ranked only 111th out of 165 nations in a global index that measures the commitment of nations across the world to cyber-security.

Categories
Armenia Politics

Not Cool. Serzh Sargsyan Confirms Plans To Stay in Power

If anyone had any doubts, Serzh Sargsyan gave the clearest signal so far about his intentions to stay in power after his second presidential term expires on April 9th.

Categories
Armenia Diaspora

Armenians Line Up To Elect Putin as Their President

Armenia — People line up in front of the Russian Embassy in Yerevan to vote in Russian presidential elections, Yerevan, 18Mar2018 | Photo by Azatutyun.am

There are large crowds gathering in the polling stations in Yerevan and Gyumri today to vote in Russian presidential elections. Check out these photos on Azatutyun.am. Amazing, isn’t it?